Engaging learners in the Accessible by Design projects

If I had ever doubted the power of engaging learners in innovation projects, today certainly dispelled any doubts in my mind.

In November we selected four teams from the Accessible by Design competition to work on ideas to address accessibility and inclusion in education. We have just concluded the design sprint with three of the teams who presented what they have achieved over the past three months.

All three teams had engaged learners in the process and produced outstanding results


The eBooks for Specific Learning Difficulties Team now based at the University of Sheffield are producing a web site to support learners with Specific Learning Difficulties such as Dyslexia. The web site provides digital stories (see example) of how individuals have used technology to support their own learning needs. The power of these stories is that they are real solutions from real learners. The videos are being produced by Gemma Holtram, now Assistive Technology Officer at the University. She has recruited four Assistive Technology Champions to create the videos. The site will be available from Sept 16 and other institutions will be able to access the site and also submit their own digital stories.

The team from Shipley College have used students on technology courses to produce 3D printed resources with braille to enable their colleague who is visually impaired to participate in the same visual programming activities. See this video for an oveview. These 3D resources have been designed and printed by the learners (with first class support of their lecturer Steve who justly deserves an outstanding accolade) as part of their programming and design courses at the college. I jokingly asked Steve if he had managed to involve every college course in the project, the reply was almost, they were just working on the music students. The team are now preparing a web resource to allow others to use the 3D resources and provide a forum for support. The site is expected to go live in May and we will promote it via this blog.

The UCanCook team from Doncaster College have produced a set of recipe cards linked to augmented reality video instructions to be used by adults in supported living. The team of learners led by Chris Medwell gave an engaging presentation, the highlight being a video of Ben in action cooking Sausage Paste. The augmented reality is used to engage the user and provide instructions in a format that can be more easily followed than traditional recipes. The team have also engaged a Michelin Star Chef to help create the healthy recipe cards and piloted them with users locally receiving excellent feedback.
There is growing interested in the recipe cards and potential opportunity to turn this into small enterprise that the student can continue to work on.

What all three teams have clearly demonstrated is the need to engage the user in the process. In this case the users have been learners in the team or their peers in the university or college. It has also demonstrated the huge benefits of learners undertaking a real-world challenge as part of their course.

It has not just been about the process. There are also potential products that can be developed from these projects that will be available in the next few months. Jisc will continue to work with the teams to provide some support to realise the full potential of their achievements. What is certain is that they will all continue to engage learners in the process and we look forward to seeing the next iteration.

We are still to meet with the fourth project My Access Passport from National Star College and I will blog about them when we have so you can hear what they are doing.

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