Assistive technology e-learning solution, Learning Labs, was named this year’s ‘Tech for Good’ winner for helping disabled students overcome barriers to learning, at the 2018 Dynamites Technology Awards.
The award described as ‘recognising an organisation that uses digital technology to improve the lives of others and make the world a better place,’ was presented to Learning Labs for its e-learning portal, designed for disabled students in higher education.
What is Learning Labs?
Students in receipt of disabled students allowance (DSA) are supported with access to assistive software to help them overcome barriers to learning. Learning Labs’ online tutorials are designed to teach students how to use every feature of their assistive software programmes. These programmes can include anything from grammar corrections and read-aloud tools for students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, to mindmapping and organisational software for students with anxiety or memory difficulties.
With headquarters in Newcastle upon Tyne and London, and remote workers throughout the UK, Learning Labs has used digital technology to improve the educational experiences and reduce drop out rates for students with learning difficulties, health issues and disabilities, across the nation.
There were 82 Dynamites nominations in total with 40 shortlisted. A total of 10 applicants entered the Tech for Good category, with only four being shortlisted, including Learning Labs.
The story behind the technology
Learning Labs CEO Chris Quickfall said: “I was last in my class to spell my name, learn the alphabet and to tell the time. I was the best at maths, but the system’s incorrect assumptions discouraged me from performing where I was strongest. I wasn’t identified as having dyslexia until the age of 21, whilst studying at Northumbria University.
“I was last in my class to spell my name, learn the alphabet and to tell the time, but I was the best at maths.”
“Had I been identified and received appropriate support earlier, my experience of education would have been much more positive and my achievements could have been far greater.
“I became passionate about improving processes and services for DSA students. I wanted to create a good company that does good.”
“I wanted to create a good company that does good.”
Chris started with his first company, an assistive technology supplier known as Invate, straight out of university in 2006. This was followed by launching e-Quality Learning in 2010, an assistive technology training provider. Then in 2013 Chris launched Learning Labs. Chris’ passion for understanding neurodiversity helped shape the content in Learning Labs’ tutorials.
Learning design influenced by neuroscience
Leading neuroscientists, including Dr Chris Wood Newcastle University and Dr John Welch of Newcastle Hospitals, were instrumental in the development of Learning Labs. Neurodiversity expert and chartered psychologist, Dr Sue Wilkinson led on the content design of Learning Labs.
Chris explained: “Every tutorial or ‘Lab’ is created with the option to read text, watch video and do an interactive version, in both Mac and Windows. This neuroscience-influenced, digital learning design was created to support visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles.
“Every ‘Lab’ is created with the option to read text, watch video and do an interactive version of the tutorial.”
“From understanding how sentence structure and short-term memory can affect people’s ability to read, to understanding how the brain uses visual references when recalling video tutorials, our team is at the forefront of digital technology for neurodiverse learning.”
BT’s Simon Yellowley presented the Tech for Good award, and he said on the night: “Our winners are showing us impact on a different scale with the potential for national and international coverage by offering assistive tech across the whole sector. Their results are so impressive and they have built the business regionally. With personalised learning for people with assistive needs and collaborating to create expert-led content, we therefore present the Tech for Good award to Learning Labs.”
Chris concluded: “My aim has always been to build services and digital solutions that help make the world more inclusive. Learning Labs is a source of continuous support for disabled students that helps reduce dropout rates and improves chances at education, and in life. Creating ‘tech for good’ is at the heart of our group mission and I am very proud of our team for delivering a solution that is recognised for the good that it does to help people.”
“My aim has always been to build services and digital solutions that help make the world more inclusive.”
Discover more about Learning Labs for students
Read about Learning Labs’ latest Lab launches including Read&Write 12, MindView 7, Evernote and more by clicking here.