Udenlandske studerende tager online masteruddannelse i adfærdsanalyse og autisme

Interview ved Joi Bay

Dana Reinecke er leder af masteruddannelsen i ABA ved Sage Colleges. Hun har en ph.d.-grad i psykologi og er certificeret adfærdsanalytiker.

Sage Colleges Graduate School i staten New York har flere års erfaringer med online undervisning af udenlandske studerende i anvendt adfærdsanalyse. Hele undervisningen – også supervision af praktik - kan gennemføres online, og det benytter et voksende antal ikke-amerikanske studerende sig af. På den måde er det muligt for studerende fra lande uden en stærk ABA-tradition at blive certificerede som adfærdsanalytikere. En certificering forudsætter at man gennemfører en godkendt master-uddannelse i anvendt adfærdsanalyse, at man får supervision i sin praktik og at man består certificerings-eksamen.

Lederen af masteruddannelsen i ABA – Dana Reinecke – fortæller her om online undervisningen og mulighederne for ikke-amerikanske studerende. Studiet består i en kombination af teoretiske kurser og obligatorisk, superviseret praktik. Ud over den personlige supervision er der på uddannelsen særlige praktik-kurser, hvor erfaringer fra praksis og fra supervision bliver bearbejdet.

Interviewet er ikke oversat til dansk.

What are the special characteristics of the Sage Colleges’ ABA program?

This program is a unique degree, because it is specific to ABA and specific to autism. The program is focused on ABA, but we do introduce students to different types of treatments of autism. We do that by looking at the research, to see if these different treatments are supported by research or not. That’s what we are teaching them – to look at it in a science based way.

We are also unique within the Sage Colleges, because we don’t have rolling admissions in our on-line classes. So we enroll students as a cohort, and they stay together in a locked step program. They can’t pick and choose their classes. They have to go in order, and they have to take the program as it is.

What are your experiences with international students?

We do have international students. This semester we have students in France, Switzerland, the UK, and Australia as well as Canada. I think it is interesting when we have students from different cultures mixing in the same classes. So far it has worked out fine, because the international students are proficient in English. When students apply for this program, part of the application is a personal essay. In that way we can evaluate if the person can communicate in writing in English.

Do you use on-line interviews with applicants?

We don’t do it with everybody. Until now we have had such great applicants – clearly qualified applicants. We have a lot of applicants that already have the associate level certification, we have applicants that come from programs that we recognize, and who are referred by people that we know. But occasionally – if there is something that we want to dwell into a little bit more deeply with the student - we will do an interview, but it is not a requirement.

You told that it is a locked step program. What will happen if an international student falls out of step?

It depends on where the problem is falling. The four practicum classes are offered in a certain order for a reason – we start with measurements followed by functional analysis, behavior change procedures, and the final practicum is creating a behavior support plan. So they do have to take them in order. We have had students who have fallen out of step with the practicum: Their supervisor quits on them, they become pregnant, or they lose their job. Until now we have just offered extra courses as needed to students who go out of step. We are doing that so they don’t have to get too far beyond their graduation date. I don’t want to make a student wait to the following year when the practicum is offered again. So we will offer it as needed. But if a student is really overwhelmed, she can take a leave of absence.

Do you know what the dropout rate is?

We don’t have statistics like that yet This semester we have lost a couple of students – two or three – they said they didn’t realize how much work it was going to be, and each one of them said that they had a new baby. New moms don’t realize how much work that’s going to be. Sometimes students have an unrealistic expectation that is will be easier, because it is on-line, and that it will be self-paced - but it is not.

What will be the total costs – tuition and fees – for an international student?

The same as for American students. The program is 620 US$ per credit hour, and there is a US$ 900 practicum fee per practicum. So the total cost for the master’s degree is US$ 27,160 - plus text books.

How many hours study work should a student expect per week.

At least three hours per class. If they are taking three classes, they should be looking at nine or ten or eleven hours a week. Maybe a little bit more when they are writing papers. It should be like a graduate course.

What kind of BAs and BSs do you accept from applicants?

They don’t have to have a specific undergraduate background. But we do give preferential admission status to people who have some experience in the field.

How is a class of on-line students different from regular classes?

I have taught in traditional classrooms, and I have taught on-line. I have learned that when I am teaching on-line, I am interacting with every single student within every single week. As opposed to the traditional classroom where I am only interacting with students that raise their hands. I have found that in on-line classes you really get to know the students as individuals. There is a lot of interaction, and I suspect the quality of interaction in on-line classes is higher, because people have a chance to think about what they want to communicate.

On-line, I know that people are attending, comprehending, and they ask questions every week. And I can have a much greater impact. This is not to say that on-line learning is for everybody, and I think that students have to be aware of this – they have to be able to read and write well in English, and they need to be able to pace themselves. We keep the framework of the courses very consistent, so if there is a weekly discussion forum and a weekly quiz. they happen every week at the same time. The expectations are that the students are there consistently. It is not self-study program!

