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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals

TX SenseAbilities Spring/Summer 2017

By Sara Merritt, Principal for TSBVI Short-Term Programs

Abstract: New types of TSBVI's Short-Term Programs offered using distance technology.

Key Words: TSBVI, Short Term Programs, distance learning, Blind, Visually Impaired.

Short-Term Programs (STP) is now offering online instruction directly to students via distance learning technologies. This means students from across the state get specialized TVI instruction without leaving their home communities. STP has created three different types of distance learning classes to meet student needs.

Distance Learning Courses (self-paced)

Distance Learning (self-paced) online courses are interactive learning experiences for students who are blind or have visual impairments. The students take the class from a computer in their local community. Students work through content individually and at their own pace. Students still have opportunities to ask questions of the teacher and collaborate with other students through learning activities in Google Classroom. Students who participate must be referred to the “Distance Learning” class by their TVI.

Distance Learning Classes (real-time)

Distance Learning (real-time) classes are interactive learning experiences for students who are blind or have visual impairments. The students take the class from a computer in their local community. Students work through content with an instructor in real time. This instruction can be presented to groups or to individuals through video conferencing software. Students who participate must be referred to the “Individualized Instruction” class by their TVI.

Distance Learning Classes-Blended

Distance Learning-Blended classes are a combination of real-time learning experiences either through video conferencing or face-to-face classes and self-paced instruction through Google Classroom. This type of instruction may be presented to groups or individuals. This type of class may be provided to foster student growth after a face-to-face class or in conjunction with online “Distance Learning” courses. Students who participate must be referred to the “Distance Learning” class by their TVI.

Our first class (which is self-paced and was released in Fall 2016) was the Introduction to the Orion TI-84+ Graphing Calculator. Nineteen students are currently enrolled in this class. The class is fully accessible using a screen reader and is fully audio-described and captioned. We used animation software to create avatars of our teachers and the students have really enjoyed the game like format. It’s important to note that the goals of the class are to introduce students to the calculator, not to teach secondary math. The class is taught by a TVI, not a certified secondary math teacher. For help with challenging math concepts, please talk with your math teacher.

The second class, also self-paced, that we released was Google Classroom and VoiceOver. We found that students across the state were encountering obstacles using this tool in their core classes. We plan to release a similar class on using JAWS and Google Classroom in the near future.

Currently, our courses are only available to students who are Texas residents so we can monitor the success of the class, implement any needed changes, and document the number of students who are accessing this service statewide. We are exploring ways to share these classes with the community at large.

We are excited about the opportunity to serve more students via distance learning and online instruction. If you have an idea for a distance learning class for students, please contact Sara Merritt at: or 512-289-3476.

The possibilities are endless!