Sloan Autism Award for Innovative Online Program

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Most Outstanding Online Teaching and Learning Program Collaboratively Developed by UMass Lowell, UMass Medical School-Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, and UMassOnline


Since Program's Online Debut in 2005, Enrollments Have More than Quadrupled

View the Online Graduate Program in Autism

A consortium consisting of UMass Lowell, UMass Medical School-Shriver Center and UMassOnline recently received a prestigious national award for its innovative online photo of childrenprogram in autism from the Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C) - a national organization widely recognized for helping institutions and individual educators improve the quality, scale, and breadth of online education.

The award is a remarkable testament to the quality of this online program that UMass Lowell's Psychology Department and Continuing Education launched just three short years ago in collaboration with UMass Medical School's Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center and UMassOnline.

award photo
Chancellor Martin Meehan and Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney recognize UMass Lowell's Psychology Department for its contributions in developing the award-winning online graduate certificate program in Autism. Professor Charlotte Mandell and Professor Richard Siegel accepted the award on behalf of the Psychology Department.

photo of those who worked on the autism program
Shown above from left to right: Barbara Macaulay and Colleen Daly, UMassOnline; Richard Fleming, UMass Medical School Shriver Center; Charlotte Mandell and Richard Siegel, UMass Lowell Psychology Department; Catherine Kendrick, Jacqueline Moloney and Steve Tello, UMass Lowell Continuing Education.

Originally funded by a grant from the United States Department of Education, Behavioral Intervention in Autism was developed by doctors Richard Fleming and Charles Hamad at the Shriver Center of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Seven years in development, the BIA curriculum was tested, re-tested, and revised based on learning performance measures and feedback from participants.

The program is one of the very few in the country available entirely online for individuals interested in expanding their knowledge of behavioral intervention for this developmental disorder. With a critical shortage of skilled early intervention professionals in the United States, UMass Lowell's autism program is meeting the growing demand for specialists is this field.

For many of these professionals and for parents as well, who are busy with their career and family obligations, and for whom face-to-face programs might be hundreds of miles distant, the fact that all the courses are available in a fully online asynchronous format maximizes access. Students from across the country and around the world represent a growing segment of the program's population.

That national and global demand is what prompted the development of the autism program to transition online - a learning model that removes the geographic limits traditionally associated with on-campus learning. Faculty, researchers and practitioners from UMass Lowell, UMass Medical School's Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center and UMassOnline worked collaboratively to scale the program for a national and global audience.

The online autism program has two tracks aimed at separate audiences. The first is the 4-course Graduate Certificate Program in Behavioral Intervention in Autism, designed to provide professionals working in education, child care, speech and language disorders, and metal health and human services with an understanding of autism and related development disorders, as well as an introduction to behavioral methods and how and where such methods can be used. This track has also attracted a large number of parents of autistic children. The second track is the 6-course BCBA preparation program, which involves a sequence of online autism courses approved by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board to meet coursework requirements towards national certification as a Behavior Analyst.

The interest in this program has been nothing short of phenomenal. In the three short years that the program has been in existence, UMass Lowell has already provided courses to 446 students, of whom 66 have already completed either the 4-course certificate program or the BCBA certification sequence, with another 161 still actively taking courses.

WHAT THE AUTISM FACULTY ARE SAYING ABOUT THE PROGRAM

Jennifer L. Crockett, Ph.D., BCBA

Adjunct Faculty, UMass Lowell Online Autism Program

"We have arranged the courses to allow the most flexibility while still maintaining high quality instruction. All five courses are structured similarly, so students become comfortable with the format. The tightly-sequenced curriculum linking each course to the next allows students to achieve a mastery of sophisticated skills by building on a solid foundation, regardless of their prior academic background."

Alicia S. Perry, Ph.D., BCBA

Adjunct Faculty, UMass Lowell Online Autism Program

"I thoroughly enjoy teaching the online courses in the BIA series for several reasons. First, the content of the courses, developed by a team of behavior analysts, is exceptionally organized and thorough. Students frequently comment on the thorough and organized level of the content for the courses. Second, the design of the assignments for the courses supports the students’ mastery of the course content. The flexibility of the course work is also key to the students’ learning experience. Many of my students are teachers, parents or otherwise employed. They lead very busy lives. Even those who live within commuting distance do not always have the time to drive to campus for classes at a set time each week."

WHAT UMASS FACULTY & STAFF ARE SAYING ABOUT THE PROGRAM

Professor Charlotte Mandell

Coordinator, Board Certified Behavior Analyst / BCBA Certification Program photo of Charlotte Mandell

Professor Mandell facilitated the development of the Autism Certificate program at UMass Lowell, working in close collaboration with the course developers, Drs. Charles Hamad and Richard Fleming at the Shriver Center/UMass Medical School, to shape this award-winning curriculum.

"UMass Lowell's program in Behavioral Intervention in Autism fills a significant need for individuals educated in the best methods of helping individuals and families with autism. Behavior Analysis is presently documented as the most effective approach to improving the lives of people diagnosed with autism. With the reported increases in autism, there is a burgeoning need for skilled practitioners of behavior analysis throughout the nation and, indeed, the world."

Richard Fleming, Ph.D. and Charles Hamad, Ph.D.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, UMass Medical School

"Board certification inRichard Fleming and Charles Hamad behavior analysis is quickly becoming the de facto training standard for autism early intervention providers. BIA is designed to allow participants access to high quality training developed by experts with decades of experiences in providing behavioral services to young children with autism."

Professor Richard Siegel

Coordinator, Online Graduate Certificate in Behavioral Intervention in Autism
photo of richard siegel

"This program represents a unique and exciting partnership. Faculty and staff at UMass Medical School's Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, UMass Lowell and UMassOnline worked together to design the curriculum and continue to work together to assess and update course content, to select and train instructors, and to assess outcomes. This program was designed to meet a very clearly defined local, regional, and national need - the need for better trained professionals to deal with the growing challenges of helping those who fall along what has come to be known as the 'autism spectrum.

Professor Nina Coppens

Chair of the Psychology Department photo of Nina Coppens

"From the outset, all the faculty for this program have been carefully selected based on their holding a doctorate in Psychology, being certified as Behavior Analysts, and working as practicing professionals or researchers directly involved in patient care."

WHAT ONE AUTISM PROGRAM STUDENT HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE PROGRAM...

Nancy W, Dugan, M. Ed.

Online Behavioral Intervention Certificate Program Student

"The professors I have worked with have set a high standard. They are very willing to have 'chats' at all hours and they seem to like the questioning student. The discussion boards are key. When the professor requires comments on other's discussions the board is lively. The students learn a lot from each other. We share ideas from across the country. This is such an awesome component to this program."

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