About This Study
To better understand the impact of a Relias Learning online training program in behavioral interventions on teachers, University of Texas Pan-American conducted a study that examined the impact of online video materials used in place of a standard textbook in a master’s level autism course. The study results showed a significant improvement in the three areas in which students lacked knowledge prior to the training—naturalistic teaching strategies, teaching new behavior, and recording and analyzing behaviors.
In 2014, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately one in every 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To meet the growing needs of children diagnosed with ASD, research in the area of autism has increased along with a greater number of treatment options from which to choose. The University of Texas Pan American requires the course, Autism: Assessment and Program Planning, for graduate students in the Special Education Program. The course covers the characteristics of children with autism along with evidence-based practices grounded in applied behavior analysis.
Twenty-eight teachers participated in the research while taking the class, Autism: Assessment and Program Planning at the University of Texas Pan American. 89% of the class were female and came from a variety of teaching backgrounds. All students currently held a Bachelor’s degree, with half of the class also holding a Master’s degree. 56% of the class worked directly with children with autism, and 66.7% of the class had received no formal training in behavioral interventions prior to the course.
Participants took the video courses online from home at their own time and their own pace. Pre and post-test design was used for each section of the course covering topics related to behavioral interventions (Teaching New Behavior, Naturalistic Teaching Strategies, and Functions of Behavior). Teachers completed 12 video modules during the blended learning university course on topics related to autism and behavioral interventions. Pre and post-tests were administered through the online learning system directly before and after each module.
Student pre-test scores mirrored their inexperience. Although students were familiar with important subject matter such as Functions of Behavior and Introduction to Autism, earning 69% and 86% pre-test scores, their scores diminished with the more intermediate ABA topics. The students’ pre-tests showed a lack of knowledge in three important areas – Naturalistic Teaching Strategies (38%), Teaching New Behavior (39%) and Recording and Analyzing Behavior (39%). After finishing the videos, students made a marked improvement in all areas. In a post-training survey, all students reported that they were able to apply the knowledge learned through online video curriculum to their daily lives and recommended that future classes use this online training.
The results suggest that an online training program for master’s students may be effective in improving students’ knowledge of behavioral interventions. Students reported satisfaction with this training. Future studies involving controlled trials and a greater number of participants are needed to validate these findings. As both the number of children with ASD and the number of treatment options continue to grow, a graduate student curriculum incorporating online video instruction may provide useful training for the next generation of practitioners, teachers, and researchers for understanding ASD and which treatment options have a strong evidence base.