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The Educational Outcomes of Online Learners: The Predictive Utility of Disability Status and Self-Efficacy Open Access

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The purpose of this study was to assess the course grades and course completion of college students, as a function of disability status (disability/no-disability), course type (online/face-to-face), online self-efficacy, and academic self-efficacy. Improved technology has provided more avenues to postsecondary education for students with disabilities (SWD), who in the past may not have had access (Li & Irby, 2008). The same technology that has opened doors for people with disabilities has also been a boon for online learning among students without disabilities (SWOD). Inexpensive high-speed internet, computers, and software, have been the catalyst for increased enrollment in internet-based classes, which increased by 60% from 2002 to 2007 (Allen & Seaman, 2006; Allen & Seaman, 2008). The literature suggests that the integration of technology into learning has significant pedagogical benefits for SWD (Buckley & Smith, 2007; Hecker, Burns, Elkind, Elkind, & Katz, 2002). Despite the implied benefits of technology for SWD, and the growth of online learning programs, empirical investigation into the outcomes of these students in web-based programs is limited. Hence the need to conduct this study. Data for this study were obtained from a purposive non-random sample of SWD and SWOD from an Historically Black College or University (HBCU) on the east coast of the United States. The researcher utilized hierarchical multiple regression, and hierarchical multiple logistic regression to answer all of the research questions, and the sample sizes fluctuated, based on variations in the questions being answered. Interesting findings of the study were that SWD and SWOD completed courses at rates that were similar to each another, and exhibited course grades that were comparable as well. The data revealed that the grades of students in traditional courses were more likely to be higher than those in online courses. Disability status significantly moderated the relationship between course type and grades, with SWOD being more likely to achieve higher grades in online courses. Surprisingly, neither online self-efficacy nor academic self-efficacy moderated the relationship between disability status, and course grades or completion. In addition to a more detailed description of the results, rationale for the results, theoretical backgrounds, research design, policy/practice implications, and future directions for research are presented.

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