On-line education and technology has shrunken the world. I really feel that I have individual relationships with my students; they are learning and benefitting, and we are able to work with them in a really meaningful way even if we actually never share the same space.

The only thing, I would say that is different – and that is lacking in this kind of on-line lectures – is that you cannot see and hear the students while you are lecturing. So I miss that part a little bit, but we get that interaction in the discussion forums. I will put up some questions to get them started, but each student is responsible for taking part in the discussion and for responding to other students’ contributions. So it keeps them pretty busy.

A lot of people think that on-line learning is more of a self-study where you get a bunch of materials and a bunch of tests, and that you work your way through the maze in your own pace. We don’t administer the program that way. Everybody has to stay within the same time frame as everybody else. And they are required to interact not only with the professor but also with each other. In some classes we have students work on projects in groups. So students in different countries are cooperating and producing work together.

Are classroom discussions in real time?

No, it is not in real time - it is asynchronous. So it is not a problem when international students are in different time zones. But they do have deadlines. In one class I might expect people to make an original contribution by Wednesday and respond to other peoples contributions by Sunday.

Sage Colleges is one of only a few on-line programs that offer on-line supervision?

Yes, we have many BCBA supervisors ready and willing to supervise people from the distance. As long as the students can get permission from their site, and they can set up a camera – we can do it.

How is the supervision organized?

When the students enter the program they need to submit a contract which shows that they have a practicum site, and that they either have a supervisor, or that the practicum site is going to allow for a distance supervisor. If students in upstate New York have a practicum site, but there is no on site supervisor, we will find a local BCBA who can physically can go in and supervise them. If it is somebody in Alaska – we had a student and there were no BCBAs there, so she had distance supervision by webcam and Skype.

The supervisors receive remuneration from Sage. They are paid US$ 75 per hour to provide supervision to the student for up to 18 hours per semester. So the payment for supervision is a part of the tuition. In that way the students don’t have any expenses beyond their tuition. If the student has a supervisor available to them in their practicum, Sage will still pay the remuneration. Unless the supervisor waives it.

That is very favorable?

Yes. It would probably be very difficult for people to complete the program if they had to pay a full fee for supervision on top of tuition. So they don’t have those supervision concerns.

Is 18 hours of supervision per semester enough to fulfill the requirements from the certification board?

Yes. There are three levels of supervision for the BCBA certification: Independent field work, practicum, and intensive practicum. So we are at the practicum level. The students need 1000 hours of work experience - 250 hours per semester since we do four semesters of practicum – which is about 17 hours a week. A maximum of 10 % of their work time can be counted as supervision. Ultimately they have to have 75 hours of supervision so the 18 hours times four semesters give just about that much. But we also provide two hours of group supervision per semester. They are on line with other students and with a professor who is a BCBA.

The practicum is a 2 credit course – not 3 credits – so it is a little bit less expensive for them to take the practicum, but there is also a practicum fee which helps to cover the remuneration of the supervisors. The academic load is a little bit less during the practicum – it is much more practical sort of field work as opposed to research papers and exams.

What is the relationship between supervision and the practicum classes?

Each student is assigned a supervisor, but the students are sharing experiences in the practicum classes. There are four practicum courses, and one of them focuses on just functional assessment and functional analysis. So during the first half of this practicum course, we go through different procedures and descriptive functional behavioral assessments, and then the second half is the functional analysis. The students are having a discussion about teacher’s or tutor’s role in collecting data. One student may have an experience where a teacher is an enthusiastic data collector, because it is part of the expectations of the job site, and that is something they practice. But other students have a completely different experience where teachers are not expected to collect data, because that is the behavior analyst’s job, and this is a different approach to this problem.

The practicum courses and on-line discussions are interesting, because these students are working in very diverse practicum sites. We have students across America and in different countries, and they are working in field sites where they are under supervision from a certified BCBA-supervisor. The geographic combination of students contributes in a really nice way to the practicum courses. In California – for example - there may be a completely different way of approaching supervision, teacher training, parent training, or some form of service delivery. And students in other parts of the country or in other parts of the word are getting the benefits of that kind of information. So the interaction between students is a very broadening experience.

Fakta om ABA-uddannelsen ved Sage Colleges

Uddannelsen består af fem semesters undervisning – heraf et sommer-semester. I hvert semester udbydes to teoretiske kurser og et praktikkursus. De teoretiske kurser omhandler dels emner inden for anvendt adfærdsanalyse og dels specifik viden om autisme. For at kunne få mastergraden i anvendt adfærdsanalyse skal en studerende samlet tage 11 teoretiske fag og 4 praktikkurser. Ud over denne undervisning skal studerende gennemføre praktikforløb superviseret af certificerede ABA-supervisorer. Masteruddannelsen giver mulighed for at blive certificeret som BCBA - Board Certified Behavior Analyst – men det forudsætter en særskilt certificeringseksamen, der administreres af Behavior Analysts Certification Board. Læs om certificeringen som BCBA

Den teoretiske undervisning består af følgende fag:

Læs om masteruddannelsen i ABA ved Sage Colleges


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Joi Bay /25.05.2013