Open University

Project Description

To what extent does assistive software enable adult students with dyslexia to overcome literacy difficulties when studying distance learning Higher Education courses?

Project Abstract

This practitioner research is based on students with specific learning difficulties whom I had individually encountered when assessing their technological and human support needs for studying on Open University Higher Education courses.
All of the individuals featured in the study will have been assessed as having specific learning difficulties (dyslexia) in a formal Dyslexia Assessment by either an Educational Psychologist or AMBDA qualified Learning Support Tutor; usually the former.

The research concentrates on the three predominant software tools for dyslexia. The reason for this is twofold: firstly:
It seemed to me that as I would be conducting questionnaires with students with dyslexia, they would need to be fairly simple to follow, as many students with dyslexia become confused by large amounts of linear and tabular data as is found in typical questionnaires; secondly my literature search had highlighted issues with the predominant forms of assistive software which I felt were worth following up.

For example Sanderson (1999) in Information Technology & Dyslexia – A Case of ‘Horses for Courses’ described a common event where assistive technology is described by many dyslexics as little short of a miracle

There is a temptation therefore to acquire all that is on offer in the belief that each piece of hardware/software will be in some way beneficial. However, this is not the case, for each piece of software/hardware will be more suitable in supporting particular difficulties but by no means all. Expressed crudely, visual processing difficulties may be lessened by using one or a range of software/hardware working to auditory strengths, whilst those with auditory difficulties will require different software. It is important to match the difficulty of each user to the properties of particular software/hardware. Put simply it is a case of ‘horses for courses’ and thus to purchase an inappropriate piece of software/hardware may double the difficulties experienced and lead to more frustration.

My main question then, focuses on the extent which text-to-speech software, voice recognition software and mind mapping software helps students with dyslexia, whom I had provided with specific assistive software,become successful in overcome particular learning difficulties; am I getting the match right?

Surveys released for this project:
Sample Survey 16
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