E-learning presents new challenges for Vanderbilt students with intellectual disabilities

Posted at 8:05 AM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 09:05:12-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Class is still in session despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vanderbilt University students are using Zoom video conferencing to tackle coursework, including students in the Next Steps program.

Next Steps is for students with intellectual disabilities, like down syndrome.

"It's kind of nice to have that interaction with all the people to see how they're doing, catch up, check in," said student Theresa Brogan.

Theresa is now learning from home in Maryland. In March, the university canceled on-campus classes for the remainder of the school-year. The new coronavirus has also affected Theresa's internship.

"I was working at the governor's office for a while, but it got cut short," Brogan said.

Teachers are trying to keep students' spirits lifted during the pandemic.

"A sense of well being is critical to all of us," Tammy Day said.

Tammy Day is the director of Next Steps. She said they are encouraging students to set up their own Zoom meetings for reasons other than e-learning, like to chat or exercise together.

"Us older folks who kind of poo-poo this virtual world that people live in, we're finding out there is a lot of value that you can really create some sense of community. It's not everything, but it is wonderful," Day said.

Day said the silver lining is learning this technology means they have a new tool in their toolbox.

"The way they have risen to this and accepted this challenge I think they're excited about it and thrilled about the technology they're learning," she said.


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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.