Assistive technology for dyslexia is important for promoting and supporting effective learning. Students with dyslexia are highly motivated and full of potential despite facing a unique set of learning challenges. In particular, note taking during lectures can be a significant barrier to effective learning for students with dyslexia. However, the right accommodations and assistive technology can reduce their barriers to learning in traditional higher education (HE) environments and improve their academic experience. In this blog, we’ll outline the key difficulties of note taking with dyslexia, the benefits of assistive technology for dyslexia, and an in-depth guide to Jamworks’ features – an assistive note taking and lecture recording tool.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language-based learning difficulty that affects 1 in 10 people nationwide. Typically, this impacts an individual’s ability to read, write, and spell. Dyslexia is characterised by difficulties with language processing, comprehension, and informational retrieval. This means individuals find it hard to process, remember, and retrieve verbal or written information. They have difficulty identifying the sounds of letters that make up words and consequently, this impacts a wide range of language-based skills.
Notably, dyslexia can vary from person to person and co-occur with various other difficulties. It’s important to understand that dyslexia difficulties will be different for each individual. Students with dyslexia face a unique set of challenges. This includes a range of social, emotional, and academic barriers to learning. However, these students are highly motivated to learn and often develop their own coping strategies to navigate education. It is also known that some students with dyslexia show particular strengths in creative, interactive, and problem-solving subjects.
Despite this, there is still one significant barrier to learning across subjects for students with dyslexia – note taking. In traditional HE environments, students are taught in lectures where note taking is essential to complete assessments. This is a key barrier to effective learning for students with dyslexia. Below, we’ll explore this issue in depth, and look at how assistive technology for dyslexia can mediate these challenges.
Lectures and Note taking for Students with Dyslexia
Effective note taking is an essential skill for all university students. Most students struggle with note taking during lectures and it takes time for them to develop this skill. For students with dyslexia, the process of note taking during lectures presents a great challenge. The characteristic difficulties associated with dyslexia clash significantly with the standard approach of lecture-based learning.
Several research studies, including those that examine the lived experience (study 1, study 2) of students with dyslexia, identify note taking during lectures to be a key barrier to their HE learning. In lectures, students with dyslexia often have to choose between listening attentively or taking down notes. Yet, the process of listening, reading slides, and then attempting to summarise this information into notes takes a lot of work. For students with dyslexia, this can lead to disorganised notes that are hard to make sense of.
Let’s look at the exact challenges that students with dyslexia face during note taking. You can experience what it’s like to take notes with dyslexia using this short simulation by Bell House.
Common Difficulties of Note taking with Dyslexia
Handwriting and Information Processing
For students with dyslexia, letter recognition and formation is difficult. This can lead to slow handwriting and difficulties with spelling, organisation, and spacing while writing. In this review, it was noted that adults with dyslexia could not read their own notes back because they were disorganised and filled with errors. Beyond this, students also face slow phonological processing, which impacts comprehension of verbal information. This can further contribute to slow handwriting as the student tries to process what is being said to them. Consequently, slow handwriting and information processing impact the student’s note taking ability, despite attentive listening. Typing up notes has made this process somewhat easier for these students, however, the attention and multi-tasking involved in note taking can still be a challenge.
Attention and Multi-Tasking
Lectures can be fast-paced and information-packed. To take effective notes, students need to be able to listen attentively, comprehend the information, and use the slides as aids before writing notes. This is a complex and demanding skill that requires a good level of attention and the ability to multitask. Students with dyslexia have difficulties with processing and comprehending information at speed. This can make it hard for them to keep up their pace while taking lecture notes. By the time they’ve processed this information to make notes, the lecturer has moved on, and more information needs their attention. These students also experience limited attention spans and deficits in their short-term memory. This further makes it difficult to hold information in mind after processing.
This highlights that assistive technology for dyslexia is important, especially for note taking during lectures.
Anxiety and Stress
Understandably, students with dyslexia face academic anxiety and additional stress. Students are aware that note taking is important for their learning, assignments, and revision. Often, they are limited to using lecture slides for revision and lack sufficient notes to support their learning. In addition, these difficulties with slow handwriting, information processing, and comprehension can cause anxiety in time-sensitive situations like lectures or exams. Research has confirmed that students with dyslexia experience anxiety, low self-esteem, and a lack of confidence in their abilities. However, these students are known to benefit from assistive technology for dyslexia, and the right accommodations. This further highlights that assistive technology is necessary for improving their academic experience, supporting effective learning, and maintaining their well-being.
