MSU’s ACCESS program expands with innovative online courses to reach more students with disabilities age 14+

Contact: Allison Matthews

STARKVILLE, Mississippi—After more than a decade of providing students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with opportunities to gain college experience while gaining valuable career and life skills, Mississippi’s ACCESS program is expanding its reach online -Enrichment courses.

ACCESS Online is now open to all students aged 14+, regardless of their academic level or disability. The ACCESS online program, a first of its kind nationwide, offers innovative courses taught through MSU’s online platform, Canvas, with a curriculum that helps students improve functional life skills that lead to independence increase, expand college and career readiness, and develop self-reliance. advocacy skills.

ACCESS’s four-year on-campus residential program was established at MSU in 2010 to provide post-secondary education for students who would not otherwise attend college. The only post-secondary, comprehensive transition program in the state, it offers students the opportunity to gain a full, inclusive college experience with an emphasis on academics, career development, independent living, and socialization.

“Our mission is to provide students with the knowledge and confidence they need to enter the workforce and live as independently as possible in their communities,” said Stacy Jackson, academic coordinator.

“With that in mind, we wanted to expand opportunities for more students to gain knowledge and develop their college and career skills. That means more opportunities for people with disabilities, whether their next step is college, a career, or those simply seeking greater independence,” she said, crediting the university’s Center for Distance Learning for enabling the additional online program.

Enrollment in ACCESS online courses requires only a simple registration process, and courses are offered in conjunction with MSU’s fall, spring, and summer semesters. The autumn and spring courses last 13 weeks, the summer courses 10 weeks. All courses are self-paced with weekly deadlines and taught by MSU-certified online educational ACCESS teachers. The students usually deal with course content for three to six hours a week.

Jackson said there are options for full sponsorship to cover costs for eligible Mississippi residents through the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, and self-payers are also accepted.

She emphasized that secondary schools can partner with MSU’s ACCESS Online to meet the goals of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and expand learning opportunities for students.

Abby Voyles, a special education teacher at New Albany High School, described the experience of an 11th grade student currently enrolled in ACCESS Online. NAHS helps him facilitate his program participation and provides classroom support while he completes coursework.

“We make time throughout the week to personally help him as he works through the material and completes all the assignments. This includes watching a lecture, completing guided notes and weekly assignments, as well as a weekly test and bonus work for extra credit,” explained Voyles.

She said NAHS has had a positive experience piloting the MSU ACCESS online program this semester to create more options for special education teachers. With only one student currently enrolled, she expects more to enroll this fall. She said the parents of her current ACCESS Online student are very supportive and also hope that after he completes his high school work, he will be able to apply for admission to ACCESS’s four-year residential program on campus.

“ACCESS Online isn’t a requirement, but his parents were pleased he had the opportunity,” Voyles said.

Jackson said it’s not just good for students: “It’s great for special education teachers because it offers student-centric content and curriculum that focuses on topics like employment or money management to help students explore their interests and potential careers as well.” identify the how to manage their finances and make wise spending and savings decisions.”

She said Madison Central High School is also piloting the program and she hopes more high schools will use it as an important resource. Although the online program is not a requirement for applying to the on-campus ACCESS program, Jackson said some families interested in the on-campus program use ACCESS Online to develop the skills needed.

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