Student Jam: Investigating Online Learning Environments for Students with Specific Learning Difficulties

Doctoral thesis OPEN
Caffrey, Brian (2013)
  • Subject: *NONE OF THESE*

Students with specific learning difficulties represent an increasing proportion of the academic community. While of normal or higher intelligence, their performance can be constrained by their extant conditions, leading to lowered performance. This can be due to and an exacerbator of the barriers, discrimination (perceived and actual), and socioemotional factors which impact their academic, professional, and social engagement. Contextualised online environments offer a democratic means to potentially remove the barriers to learning and enable both performance and collaborative support. A framework and methodology were designed, with three thematic domains identified: Engagement, Interaction, and Motivation. A gated website and flat hierarchical community forum moderated by the primary researcher was developed to allow this population to interact, collaborate, and seek academic support as required. Following a low level of participation in the pilot phase, the site was revised per participant feedback, while project advertisement and awareness development was refined. Incentivised participation was also incorporated. This did not lead to a significant increase in participation, engagement, or activity. While participant feedback was generally positive, the low participation levels may indicate a number of avenues which would require further investigation, particularly in regards to the motivational factors of the cohort. Critically, participants cited a lack of time to participate, particularly during high stress periods such as examinations. The low level of engagement and uptake in the population at large may also be due to lack of interest, low levels of project awareness, negative affectivity, or learned helplessness. Irrespective, protecting and enabling the socio-emotional well-being of the population should remain the top priority.
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