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Online Practical Teacher Training (OPTT): Special Education Certification in Early Childhood, K-12 Severe Disabilities, and K-12 Mild/Moderate Disabilities


USU’s Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling's Online Practical Teacher Training (USU OPTT) program offers coursework for licensure to work with Birth to 5 (Early Childhood) students with disabilities, K-12 students with mild/moderate disabilities or K-12 students with severe disabilities. All coursework is delivered online and is available throughout the state of Utah. Available as first or second Bachelor’s degree.

NOTE: OPTT is not available outside of Utah.

USU OPTT is an innovative, online special education preparation program specifically designed for individuals currently working in a Utah school as a special education teacher or a special education paraprofessional. Applicants may choose to specialize in either early childhood special education, K-12 severe, or K-12 mild/moderate disabilities, and will be fully-qualified for special education certification upon completion of this 5-semester program (fall-spring-summer-fall-spring). The program will be longer for applicants who are completing a first bachelor’s degree.

The OPTT program accepts applicants who are special education teachers or special education paraprofessionals with or without a bachelor’s degreeAll applicants must be working in a district or charter school that agrees to collaborate with USU’s Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling (SPERC) to provide classroom support throughout the program.

Admission to the OPTT Program

To be accepted into the USU OPTT program, applicants must work at least part-time in a district that agrees to collaborate with SPER. Continued employment (at least half-time as a special education teacher or as a special education paraprofessional) is required throughout the program. Applicants who already have a bachelor's degree must also pass entrance exams in math and literacy prior to admission.

Admission for Applicants Who Hold a Bachelor’s Degree

Individuals who have a bachelor’s degree must be hired by a district or charter school as a special education teacher or as a special education paraprofessional prior to applying to the OPTT program. Continued employment as a special educator or as a special education paraprofessional is required throughout the program.

The OPTT Advisor, Laura Parrish (laura.parrish@usu.edu) will guide your application process, and admission steps for applicants who already have a bachelor’s degree include the following:

  1. Pass mathematics and written language screening exams
  2. Complete the OPPT Survey
  3. Receive confirmation that OPTT staff have contacted your district or charter school
  4. Apply to Utah State University

Admission for Applicants Who Do Not Hold a Bachelor’s Degree

Individuals who are working on their first bachelor’s degree are eligible to apply to the OPTT program if they are employed at least half-time as a K-12 special education teacher or special education paraprofessional in a district or charter school that has agreed to collaborate with SPER. Continued employment in special education is required throughout the program.

The OPTT Advisor will guide your application process, and admission steps for applicants who need a first bachelor’s degree include the following:

  1. Contact the OPPT Advisor, Laura Parrish (laura.parrish@usu.edu)
  2. Submit unofficial transcripts of all previous postsecondary coursework to the OPTT Advisor
  3. The OPTT Advisor will create a program plan – the length of program will depend on your previous coursework, but will be longer than the 2-year OPPT coursework

OPTT Coursework

The OPTT program provides course work leading to licensure to work with early childhood (birth to 5) special education, K-12 students with severe disabilities, or K-12 students with mild/moderate disabilities. Preparation includes academic coursework taken concurrently with supervised field-based experiences.

Coursework is online with required weekly live class sessions for many of the courses. Students log into the class on their own computer from their school or home. Most courses are delivered in a blended format, which means they are a combination of live and online presentation. Each week these classes will meet live for 60-90 minutes, which is less than the usual time for a traditional class. To make up the additional time, students will complete online activities at a time of convenience prior to each live session. So, in a sense, students have more homework (online activities) and less live class time. The live classes are attended by logging in from a computer at home or school, and do not require traveling to a university classroom. A few courses are fully asynchronous, which means there are no live class meetings and students work through the course materials on their own.

Early Childhood Specialization

This licensure qualifies individuals to work with young children with disabilities.  This program addresses developmental delays, inclusion of students in general education, behavioral interventions, assessment, effective instruction, consulting with parents and teachers, assistive technology, teaching developmental skills, and policies and procedures.

OPTT Course Sequence for Early Childhood Emphasis

Fall 1
SPED 5011 Foundations in Special Education: Instructional Strategies, Behavior Management, and IEPs (2 cr)
SPED 5012 Basic Behavior Management and Instructional Strategies (3 cr)
SPED 5711 Introduction to Instruction for Preschoolers with Disabilities (3 cr)
Spring 1
SPED 5712 Advanced Instructional Strategies for Preschoolers with Disabilities (3 cr)
SPED 5014 Foundations in Assessment (2 cr)
Summer
SPED 5015 Law/Policies/Procedures (3 cr)
SPED 5713 Early Intervention: Services for Infants and Families (3 cr)
Fall 2
SPED 5013 Advanced Behavior Management and Instructional Strategies (3 cr)
SPED 5016 Technology and Collaboration for Teaching Exceptional Learners (3 cr)
SPED 5714 Early Childhood Development: Implications for Intervention (3 cr)
Spring 2
SPED 5230 Student teaching (3-15 cr)

Severe Specialization

This licensure qualifies individuals to work with K-12 students with severe disabilities in a functional skills classroom. This includes working with students who have low-incidence disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, traumatic and acquired brain injury, and multiple disabilities. Students in this program learn the following evidence-based practices: creating daily schedules that maximize instructional time for students, effective behavior management strategies, systematic reinforcement, individual and small group instruction, implementing an effective teaching cycle, assessment, and managing and supervising paraprofessionals.

