Skip to main content

 Online special education courses offer teachers a convenient option 




April 25, 2007

Contact: K.E. Schwab



Online special education courses offer teachers a convenient option


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Teachers across the state and nation seeking special education certification no longer need to juggle work schedules or give up every evening and weekend traveling to classes. Thanks to Slippery Rock University, certification classes or even a master's program are now just a click away.

           "Teachers are seeing an increased need for special education certification and are turning to Slippery Rock University's expanded online courses to meet those needs," said Dennis Fair, chair of the University's special education department and graduate coordinator for the department's master of education degree.

           "We have added or expanded 15 special education courses on the Internet as a way of helping those already teaching meet the increased demands of inclusion education in their classrooms. Inclusion education means students with special needs are mainstreamed as much as possible during the school day," Fair said.

           SRU offers three distinct programs designed to meet varying needs of classroom teachers seeking to expand their special education skills. 

           "The University offers a master of education degree in special education for those who already have an undergraduate teacher education degree. We also offer a non-degree teacher certificate for those interested in teaching students with disabilities or those who need skills in teaching special needs students in their class. We also offer a master's program in special education supervision," Fair said.

           "Our major goal is to provide teachers already working in the classroom with a more convenient way of learning the necessary skills and the course credits required to gain special education certification," Fair said. 

          The master of education in special education can be completed in one year. The non-degree certificate, available to those with an elementary education teaching certificate, requires 27 additional credits.

           "We are seeing teachers join online for the certification, then electing to continue for the full master's degree program," Fair said. 

           SRU's school supervision program focuses on major roles of leadership in basic education and is offered in a two-year cycle beginning with summer classes. SRU offers three summer school sessions.

           "While we are certainly concentrating on Pennsylvania teachers, the online program is open to teachers anywhere. We currently have students from Colorado and Arizona enrolled," Fair said.

           "I have heard from a number of recent graduates who realized having special education certification or a master's degree in special education would make them more employable, so they returned to the classroom via the Internet to earn those necessary skills," Fair said.

           SRU's special education department launched its online expansion at the start of the current semester following approval from the University's curriculum committee. "Nearly all of our special education faculty are involved with the online program," Fair said. 

           Fair said there are a number of advantages for taking online classes, especially for those students living some distance from campus as well as those facing scheduling difficulties, due to their work schedules. "Some classes, including those I teach, set deadlines for learning projects to be completed. Online students work on their own schedule. If Saturday or Sunday or four in the morning works for them; that is okay. The bottom line is, they learn and understand the material, thus gaining the necessary skills," Fair said. Online discussions with the entire class participating via the Internet provide students opportunities to share ideas and learn from one another."

           Kelly Lynne Foust, an SRU graduate student taking one of Fair's online courses and working as a primary learning support classroom aide, has high praise for the program. "I was just asked to be part of an autistic support team and had some things to offer that I learned from your 'Developmental Disability' class. I have people asking me all of the time for information from my classes�this whole program has done wonderful things for my career and for my students." Foust earned her undergraduate degree at Clarion University and makes her home near Clarion.

           Amy Mathesius, a special education high school teacher at Kremmling, Colo., is a Pennsylvania native, who discovered SRU's online courses while looking for ways to complete her master's degree. "I have taken two of SRU's online courses and find I can do a lot of the coursework on weekends, especially when I'm not working and my daughter is not at home. I like working on my own schedule."

           "More than 80 students are already participating in SRU's online special education courses. We expect to see continued growth as demand by school districts increases," Fair said.

           Current online course offerings include "Advanced Study of Exceptional Persons," "Contemporary Issues in Special Education," "Current Research in Special Education," "Developmental Disabilities," "Lifelong Learning for Exceptionalities" and "Special Education Law," among others.

           For further details call 724-738-2463.

 Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives




Click here to view the Economic Impact Report

Click here to view the Economic Impact Report