Almost a decade ago, Landmark College, which exclusively serves neurodiverse students, launched an online Dual Enrollment program, enabling neurodiverse high school and gap year students to obtain college credits without moving to the rural Vermont campus.
Leaders at Landmark knew it was a vital link for students with neurodiversity such as a language-based learning disability, ADHD, or autism. Then COVID-19 hit, and everyone learned the necessity of effective online learning.
Through a five-year, $1 million grant with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, Landmark College is expanding its program to reach more neurodiverse learners, particularly those with financial need who otherwise wouldn’t have access to Landmark College. The college’s goal is to quadruple the number of annual participants.
Originally, there was some doubt that neurodiverse students would succeed without face-to-face instruction. However, Peter Eden, Ph.D., and President of Landmark and long a champion of the dual enrollment initiative, saw it from a different perspective.
“Some would say, ‘I cannot travel 3,000 miles to a rural campus in Vermont.’ And some students were studying online at other colleges without the support that Landmark could provide,” he added.
“Like every college, we needed to provide courses that are web-based,” Eden said. “Because we are a college that focuses on students with neurodiversity, we needed to craft and engineer them in a certain way.” That means fewer students in each class, an instructor who understands neurodiversity, and extra support for the students.
When the program started in 2013, there were about 25 students enrolled. By the 2018-19 school year, that number had grown to 179. Last semester with the aid of scholarship dollars, there were 195 students participating from 23 different states, and the cohort included 4 international students as well. By the end of the school year, Landmark anticipates that number will be 323 students. In the next four years, Landmark College aims to increase the number to 1,000.
Today, Landmark’s dual enrollment program is one part of a full complement of online programs that enable neurodiverse students to begin their education with Landmark College while still in high school, and then support them online regardless of their physical location. COVID-19 did not cause their creation, but perhaps hastened it, Eden said.
“COVID aside, Dual Enrollment allowed us to grow some of our programs both upward and outward,” Eden said. “And of course, the Johnson Scholarship Foundation has been wonderful supporting our dual enrollment program.”
The other online programs, now grouped under the LC Online brand include:
- College START, an online program that creates a foundation and a pathway for students to develop learning strategies and build the skills needed to grow strengths in and out of the classroom setting. After completing this one-year online experience, students can go on to earn an associate or a bachelor’s degree at Landmark College or another institution.
- Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program – a key strategy to increase access to higher education for neurodiverse students who learn differently is having educators at all levels who are trained to recognize the needs of neurodiverse students. The post-baccalaureate certificate graduates can personalize education supports for neurodivergent students and connect them to programs like Landmark College’s Dual Enrollment program.
- Webinars and online workshops for educators and parents with up-to-date information and research-based practices for supporting students with learning differences (LD) such as dyslexia, ADHD, or autism.
- A 5-day Online Boot Camp during summer for recent high school graduates or current college students to gain a better understanding of their learning styles and shift the way they think about their learning strengths and challenges.
Learn more about Landmark College and its online programs at https://lconline.landmark.edu/