OPTT Course Sequence for Severe Emphasis

Fall 1
SPED 5011 Foundations in Special Education: Instructional Strategies, Behavior Management, and IEPs (2 cr)
SPED 5012 Basic Behavior Management and Instructional Strategies (3 cr)
SPED 5511 Reading/LA, Math, and Science for Students with Severe Disabilities: Content and Applications (6 cr)
Spring 1
SPED 5512 Curriculum for Students with Severe Disabilities: Life Skills: Content and Application (6 cr)
SPED 5014 Foundations in Assessment (2 cr)
Summer
SPED 5015 Law/Policies/Procedures (3 cr)
Fall 2
SPED 5013 Advanced Behavior Management and Instructional Strategies (3 cr)
SPED 5016 Technology and Collaboration for Teaching Exceptional Learners (3 cr)
Spring 2
SPED 5017 Transition Planning and Collaboration for Exceptional Learners (3 cr)
SPED 5230 Student teaching (3-15 cr)

Mild/Moderate Specialization

This licensure qualifies individuals to work with K-12 students with mild to moderate disabilities. These students may have mild cognitive impairments, learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorders, or other disabilities requiring special education. The emphasis in the mild/moderate program is identifying strategies and developing special education programs to address the educational demands for the student to meet the state core curriculum.

OPTT Course Sequence for Mild/Moderate Emphasis

Fall 1
SPED 5011 Foundations in Special Education: Instructional Strategies, Behavior Management, and IEPs (2 cr)
SPED 5012 Basic Behavior Management and Instructional Strategies (3 cr)
SPED 5311 MM K-12 Reading and Language Arts: Content and Applications (6 cr)
Spring 1
SPED 5312 MM K-12 Math Content, Applications, and Co-Teaching  (7 cr)
SPED 5014 Foundations in Assessment (2 cr)
Summer
SPED 5015 Law/Policies/Procedures (3 cr)
Fall 2
SPED 5013 Advanced Behavior Management and Instructional Strategies (3 cr)
SPED 5016 Technology and Collaboration for Teaching Exceptional Learners (3 cr)
Spring 2
SPED 5017 Transition Planning and Collaboration for Exceptional Learners (3 cr)
SPED 5230 Student teaching (3-15 cr)

FAQ 

  1. What is the OPTT program?
    USU OPTT (Online Practical Teacher Training) is an innovative, online special education preparation program specifically designed for special education teachers and special education paraprofessionals. It is a partnership with districts and charter schools, so teachers and paraprofessionals must work in a district/charter school that agrees to collaborate with USU while the teacher/paraprofessional completes the program. Continued employment in special education is required throughout the OPTT program.
  2. What licensure areas are provided through OPTT?
    Early Childhood Special Education
    K-12 Severe Disabilities
    K-12 Mild/Moderate Disabilities
  1. How many credits is OPTT?
    For a 2nd bachelor’s degree, Early Childhood licensure requires 32 credits, Severe licensure requires 35 credits, and MM licensure requires 36 credits. If this is your first bachelor’s degree, additional credits are required.
  2. How long is the OPTT program?
    The OPTT program is 2 academic years (fall-spring-summer-fall-spring). If this is your first bachelor’s degree, it may take longer to complete than 2 academic years.
  3. Can I choose my courses in OPTT?
    Specific courses are required and there are no electives. Courses are offered once/year, and must be taken in a specific sequence.
  4. When are classes held?
    The required live class sessions are held late afternoon and early evening on weekdays and are typically 60-90 minutes per week for each course. You will log into these classes on your own computer. In addition to the live class sessions, you will spend approximately 8-10 hours/week working independently completing readings, videos, recorded lectures, online modules, and assignments for each class. Some classes are fully asynchronous, and do not have live class meetings.
  5. Where will I attend classes?
    All OPPT coursework is delivered online, so you can access classes and coursework from anywhere you have a strong Internet connection. Your computer and Internet must meet specified minimum requirements. You may attend classes from your school or home, but you must be a quiet environment where you will not be interrupted during class. The primary course content is provided asynchronously, which means you will complete it on your own. This content will be provided through textbooks, journal articles, recorded lectures, videos, online modules, and/or applied activities and assignments. You will need to be able to work independently and manage your time well to be successful in these courses. In addition to working on these materials independently, for many of the courses you will attend a live class session (via your personal computer) each week for each class. The live sessions provide the opportunity to interact with the course instructor and other students. These sessions will primarily consist of application activities, small group work, and problem-solving of day-to-day issues you face in your classroom. The live sessions will occur in late afternoon and early evening and attendance is required.
  6. How much does the OPTT program cost?
    Tuition varies slightly year-to-year, but the approximate cost for the entire program is $15,500.
  7. Does OPTT qualify graduates for the Teacher Salary Supplement Program (TSSP)?
    Yes, graduates earn a first or second bachelor’s degree in special education, and qualify for the Teacher Salary Supplement Program.
  8. Is financial aid available?
    Yes, most students are eligible. Once you are in the OPTT program and have been officially admitted to USU, you may apply for financial aid. The OPTT coordinator and advisor will provide guidance on starting this process, but you are responsible for completing all necessary paperwork.
    1. USU Financial Aid Office: usu.edu/finaid
    2. USU Scholarships: http://scholarships.usu.edu/
  9. Am I eligible for Federal Loan Forgiveness?
    Full-time special education teachers who complete 5 consecutive academic years of service and teach in a low-income school or educational agency, may be eligible for up to $17,000 of loan forgiveness. Please see the directory of eligible schools at: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher

For more information on the USU OPTT program, please see contact information below.

Applicants, if you are getting your first bachelor’s degree, please contact:
Laura Parrish
435-797-7575
laura.parrish@usu.edu 

Applicants, if you already have a bachelor’s degree, please contact:
Caroline Bressler
435-797-3245
caroline.bressler@usu.edu

LEAs with program questions, please contact:
Julia Lyman, OPTT Coordinator
435-797-7205 
julia.lyman@usu.edu 

Karen Hager Martinez, OPTT Director
435-797-7320
karen.hager@usu.edu