Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Special Education and Rehabilitation

Committee Chair(s)

Timothy A Slocum


Timothy A Slocum


David E. Forbush


Robert L. Morgan


Brian Belland


Benjamin Lignugaris/Kraft


Both legislative mandates such as those of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and developments in the provision of reading instruction such as Response to Intervention (RTI), increase the demand for high quality tutoring services. However, the U.S. Department of Education and state officials report that access to intensive supplemental tutoring may be limited in rural and urban areas due to limited availability of qualified providers. Online tutoring may be one way to provide supplemental reading instruction to students identified as at-risk of reading failure. Researchers have focused on distance education since the 1920s. The authors of recent meta-analyses report near zero effect sizes between distance education and traditional face-to-face instruction for adults, paraprofessionals, postsecondary, and K-12 students. Relatively little information is available about the effects of distance education on K-12 students at-risk of reading failure. To update and narrow the search of previous reviews, we systematically reviewed literature on distance education for at-risk K-12 students. We found 39 articles that met our search criterion. None of the 39 articles provided empirical evidence on the effects of distance education for at-risk K-12 students. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of online reading instruction for at-risk fourth-grade students in Utah and Philadelphia. A multiple baseline design was used to assess the extent to which at-risk fourth-grade students increase their oral reading rate given systematic supplemental online reading instruction. Tutoring consisted of four sessions per week with 50-minute lessons of direct instruction delivered over a web-based synchronous two-way audiovisual system. Analysis of the multiple baseline across participants revealed gains in oral reading fluency for all participants when placed into the synchronous online tutoring program. Additionally, all participants made standard score gains on basic reading skills as assessed by the Woodcock Johnson Test of Achievement and Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) benchmark assessments. Participating students and tutors reported an awareness of increased reading skills and value of synchronous online instruction. Finally, teachers and parents generally reported that students demonstrated increased reading skills after receiving instruction.