Kate: So what kinds of things have you typically done for students like a dyslexic student taking an online exam; what reasonable adjustments can you make?
Simon Wilkinson: The commonest adjustment is changing background colour. I’ve altered the software so that’s just a few clicks and very easily the software can send different colour backgrounds to different students based on their user name, and people with no disability are just sent the traditional exam, usually with a white background, black text.
But typically I would work with the individual to find out what colour scheme suits them; some might be pale lilac, others cyan. We can send the same exam paper in both colours to both those students simultaneously just by pressing a few buttons.
Beyond that, we can change text size very, very easily… scale it up to about 400%, and an issue which will probably go away in the future is the use of CRT monitors with low refresh rates. Some people are more sensitive to the flicker of those displays. TFT, the flat panel TFT monitors, work in a different way so they don’t have that perceived flicker. We have replaced a few monitors for some students in the past where they have been sensitive to that flicker.
Ryan: It’s hard to articulate what I see when I look at the page; it’s not that the words are fuzzy or hazy or that they move particularly, but it kind of shimmers on the page, and it’s quite off-putting. So I’ve just got some coloured overlays that I’m starting to use now, and that makes an improvement, but I’ve only just got them a few days ago.
Kate: What colours particularly help?
Michael: More yellow.
Kate: And people would be different?
Ryan: Yes, it’s orange for me.
Kate: Are there any other adaptations to process that you have used?
Simon: In some cases a student may be anxious about sitting in a very large computer lab so we have booked out side rooms which are much smaller and have a separate cohort in there.
The other advantage of using a separate room is that many people identified, for example, having dyslexia are given additional time. When the main body of cohort leaves, that can be very disrupting for those continuing to be examined, so to put them in a separate room allows them to have a quieter environment.
Produced: June 2007, in collaboration with the University's Promoting Enhanced Student Learning (PESL) initiative.