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Graduate Defense: Patrick Mallory

December 9 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm MST

Dissertation Information

Title: A Tier 2 Support for Online Learners: Implementing a Technology-aided Check-in/Check-out for High School Students with Autism

Program: Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor: Dr. Patricia Hampshire, Co-chair, Early and Special Education, and Dr. Keith Thiede, Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies

Committee Members: Dr. Deb Carter, College of Education, Dr. Jeremy Ford, Early and Special Education, and Dr. Michael Humphrey, Early and Special Education


Online education is an increasingly popular format of schooling used around the world (Digital Learning Collaborative, 2019). For students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), challenges with executive functioning skills like self-management can have a significant impact on their ability to successfully participate in online learning. With a growing number of students with disabilities like ASD participating in online education, there is a need to explore support strategies that promote self-management in virtual environments that take into consideration the unique barriers of these students and their families. However, there is very limited research on providing behavioral support for students with ASD in online learning environments.

This study used a mixed-method research design to determine the effectiveness of a technology-aided, modified Check-In/Check-Out (CICO) intervention package to improve the on-task behavior of three high school students with ASD enrolled in full-time online school. Additionally, this study sought to determine if there were changes in the self-efficacy of students and their parents throughout the duration of the study. The intervention package included a technology-aided CICO intervention, initial parent training of the intervention, and ongoing parent coaching.

A multiple baseline across participants design was used to measure the percentage of on-task behavior for each student. Visual analysis was used to determine changes in trend and level across baseline and intervention phases of the intervention. Qualitative data was collected in two ways: students completed a self-efficacy questionnaire at the end of each observation, and parents described changes in their self-efficacy to support their students by participating in multiple semi-structured interviews throughout the study. The interviews were coded to identify common themes. A mixed-methods analysis was used to determine how the qualitative data informed the quantitative data.

Results suggest the implementation of the CICO intervention increased on-task behavior of all three students. However, the intervention did not appear to have any influence on student self-efficacy. The parent interviews centered around four main themes: student learning challenges, parent engagement with the students, parent self-confidence, and support for the parent. Each parent viewed the intervention favorably and felt more capable of supporting their students after using the intervention.

This study highlights areas that must be considered when developing and implementing individualized interventions in an online learning environment. For students to gain the skills necessary to self-manage in these settings, steps need to be made to ensure students and parents are active participants in intervention development and decision-making processes. Limitations of the study are addressed and suggestions for future research are provided.