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IES Contract

Title: Dynamic E-Learning to Improve Postsecondary Transition Outcomes for Secondary Students with High Functioning Autism
Center: NCSER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: Childress, Debra Awardee: 3-C Institute for Social Development
Program: Small Business Innovation Research in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2.5 years Award Amount: $1,050,000
Type: Fast Track Award Number: EDIES13C0026

Phase I Amount: $150,000
Phase I Period: 6 months
Phase II Amount: $900,000
Phase II Period: 2 years

Purpose: Despite cognitive strengths, students with high functioning autism spectrum disorders (HF-ASD) pursue postsecondary learning at much lower rates than their typically developing peers. As a result, approximately 24% of students with HF-ASD—but without intellectual disability—report no regular educational or employment activities following high school. Further, when these intellectually capable students pursue college, they tend to drop out prematurely. Given that students with HF-ASD often have special aptitudes for technical or scientific fields of study, low matriculation and graduation rates not only diminish advanced educational and employment opportunities for these students, but also reduce society's available workforce of talented individuals. This project will develop a self-paced, adaptive resilience education intervention designed specifically to meet the learning styles and social-emotional needs of students with HF-ASD.

Project Activities: The researchers will create a wireframe prototype through testing and feedback with students with HF-ASD. Following this prototype development, the researchers will script instructional content, interactive exercises, graphics and video elements, scoring algorithms for measuring progress. These components will then be integrated within the overall system. Iterative refinements will be conducted at major production milestones until the product is fully functional. Once development is complete, the researchers will assess the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the product to improve student outcomes. The team will conduct a randomized controlled study including 100 students with HF-ASD recruited from an estimated 50 high schools. For the study, schools will randomly assign half of the students to either use the intervention or not. Students will complete a pre- and post-test on measures assessing knowledge and understanding of possible domains following high school, coping and self-advocacy skills, and enhanced self-efficacy. Qualitative data will also be collected from teachers via questionnaires.

Product: This project team will develop a web-based product to engage 11th and 12th grade high school students with HF-ASD in a self-paced online interactive course to learn about the transition to college, learn specific resilience strategies for coping with the transition to college, and to practice applying those strategies via participation in interactive simulated exercises. The exercises will include game-based animated scenes, role plays, and visualization tools. The software will provide individualized instruction that adjusts to the skill level of the user, personalized feedback on performance, and hints and cues for students who are struggling. A teacher management dashboard will provide professional development resources and reports on student performance.