Web classroom eases learning difficulty

February 25, 2000

A prototype virtual classroom designed to ease learning for dyslexic and visually impaired students has been developed at the University of Leeds.

The multimedia environmental education group has just finished work on the prototype of the "talking web classroom", a structured web-based learning infrastructure through which students can access course materials, submit work and communicate with each other and with staff.

The virtual classroom includes immediate availability of support facilities, including an intuitive interface and customised colour settings with means of hearing text.

Sally Macgill, project director, said that the virtual classroom had been developed from a BT Higher Education award-winning scheme to widen access to the multimedia environment foundation course, which provided 150 hours of self-contained study to more than 300 students each year.

The group consulted the Dyslexia Institute and the Royal National Institute for the Blind before embarking on the adaptation of the course.

"Out of that positive advance we were conscious of the possibilities for mainstream development, and the university's disability service was also interested in the wider application," said Dr Macgill, who is dean of the university's faculty of earth and environment.

The learning environment is:

Specifically designed to meet the needs of the target students

Smarter than typical add-on third-party utilities

Able to incorporate all basic functions of web-based learning environments

Flexible enough to incorporate other functions through future development

Easy to use by staff delivering learning materials

Affordable.

The team is now looking for industrial partners and collaboration with other developers interested in speech over the web. Details: http://env-pc225.leeds.ac.uk/mikep/home.php3

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