Assistance for Students With Learning Disabilities

Partnering with a student disability services center offers great advantages to universities creating e-learning solutions. According to a 2010 report from the U.S. Department of Education, about 15 to 20 percent of Americans are diagnosed as having learning disorders. This number does not count the number of international students enrolled in e-learning programs who may also have learning disabilities.

Working with a university’s student disability services center can help your school identify and assist students in need of assistance. Creating solutions with e-learning programs is an interesting and innovative task. It involves providing certain students with more time, putting content in dyslexia-friendly fonts, giving advice as to effective study and work habits, and creating a supportive and open work environment in online groups, forums and web boards.

How Can Universities Ensure Quality Learning Outcomes?

A school should first collect information on what learning disabilities students have and how students have dealt with these in the past. The school should then work with the student disability services center to craft e-learning programs that are tailored to the needs of the student population. The school should talk with professors, graduate teaching assistants, staff and students as the course progresses to get feedback.

As an example, some students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have difficulty communicating and working in small groups. If a class had many students with ASD who expressed this difficulty, a professor could create a variety of options for completing a group assignment. These could range from working with a partner rather than two to three other people, having each student complete a discrete and separate part of a group project or providing more time for a group project.

What Are the Emerging Trends as Related to Assistance?

E-learning solutions differ depending on learning disability. General trends include:

  • Creating a platform that allows students to repeatedly view video, audio or text content, and also take quizzes and tests untimed
  • Providing narrative instructions and graphically organized maps or animations of how to complete a task like writing a five-paragraph essay
  • Creating a platform that gives immediate, positive feedback to show a student what they are learning and how well they are learning it
  • Using platforms that reward students with points and scores rather than penalties and failures
  • Providing an “undo” button for submissions, so students can easily rewrite answers
  • Providing a toolbar so students can put or write text in a different font or size, or add captions to video or audio content.

How Have Programs Improved in Recent Years?

In the past 10 years, universities have become more informed as to how learning disabilities can be obstacles for students who want to achieve academic and life goals. They have worked on digital design and ways to motivate students. As data, feedback and firsthand accounts about overcoming obstacles have accumulated, universities have become better equipped to process this information. They now use more sensitive language and approaches than ever before.

What Role Has Digital Influence Played?

Digital technology has made it easier for professors and staff to make content accessible and reviewable. Still, those who create course content must be mindful that students with learning disabilities can be challenged in distinct ways. Each student with a learning disability is a world unto themselves. It can be difficult for a student to progress through a course even if providers have made many tweaks to content and design.

Ultimately, a learning disability is a block for a student. The student must continuously be encouraged to reach their goal. Understanding how to help the student remain focused, successful and happy is an ongoing enterprise for all parties involved in creating e-learning courses.