Distance Learning and Special Populations

It is important to note that abruptly changing from traditional schooling to distance learning can especially difficult for special population students for a variety of reasons. For example, some members of special population groups, establishing and following a routine is critical; however, in this unique situation, their daily routine has been significantly disrupted. Many schools are relying on technology to facilitate distance learning. Yet, some special population students may struggle to understand or operate certain forms of technology.

As with all situations involving members of special populations, each student is unique, and not all strategies will work for all students. The recommendations outlined in this blog are merely a guideline. The distance learning methods you employ with your special population students should be adapted to fit their specific needs.

When transitioning a face-to-face classroom to distance learning, daily expectations will look different than a typical school day. However, it is crucial to continue providing accommodations and modifications for students with an IEP. Legally, these requirements must be provided by the teacher. Below are a few tips for navigating a distance learning classroom with special population students.


Create a Separate Course

In a traditional learning environment, providing and explaining accommodations and modifications can be done discreetly. It can be more challenging to offer personalized instructions in an online learning situation due to logistic constraints. One way to accommodate the needs of all learners is to create a separate iCEV course for special population students. Having a different course will allow you to choose assignments that fit the academic level of the students in this section and control the visibility settings for every activity.

View the iCEV Tutorial: Student Registration or watch the video tutorial to learn how to add students to a new course.


Use Browser Extensions

Students are not going to have access to special education teachers or aides during distance learning. Google has a variety of extensions that can be installed on a Chrome web browser. These are not a perfect substitute for in-person help, but they will provide some assistance.


This extension is seemingly an “all in one” feature with text-to-speech capabilities, highlighting abilities, and built-in dictionaries. Read&Write has a free 30-day trial, which will help the student finish up most of the distance learning semester.

Voice In Voice Typing

Especially helpful for English Language Learners (ELLS), Voice In enables the user to utilize a voice-to-text function in almost any text box. Voice In also includes a Language Pronunciation feature. ELLs need daily practice speaking English with other native speakers to maintain any progress made during school. This extension helps provide this practice for students whose families speak little to no English at home.

Mercury Reader

Many students struggle with distractions during distance learning, but those who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD are particularly susceptible to distractions when working online. The Mercury extension is designed to remove all advertisements and other interruptions on the web page. The user also can control font size and background color.


Keep Communication Consistent

The most crucial aspect of teaching special population students in a distance learning classroom is communication. The current situation is a very confusing time for everyone, and the more you communicate expectations and explain content, the easier it will be for you, your students and their parents.

Create detailed instructions for accessing and completing coursework and using browser extensions or other technology you plan to implement in your distane learning plan. Programs like Zoom or Screencastify can be used to film a video or screen grab step-by-step instructions.



Team iCEV is here to help you and your students as you transition to distance learning. To help your special population students, review the Teaching Strategies for Special Populations Guide for recommendations about teaching special population groups in CTE courses.

For any questions regarding distance learning or special populations, contact iCEV’s educational specialist Morgan Dixon (morgan.dixon@cevmultimedia.com).