The Use of Distance Learning and E-learning in Students with Learning Disabilities: A Review on the Effects and some Hint of Analysis on the Use during COVID-19 Outbreak

Donatella Rita Petretto1, *, Stefano Mariano Carta1, Stefania Cataudella1, Ilaria Masala1, Maria Lidia Mascia1, Maria Pietronilla Penna1, Paola Piras1, Ilenia Pistis1, Carmelo Masala1
1 Department of Education, Psychology and Philosophy, University of Cagliari, Via Is Mirrionis 1, 09127 Cagliari, Italy

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© 2021 Petretto et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Education, Psychology and Philosophy, University of Cagliari, Via Is Mirrionis 1, 09127 Cagliari, Italy E-mail:


Even if the use of distance learning and E-learning has a long tradition all over the world and both have been used to keep in contact with students and to provide lessons, support and learning materials, there is an open debate on the balance between advantages and disadvantages in the use of distance learning. This debate is even more central in their use to support students with Learning Disabilities (LDs), an overarching group of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect more than 5% of students. The current COVID-19 outbreak caused school closures and the massive use of E-learning all over the world and it put higher attention on the debate of the effects of E-learning. This paper aims to review papers that investigated the positive and negative effects of the use of Distance Learning and E-learning in students with LDs. We conducted a literature review on the relationship between Distance Learning, E-learning and Learning Disabilities, via Scopus, Eric and Google Scholar electronic database, according to Prisma Guidelines. The findings are summarized using a narrative, but systematic, approach. According to the data resulting from the papers, we also discuss issues to be analyzed in future research and in the use of E-learning during the current pandemic of COVID-19.

Keywords: Distance learning, E-learning, Learning disabilities, Inclusion, Reasonable accommodations, Special educational needs, Disability, Universal Design for learning.