Volume 2(1), 2006-04, 119—153

Design of a virtual learning environment for students with special needs

Martin Maguire
Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute
Loughborough University UK

Edward Elton
Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute
Loughborough University UK

Zaheer Osman
Active Ergonomics
Orangebox, Hengoed
UK

Colette Nicolle
Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute
Loughborough University UK

The European Social Fund-supported Portland Partnership project developed a computer-based virtual learning environment (VLE) to benefit students with cognitive and physical disabilities. This system provided students with access to a suite of software programs to teach them basic/essential skills needed for everyday life and to use information and communications technology (ICT). The VLE can be customized to meet individual students' needs by selecting an input device, adjusting its setting, or choosing a symbol set to support on-screen text. The learning programs within the VLE required careful design to make them stimulating and beneficial to students who have diverse health conditions and disabilities. The VLE and learning programs were evaluated within four partner Colleges of Further Education. Observations showed that students enjoyed the learning tools and the tutor comments indicated that students also benefited from them. A series of guidelines were identified for the design of future VLEs and learning software for students with special needs.

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