Master’s in ABA coming to the School of Education

Master’s in ABA coming to the School of Education
Kathleen Cook.

The School of Education is preparing to launch a new master’s program in special education, Applied Behavioral Analysis, which will be the first of its kind in South Dakota.

School of Education Dean Laurie Daily explained that the program began to take form from program development in 2017 and 2018.

“With that we had identified K-12, early education and, then, the autism specialist [as programs to add],” Daily said. “And the autism specialist wasn’t supposed to launch until the third year, until after we had launched the other two areas.”

“Autism Specialist” soon shifted to be “Applied Behavioral Analyst,” which is a much broader field and can provide opportunities in a wide variety of professional settings.

“It’s changed from autism specialist to Applied Behavioral Analysis because that’s really more what we’re doing now,” Daily said.

The Verified Course Sequence, which must be approved by Augustana as well as ABA International, includes seven courses that a cohort of 15 to 18 students take over a 16-month period. In addition, these cohorts will participate in a 1,500-hour supervised clinical experience. The two together, the VCS and the clinical experience, are the requirements to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam.

The VCS will be offered through the Augustana School of Education, but the clinical will be through Hope Group Clinical in Arizona, who contacted Augustana in the spring. According to Daily, they were an obvious choice.

“[Hope Group has] been offering the supervised clinical experience for more than 20 years and [has] worked with different universities,” Daily said. “Over the past five years, they’ve really honed that curriculum, the delivery of the supervised clinical and how it’s tracked with electronic medical records.”

The partnership with Hope Group is different for this particular program because, while they have been working with students from other universities for years, their programs have never been aligned directly with any of the universities’ ABA programming.

Education professor, Kathleen Cook, who has been working on developing programs such as this one since she was hired in 2015, explained that working with Hope Group will make the process easier for students.

“When you have an online program, plus online supervision and they’re not coordinated, then there’s a breakdown in what any one student knows as they’re getting supervision.”

This connection with Hope Group allows Augustana to offer the “complete package,” which Daily and Cook think will make the program more attractive to students.

The structure of the clinical experience will give the program a collaborative element in that each cohort will complete it together. As Cook explained:

“Even though the actual coursework is asynchronous, online, when they meet for the supervision piece, they’ll meet in groups,” Cook said. “So, it still will be virtual, but that part will be synchronous, they’ll get to know the people that they’re going through all of their courses with.”

Daily added, “We’ve been really intentional with our Masters of Education programs to really cultivate community, so even our online students get to experience that sense of community that’s such a hallmark for Augustana.”