KENT STATE Special-needs students can work from home with new program

One professor said the program will parallel what goes on in the traditional classroom setting.
KENT -- Chrystalyn Sowinski is used to getting around the Kent State University campus in her motorized wheelchair.
Soon, however, she may have to go only as far as her home computer to attend class.
In August, KSU will kick off a program aimed at helping people like Sowinski, who has cerebral palsy, earn a master's of public administration degree without leaving home.
"It will be convenient and easy, especially with inclement winter weather," said Sowinski, 26, a part-time student in the public administration program. "Just knowing the option is there is important to me."
Dr. Joseph Drew, an associate professor who developed the online program, said earning the degree through cyberspace will be easier for those who have difficulty attending a traditional class.
In addition to people with disabilities, the program will target homebound caregivers, nonprofit workers and former military personnel.
Sowinski earned her bachelor's degree in May 2000 in public relations and said her goal is to work in human resource management. The online option will open many doors, she said.
"Some people are self-conscious about their disability and don't like to go to class because of it," Sowinski said.
Resources: Drew said the program will parallel what's presented in the traditional classroom. Included will be a class syllabus, as well as each lecture presented and assignment given. Students unable to get to a library will have built-in resources allowing them to conduct research online.
"It saves time and frustration and makes the course more enjoyable," Drew said.
He said the program will also include several features intended to make getting started easier for those with specific disabilities.
For instance, a screen reader is available for visually impaired students, along with a mouse and Braille keyboard. For those with hearing problems, a special modem allows the personal computer to function like a teletypewriter, Drew said.
Various colored mice are available to help students with muscle control problems more easily move the cursor, he added.
Students can enter a certificate program by taking five online courses that count toward the MPA, Drew explained. They can also take additional classes to earn the full degree, he added.

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