Autism: Assessment and Program Planning is a required course for graduate students in the Special Education Program at the University of Texas Pan American. Textbooks have traditionally driven the delivery of instruction for the content of this course along with some supplemental multimedia materials provided by the instructor. While course content includes a survey of the characteristics of children with autism a major focus is on the provision of evidenced-based practices that emphasize strategies derived from the science of applied behavior analysis. In the 2011 summer session this course content was delivered via instructional online video curriculum created by Autism Training Solutions (currently known as Relias Learning) rather than through the usual means of a textbook. Information obtained indicated that 56% of students had experience working directly with children with autism but only 33.3% had previously received formal training in applied behavior analysis. Pre and post learning outcomes in 12 specific content areas and overall perceptions of the 28 students were measured. Pretest scores indicated the specific areas of greatest deficit were naturalistic teaching strategies, teaching new behavior, and recording and analyzing behavior. Posttest scores reflected nearly 100% mastery of all 12 specific content areas and 100% student support for this method of learning.


Presented at the Association for Behavior Analysis International in 2012


Cheryl Fielding


Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism, Blended Learning, Past


University of Texas Pan American


Online Video Instruction to Graduate Autism Class

Instructional effectiveness of video curriculum content delivery in a university graduate level autism class

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.


Study Participants

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.


Study Methods

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.


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