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How Students with an IEP Can Succeed in Online, Competency-Based Programs

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For students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), finding the right type of learning environment is a necessary ingredient for success. Whether the student has ADHD, anxiety, autism, a hearing impairment, or even just needs a little extra attention from their instructors, their environment will make a world of difference when it comes to their learning experience.

Competency-based and online educational programs are already equipped with many of the accommodations necessary for IEPs. Here are the key benefits that students receive when they are exposed to these learning formats.

Competency-Based Programs


Competency-based programs, whether online or in-person, are focused on prioritizing individualized learning, whether the student requires an IEP or not.

At VLACS, the competency-based method for achieving individualization is through Pace Charts, which are designed with the prioritization of the student’s learning goals in mind. These are similar to the syllabuses that all students receive at the beginning of a new semester, except they are more detailed and are structured on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Pace Charts also take learning goals into consideration and can be modified without any penalty to the student.

So, for a student with an IEP in a competency-based program, a personalized plan will already be unique to their educational goals and tailored to their learning habits.


In a competency-based program, students can move through course materials at their own pace. That means, if it takes them longer to understand a subject or a certain part of a class, they are able to work with their instructor on alternative learning solutions for however long it takes them to grasp the materials.

While they will still be expected to master the course materials, the “go at your own pace” approach helps eliminate worries that students or parents may have about their learning needs affecting their comprehension.

Online Schools


Online courses eliminate the chance of stressors affecting a student’s learning experience by allowing them to complete their coursework in the comfort of their own home, or wherever they feel safe and productive.

Fortunately, an online program will still offer the necessary one-on-one interactions between students and teachers by means of:

· Video Calls

· Emails

· Phone Calls

The student may feel more comfortable communicating with their instructors without the added pressure of being vulnerable in front of their classmates.


Since online courses are structured for students to learn at their own pace, students can choose to work on their assignments when it makes the most sense for them. If concentration problems are the reason for an IEP, an online education will allow the student to perform habits that can help improve their focus, like:

· Chewing Gum

· Listening to Music

· Taking Breaks

These are small, simple activities that can make a big difference in a student’s productivity.

How VLACS Combines Both Practices

Both competency-based programs and online schools have their individual advantages for students with an IEP, but when combined, the possibilities for success are even greater.

Competency-based virtual schools like VLACS are goal-oriented and focused on students mastering course materials rather than the time it takes them to get there. To learn more about our competency-based online programs, attend an open house.