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