eLearning for Students with Special Educational Needs: Illustrations from Two Special Schools


  • Paul Lam
  • Hilary Ka Yan Ng
  • Alan Hiu Hin Tse Research Associate Centre for Learning Enhancement And Research (CLEAR) The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Ivy Ming Lu
  • Bernardo Yuk Wang Wong




Students with SEN, eLearning, mixed-method approach


eLearning enables new forms of education that can combine the strengths of face to face and distance education using technology. It is widely acknowledged that eLearning changes the role of the instructors and students, enabling a more personalized and effective learning environment. But to what extent can eLearning benefit students outside mainstream education? Adopting a mixed-method approach that involved classroom observation, focus group interview and survey, the present research investigated the benefit of eLearning on students with special educational needs (SEN) from the perspectives of schools’ management, teachers, students, and parents. Using the Learning Environment, Learning Process, Learning Outcomes (LEPO) framework, our results indicated that eLearning could deliver a wide range of benefits to the LEPO of students with SEN. eLearning facilitates the transformation of traditional classroom into a more interactive learning environment. It also enables a more flexible learning process less constrained by location and time. Students who engage in eLearning were reported to have higher learning motivation. Parents and teachers could better monitor students’ learning progress through eLearning technology. Teachers reported improvement on students’ discipline-specific and generic learning outcomes, such as teamwork, technological skills, and self-expression ability. Achieving such benefits require careful design and planning. It is hoped that this paper could stimulate further discussion on how eLearning technology can be used to facilitate the learning of students with SEN.



• Anderson, J. (2010). ICT Transforming Education: A Regional Guide. Bangkok: UNESCO.

• Brown, D. J., McHugh, D., Standen, P., Evett, L., Shopland, N., & Battersby, S. (2011). Designing location-based learning experiences for people with intellectual disabilities and additional sensory impairments. Computers & Education, 56,11–20.

• Chiang, H. Y., & Jacobs, K. (2010). Perceptions of a computer-based instruction system in special education: High school teachers and students views. Work: A Journal of Prevention Assessment & Rehabilitation, 37, 349–359.

• Education Bureau. (2015). Report on the Fourth Strategy on Information Technology in Education. Retrieved from https://www.edb.gov.hk/attachment/en/edu-system/primary-secondary/applicable-to-primary-secondary/it-in-edu/ITE4_report_ENG.pdf

• Education Bureau. (2019a). Special Schools – Categories. Retrieved from https://www.edb.gov.hk/en/edu-system/special/support-subsidy/special-school/type.html

• Education Bureau. (2019b). Special Education. Retrieved from https://www.edb.gov.hk/en/edu-system/special/policy-and-initiatives/special-edu/index.html

• Everhart, J. M., Alber-Morgan, S. R., & Park, J. H. (2011). Effects of computer-based practice on the acquisition and maintenance of basic academic skills for children with moderate to intensive educational needs. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 46, 556–564.

• Fernández-López, Ã., Rodríguez-Fórtiz, M., Rodríguez-Almendros, M., & Martínez-Segura, M. (2013). Mobile learning technology based on IOS devices to support students with special education needs. Computers & Education, 61, 77-90.

• Florian, L. (Ed.). (2007). The SAGE handbook of special education. London: SAGE Publications, Ltd

• Forlin, C. (2017). Developing and implementing quality inclusive education in Hong Kong: implications for teacher education. Journal of Research in Special Education Needs, 10, 177-184.

• Gentry, T., Wallace, J., Kvarfordt, C., & Lynch, K. B. (2010). Personal Digital Assistants as cognitive aids for high school students with autism: results of a community-based trial. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 32,101–107.

• Grant, D. G., & Dieker, L. A. (2011). Listening to black male student voices using web-based mentoring. Remedial and Special Education, 32, 322–333.

• Groenewegen, S., Heinz, S., Fro¨hlich, B., & Huckauf, A. (2008). Virtual world interfaces for special needs education based on props on a board. Computers & Graphics, 32, 589–596.

• Groff, J. (2013). Technology-rich innovative learning environments, OCED Centre for Educational Research and Innovation Learning Environment Project, 1-30. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

• Hasselbring, T. S., & Williams, C. H. (2000). Use of computer technology to help students with special needs. Children and Computer Technology, 10, 102–122.

• Huffaker, D. A., & Calvert, S. L. (2003). The new science of learning: Active learning, metacognition, and transfer of knowledge in e-learning applications. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 29, 325-334.

• King, C., Kelder, J., Doherty, K., Phillips, R., Mclerney, F. Walls, J. Robinson, A. and Vikers, J. (2014). Designing for Quality: The Understanding Dementia MOOC. The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 12, 161 – 171.

• Lawrie, G. A., Grøndahl, L., Boman, S., & Andrews, T. (2016). Wiki Laboratory Notebooks: Supporting Student Learning In Collaborative Inquiry-Based Laboratory Experiments. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 25, 394-409.

• Merriam, S. B & Tisdell, E.J. (2015). Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

• Nichols, M. (2003) A theory for eLearning. Education Technology & Society, 6(2), 1-10.

• Phillips, R., McNaught, C., & Kennedy, G. (2010, June). Towards a generalised conceptual framework for learning: the Learning Environment, Learning Processes and Learning Outcomes (LEPO) framework. Proceedings of the World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications (Vol. 2010, No. 1, pp. 2495-2504).

• Phillips, R., McNaught, C., & Kennedy, G. (2012). Evaluating E-learning: Guiding research and practice. New York: Routledge.

• Roberts, P., Maor, D., & Herrington, J. (2016). ePortfolio-Based Learning Environments: Recommendations for Effective Scaffolding of Reflective Thinking in Higher Education. Educational Technology & Society, 19, 22–33.

• Schelhowe, H. S., & Zare, S. (2009). Intelligent mobile interactions, “A learning system for mentally disabled people (IMLIS)â€. In C. Stephanidis (Ed.), Universal access in HCI. Part1. Lecture notes in computer science 5614(pp. 412–421). Springer Verlag.

• Smith, M. K., Jones, F. H., Gilbert, S. L., & Wieman, C. E. (2013). The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS): A New Instrument to Characterize University STEM Classroom Practices. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 12(4), 618-627.

• Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

• Wong-Ratcliff, M & Ho, K.K. (2011). Can integrated education meet the needs of students with SEN?. New Horizons in Education 59(2), 101-115.




How to Cite

Lam, P., Ng, H. K. Y., Tse, A. H. H., Lu, I. M., & Wong, B. Y. W. (2019). eLearning for Students with Special Educational Needs: Illustrations from Two Special Schools. Asian Journal of Education and E-Learning, 7(6). https://doi.org/10.24203/ajeel.v7i6.6034