Tracy LaChapelle Deborah Nelson


This qualitative, descriptive study explored the experiences of college students with Deaf, deaf, and Hard of Hearing (D/d/HH) hearing difficulties within online learning environments (OLEs). This study used an inclusive and equitable theoretical framework of connectivism to address audism and the marginalization of college students with D/d/HH. The LIFE-R section's After LIFE semi-structured interview protocol collected data from 15 college students with hearing difficulties in OLEs recruited from the National Deaf Center-Listserve. The 12 themes highlighted that without extrinsic support, participants perceived inequitable accessibility of technology, hearing devices, or resources. In closing the research gap, the study's findings indicated that 1) college students with D/d/HH were underrepresented, had unique hearing differences, and needed consistent access to hearing assistance technology and resources; 2) connectivism extrinsic support: Provided equitable accessibility and a positive impact on self-advocacy and autonomy, engagement and emotions, and availability and effectiveness of technology-assisted hearing devices or resources, and 3) Audism: Provided inequitable accessibility and a negative impact on self-advocacy and autonomy to utilize technology hearing devices or resources, engagement, and emotions (i.e., frustration, anger, alienation, and isolation). The recommendations for improving accessible and effective technology hearing devices or resources utilizing a connectivism framework, implementing policies, best practices, professional development, and training. Future studies should explore students with difficulties hearing in OLEs without a medical diagnosis, intersectional identities, and larger sample sizes.