Speech & Hearing Sciences
University of Washington, Seattle Campus
High Demand, Limited Supply
Patricia Dowden, PhD., CCC-Sp, is a national leader in Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC, an area of clinical practice that helps people with severe communication impairments use special equipment to supplement their speech. Because this field is so specialized, AAC training is not a required part of the Speech and Hearing Science program curriculum. The field has few experts and limited training opportunities, but a high demand for trained practitioners.
As a result, Dowden found herself doing a lot of one-on-one training. To increase the number of people she could reach, Dowden decided to create a distance learning course to meet the needs of practitioners in the field. In 1996 she developed SPHSC C453 AAC: Implementation Strategies to reach alumni in need of additional AAC training. This class is geared towards meeting client needs, keeping up with the changes in the field, and remaining current on the equipment it utilizes. The online course, SPHSC C453, is available to learners anywhere in the world and focuses on AAC implementation strategies. It complements a classroom-based course SPHSC 454, which focuses on the equipment and technologies used in speech augmentation.
Practitioners Incorporate Coursework into Real Life Solutions
Most of Dowden's students are working in clinical settings with AAC clients and use what they learn in SPHSC C453 immediately. Providing a distance learning course in
AAC was the ideal solution to meeting the demand for training and accommodating the busy schedules of working students.
As in a traditional course, students begin the 9-week course at the same time and participate in weekly (online) discussions. Students can focus their project work on issues they are facing at their jobs. An additional advantage to the online medium of the class is that it allows students to interact virtually with guest speakers - including AAC users and international experts who would not be able to participate in a traditional classroom session.
In 1997 Dowden received the Meritorious Course Award from the University of Continuing Education Association (UCEA). She has since revised the course in response to student feedback. Changes include reducing the student workload, providing relevant Web links, and bringing the course completely online.
Online Tools are Transforming the Discipline, and the UW Program
Dowden's involvement and experience in developing and teaching the online course has led to an integration of technology in her classroom courses, her research, and the discipline at large. In the classroom course, SPHSC 454 AAC: Access to Technology, Dowden incorporates online lessons, computer simulations, online AAC guest speakers, and class email as a direct result of her use of these in SPHSC C453.
Her experience using technology in this distance learning course helped the Department of Speech & Hearing Sciences receive a UW Tools for Transformation Grant. The two-year Tele-Collaboration in Speech and Hearing Sciences project is facilitating synchronous and asynchronous interactions with research colleagues and clinical partners beyond the university through web-based tools for research and teaching. These tools include Internet-facilitated data collection and transmission, individual online teaching modules, and web-based video archiving for teaching and research. Visit her website for a thorough look at her recent work.
by Elizabeth Knight, March 2001