The Hybrid Online Master’s Degree Program in Special (Adapted) Physical Education was created in the Fall of 2009 at Western Michigan University (WMU) and has been Federally Funded by U.S. Department of Education since January 2011. It is the first such online program in the nation.
This program was created in response to an extensive distance learning need expressed by many potential applicants in Michigan and other states. It also addresses preparing qualified personnel to meet the significant need for more qualified adapted PE teachers in public schools.
The purpose of this federally funded program is to utilize the hybrid master’s degree program recently created at Western Michigan University to prepare qualified adapted Physical Education teachers to teach children and youth with disabilities in both separated and inclusive PE classes in schools over a period of four years.
This program is a collaboration among the Michigan State Department of Education, Western Michigan University, public school districts in the Kalamazoo (near Western Michigan University), and Adapted Physical Education Clinics housed in institutions and/or suitable schools with certified Adapted Physical Education teachers.
An organized plan of operation, a designed plan of evaluation, and a justified budget plan are utilized to achieve the overall purpose. Among the budgeted dollars, at least 78% of the total annual funding is designated for student support, including tuition, technology, textbook, and/or stipends.
It is anticipated that, over a period of the four years, a total of 44 graduate students will complete this hybrid online master’s degree program in special (adapted) physical education. These graduates will alleviate the shortage of qualified Adapted Physical Education teachers at public schools.
For applicants who need financial support, after they are accepted into the special (adapted) physical education program, they must follow steps 1-3 specified below to complete their grant application.
This federally funded program financially supports each of the accepted graduate students who are offered a graduate assistant position with not only free tuition and textbooks, but also a monthly stipend. For receiving monthly stipends, a graduate student must work in the on-campus adapted physical education lab for 20 hours per week. [Graduate Assistant Application]
In addition, graduate assistant positions are available in the Department of Human Performance and Health Education at Western Michigan University. A graduate student who accepts a department graduate assistant position must teach physical activity courses to university students for 12 credit hours per week. [Graduate Assistant Application]
The program of study for a Master’s degree in Special (Adapted) Physical Education is designed in 36 credit hours. They cover 12 courses with three credit hours per course.
The 12 courses are categorized into 4 parts. They are 6 specialization courses (18 credit hours), 2 capstone courses (6 credit hours), 2 core courses (6 credit hours), and 2 elective courses (6 credit hours).
A student is required to complete 6 specialization courses with 3 courses in adapted physical education and 3 courses in special education for a graduate student with physical education background.
A student is required to 6 specialization courses with 3 courses in adapted physical education and 3 courses in general physical education for a graduate student with special education background.
The 2 capstone courses are required for all accepted graduate students. One is Independent Research and another is Field experience that could be completed in the local area of a student.
The 2 core courses are required of all accepted graduate students in this master’s degree progam. One core course refers to research procedures and another refers to statistical techniques.
The 2 elective courses will be selected from a list of 5 available courses. Examples of these elected courses are motor development, curriculum development, and physical skill acquisition and motor learning.
Among the 12 courses, 9 courses (27 credit hours) are offered Online and 3 courses (9 credit hours) are offered in a traditional way. Traditional courses can be taken in the local area of a student.
The 12 courses can be completed in a two-year-format, including 2 courses in Fall, 2 courses in Spring, 1 course in Summer I, and 1 course in Summer II. A student, however, may complete them shorter or longer than two years based on his/her own needs.
Each of the graduate students accepted into this hybrid online program may need to transfer some credit hours earned in other college and universities to his or her program of study. He or she can transfer up to 9 credit hours earned in past 6 years.
As indicated in the Brochure, a student accepted into this hybrid online program may need to take 9 credit hours in traditional way in a local university near his or her area. These are 9 credit hours to be transferred to his or her program of study.
If a student does not need to take any credit hours in a local university near his or her area and has earned some credit hours in equivalent graduate course in other universities, he or she can transfer these credit hours to his or her program of study.
It is clear that all graduate transfer credit hours must be approved by Advisor for graduate students in special (adapted) physical education program. A Graduate Transfer Credit Hour Evaluation Form must be completed and submitted.
Each of the graduate students accepted into in this hybrid online program in special (adapted) physical education is expected to take his or her responsibility for applying for his or her graduation. This may include two applications.
Dr. Jiabei Zhang, Professor, Adapted Physical Education, WMU
Dr. John Dunn, Professor, Adapted Physical Education, President of WMU
Sarah A. Rasnake
Persons who may apply for this federally funded hybrid online Master’s degree program in Special (Adapted) Physical Education could be categorized into two groups. They are either residents or non-residents of Michigan.
For Michigan residents, if they plan to teach physical education to students with disabilities in public schools after they graduate from this master’s degree program, applicants are expected to have a physical education and/or special education background at the undergraduate level. Any background at the undergraduate level should be acceptable, however, if they plan to teach individuals with disabilities physical activities in non-school settings.
For Non-Michigan residents, applicants are expected to have a background at the undergraduate level required by their state if they plan to teach students with disabilities physical education classes in public schools after they graduate from this master’s degree program. This is because different states have different requirements.
It should be noted that applicants who desire to receive financial supports from the federally funded grant must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. If they are not USA citizens or permanent residents, however, they should apply for financial support from our department or financially support themselves to complete their degrees.
The hybrid online master’s degree program in special (adapted) physical education is funded under IDEA by U.S Department of Education. A requirement must be taken by all students (scholars) receive financial support from the funded grant.
This requirement is that all individuals who receive financial support from the federal grant under IDEA are required to complete a service obligation or repay all or part of the costs of such assistance after they graduate from the funded program.
The detail information about this requirement can be found on The Service Obligation Requirement Webpage. There are many questions about this requirement. Answers to those questions can be found on the Frequently Asked question Webpage.
National Center of Service Obligation (NCSO) takes specific responsibilities for this requirement. Please visit NCSO's webpage, call them at 1-800-285-NCSO (6276), or email them at for the further information.