Best assistive technologies for college students
With digital-first learning becoming more established in colleges and universities, there’s also increased demand for assistive technology to support the growing number of students with a neurodiversity or physical disability. Assistive technology can unlock the learning potential of neurodivergent students in Higher Education helping them to focus, stay organised and grow in confidence. We’ve taken a look at some of the best digital assistive technologies available to college students today.
#1. MindGenius - helps students visualise their work
Many dyslexic people are visual thinkers - this means they see pictures, rather than words or numbers. This can pose challenges when it comes to writing essays or studying. Enter MindGenius: this platform uses mind mapping software to help bring thoughts to life and make the study planning process easier. The visual learning tool allows users to organise their ideas across different timelines, boards or mind maps. A visual focus makes it easier for students to make mental connections between topics, and then organise information into digestible sections. The edge MindGenius has above traditional pen and paper is that it allows users to move notes around, make connections and adapt with their thoughts. Once complete, users can then convert their work into a Word or Powerpoint document, along with easy-to-read headings and bullet points.
#2. Scholarcy - improves understanding of academic papers
It can be incredibly difficult for students to stay on top of academic reading at college. In the field of science alone, it’s estimated that up to 1.8 million articles are published each year - that’s a lot of potential reading for college students to get their heads around! Given the exponential rise in articles, it’s hardly surprising that up to 80% of students don’t complete their assigned reading. This can be for a number of reasons, but lack of time and feeling intimidated by academic texts can be two of the biggest blockers.
Scholarcy is a web-based application that breaks down texts into bite-sized summaries. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to highlight the most important parts of articles, reports, or book chapters, helping students read more of their course material and feel less overwhelmed. Students can also export citations to generate a bibliography and convert their summary flashcards to Word. Scholarcy is particularly useful for students who have difficulties with aspects of studying such as research organisation, reading comprehension and procrastination.
#3. Read&Write - making reading and writing easier
Read&Write has a number of tools up its digital sleeve which are helping to ‘create a level playing field for all’. The tool can be added as an extension to a variety of browsers and devices.
Recognising that every learner has different needs, the software helps people engage with digital content in the way that’s right for them.
- reading documents out loud
- turning spoken words into text
- predicting the current or next word as users type
Read&Write also offers Screen Mask and Simplify features which can help students to focus when reading and writing. This can be handy for those with dyslexia who may struggle to read a full screen of text. By highlighting each line as they read, Read&Write helps students focus on a small section of the screen at a time.
#4. Glean - to help students take meaningful notes
No matter what or where you study, chances are your course will require you to take notes on an almost-daily basis. This can be a real challenge for many students, especially when taking good notes can be the key to effective revision.
Glean is a platform that helps students reduce their cognitive load and more easily process new information. Glean’s software lets you record lectures, play back recordings at your own pace, and even automatically create a written transcript. You can then add your own notes to the main points, and personalise the report so it meets your learning needs.
#5 - Dragon - for hands-free typing
For students with dyslexia, dyspraxia and other physical conditions, Dragon can take the strain out of typing endless notes, essays and more. The software uses next-generation speech recognition to take down your words as you speak. This can reduce your reliance on your keyboard and mouse, and help prevent repetitive strain injuries in your hands and wrists. There are other benefits to this assistive technology too: for example, it can make it easier for you to express your ideas and be more productive when studying.
#6 - MindManager - helping students make sense of their ideas
Students who work best in a visual way can use MindManager to organise their thoughts and bring their ideas to life. This versatile software is particularly useful for neurodiverse college students, helping them learn in the style that best suits them. With customisable templates, students can capture their thoughts on a digital page - mapping ideas using mind maps, flowcharts, and timelines. MindManager can also be accessed on different devices and browsers, so students can learn at times that suits them in an environment that feels comfortable.
#7 - Lightkey - makes typing more efficient
With Lightkey, students can focus on getting their thoughts down on paper – without worrying about spelling errors or exacerbating physical issues.
Lightkey uses an AI-powered text prediction software to suggest up to 18 words as you type. Multiple languages are supported, while students can also choose specific course categories to enhance the accuracy of the predicted words. With just a few keyboard shortcuts, students can reduce the amount of typing they have to do, as well as automatically correct spelling mistakes. While all students can make use of the tool’s tech, Lightkey is particularly useful for those with disabilities including anxiety, depression and fine motor control issues.
#8 - Global Tasks - helps students manage and structure their workload
Ever find your brain swirling with everything you’ve got to do? Global Tasks helps you keep focused by cutting out distractions and highlighting priority tasks. Designed to help neurodiverse people and those with mental health conditions, the software lets users build categorised task lists. These can then be temporarily hidden if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or want to zone in on certain areas or topics.
The visual element of this tool helps students get an overview of tasks they need to complete, but also break them down into smaller, bite sized goals.
#9 - Grammarly - to enhance reading, writing and grammar
Grammarly is an ‘online writing assistant’ that gives instant feedback as you type. The tool checks documents, emails, and comment threads for everything from spelling to punctuation and overall tone - giving students the confidence to submit work and messages that are mistake-free and professional.
The self-described ‘online proofreading tool’ is particularly useful for students with dyslexia who might face challenges with written communication.
#10 - Brain in Hand - for specialist study support on-the-go
Imagine having your own private studying support system at your fingertips - well, that’s exactly what Brain in Hand aims to be. Combining the best bits of face-to-face specialist help with digital self-management tools, Brain in Hand works with students to develop strategies for achieving their goals.
The ‘professional digital support system’ can help with everything from decision-making to coping with anxiety. Crucially, the self-management tools can be accessed through phones, tablets, and computers, making it easier for students to get the help they need whenever they need it. Online reviews and check-ins with Brain in Hand specialists help students keep on track with their goals, and to adjust their support system depending on their needs. With a focus on helping students build their confidence and resilience, their hope is to help more people reach academic, social and personal success.
Harnessing the power of assistive technology
The advancement of the assistive technology market means there’s more opportunity than ever for college students to study effectively, feel more fulfilled and realise their potential. And, with inclusivity and accessibility at the heart of all these products, there’s something for everyone. So, give one a go and let us know your thoughts!
- Mind Genius. Dyslexia and Mind-mapping: Organization like never before [online] Available at: <https://www.mindgenius.com/dyslexia-and-mind-mapping-organization-like-never-before/> [Accessed 14 December 2022]
- Smithsonian magazine, 2014. Academics Write Papers Arguing Over How Many People Read (And Cite) Their Papers [online] Available at: <https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/half-academic-studies-are-never-read-more-three-people-180950222/> [Accessed 22 December 2022]
- The Conversation, 2021. Up to 80% of uni students don’t read their assigned readings. Here are 6 helpful tips for teachers [online] Available at: <https://theconversation.com/up-to-80-of-uni-students-dont-read-their-assigned-readings-here-are-6-helpful-tips-for-teachers-165952> [Accessed 22 December 2022]
- Text Help. Accessibility and testing supports [online] Available at: <https://www.texthelp.com/en-gb/products/read-and-write-education/accessibility-tools/> [Accessed 14 December 2022]
- Mind Manager, Using MindManager as an assistive tool for individuals with learning differences [online] Available at: <https://www.mindmanager.com/static/mm/docs/mm-ebook-assistive-tech-mm.com.pdf> [Accessed 10 January 2023]