Benefits of Assistive Technology for Dyslexia
Assistive technology for dyslexia promotes and supports effective learning. For students with dyslexia, this technology can help to mediate challenges with reading, writing, and spelling. Research interviews highlighted that students found lecture recordings to be an ideal and beneficial note taking accommodation. Students also preferred to have the lecture slides in advance. In one study, a third of students with learning difficulties used recording devices for their lectures. However, most students did not have access to note taking-focused assistive technology.
Students with dyslexia tend to access more technology-related support for their education. This emphasises the benefits of assistive technology and the lack of assistive note taking tools that students have access to. It’s important that students have access to the relevant assistive technology because this can facilitate their control over their learning experience. In turn, this would lead to a better academic experience where the student can exercise agency and independence in their learning.
Jamworks: Note taking with Assistive Technology for Dyslexia
Jamworks is an assistive note taking and recording tool for in-person and online lectures, seminars, and meetings. This personal productivity learning tool can support students with dyslexia to tackle the challenges of note taking with confidence and ease. Students will benefit from live captioning, transcription, and a range of simple yet smart note taking features. Jamworks is easy to use, requires no training and can be accessed from the student’s laptop or smartphone. This is important because assistive technology is more likely to be adopted if there is no additional support or training required. Students can experience independence in their learning and assistive technology journey early on.
Recordings with Live Captioning
Jamworks is a powerful lecture recording tool with a range of features. Students can record the lecture audio only or choose to record their laptop screen with the relevant slides. During recordings, Jamworks can generate real-time and accurate live captions for in-person and online lectures, seminars, or meetings. These captions can be customised for accessibility, this includes changing the background colour! For students with dyslexia, it can help to read text on different colour backgrounds.
1-button highlighting is a key assistive note taking feature in Jamworks. Lectures no longer need to be rewatched back in full or skipped through until you find the right clip. Highlights can be used to break lecture content down into key points and sub-topics. Students can simply hit the highlight button when needed and tap it again to end the highlight. This breaks the lecture content down into digestible chunks to review later.
More importantly, each highlight can be reviewed as a word-for-word transcript, an audio clip, or a smart summary powered by artificial intelligence. Students can also write their own notes in the Highlight notes section. This creates a well-organised collection of lecture material that is easy to review. This is an ideal tool for students with dyslexia. Jamworks provides a distraction-free note taking method where students can focus on listening and create highlights at the click of a button.
In addition to this, Jamworks can support students to create visual notes, like mindmaps or diagrams, which can be uploaded alongside their lecture notes. Note taking with Jamworks only requires a few clicks at a time. This provides flexibility for the students to use note taking methods that benefit them without worrying about capturing all the information. Instead, students can prioritise listening and understanding. These visual notes can be uploaded to Jamworks as highlight attachments too. This keeps everything nicely organised in one place and easy to access across devices.
Trackback and Flags
During lectures, students also have access to two more assistive note taking features. If students lose focus during a lecture and forget to start a highlight, trackback helps students to skip back. This will allow a highlight to be started from earlier in the recording. For students that process information slightly slower, this feature is ideal for catching up using a few clicks and having the content available to easily review later as a highlight. The final feature is flags – another 1-button feature to mark points of interest. This can be used to note when the lecturer mentions something about assessments or simply, something the student finds interesting.
Finally, Jamworks also offers a highly effective revision feature. In Jamworks, highlights can be reviewed as a flashcard-style quiz. This feature allows students to review material regularly and consolidate their memory using active recall – an evidence-based revision technique. Students with dyslexia often use repetitive methods to memorise material. Jamworks makes this easy by providing quizzes generated directly from their lecture highlights.
We hope you found this guide useful. If you’re a dyslexic student you may be eligible to receive Jamworks FREE as part of the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). Speak to your Disability, Wellbeing or Student Services officer for more info.
If you’re interested in recommending Jamworks as assistive tech for dyslexic students, you can find more info here.