A case study of an adult learner with ASD and ADHD in an undergraduate online learning environment

Christopher A Meyers, Richard G Bagnall


The contemporary need for older workers to participate in education and training programs to increase their employability has exposed many of them to learning opportunities involving online learning in higher education. This paper reports research into the issues and experiences of an adult learner with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) engaging in undergraduate online learning. The issues and experiences were identified through the use of inductive, in-depth interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA), as part of a larger study. The profile of the target student was very different from the other nine participants in the study, and was interpreted as principally related to disorientation within his online learning environment. Three types of disorientation were identified – navigational, contextual, and procedural – each of which presented strategies for its mitigation. The research revealed a significant disjunction between the characteristics of the learner’s online learning environment and his learning needs and preferences, which has implications for the design and development of inclusive online learning environments in higher education.


ASD; ADHD; University; Online learning.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.1600