As we develop CISL tools, we are researching how the features may help us to support a wide range of learners’ needs. We want to know what the barriers to learning are, how they’re being addressed, and where more work is needed. Here’s what we’ve found so far:
Market scan: What accessibility features and learning scaffolds already exist on the market, and where? To answer this, we are investigating a wide range of digital learning resources. We began by reviewing 21 open educational resources (OERs) and OER repositories, and 7 EPUB readers. And we interviewed 25 experts from academia, nonprofits and foundations, and industry.
What does the research say?
We’re on the hunt for research about what features of digital learning tools can best support diverse learners. We’re continually reviewing recent studies on digital learning supports. Here’s what we know so far about some common features of digital learning resources. We’ll update this list as we learn more.
Line spacing: The literature on line spacing effects is mixed. A study of web text preferences among individuals with dyslexia recommended line spacing of 1.4 and paragraph spacing of 2. Two other studies found that line spacing did not affect readability among individuals with dyslexia.
Sources: Rello & Baeza-Yates, 2013; Rello, Kanvinde, & Baeza-Yates, 2012; Rello, Pielot, & Marcos, 2016
Letter spacing: Extra-large letter spacing (increasing the spacing between letters and, proportionally, between words and lines) improves reading speed and accuracy among children with dyslexia. A study among individuals with dyslexia recommended an increase in letter spacing by 7%.
Sources: Martelli, Filippo, Spinelli, & Zoccolotti, 2009; Rello & Baeza-Yates, 2013; Zorzi and colleagues, 2012
Glossary: In interviews, students with dyslexia said that they remembered or learned more when keywords were bolded or highlighted.
Source: Chen, Keong, Teh, & Huah, 2015
- Background information: A study found increases in reading comprehension when students with reading difficulties used a system of physical, sensory, and cognitive supports for reading that included on-demand read-aloud features, marking key words or concepts, and providing background knowledge. For more on the role of background supports in a variety of learning contexts, see these additional resources.
Source: Ko, Chiang, Lin, & Chen, 2011
- Embedded curriculum-based measurement (CBM): A study found that teachers with online CBM viewed data, designed interventions and modified supports 3 times more frequently than teachers with offline CBM. Students with learning disabilities made more significant learning gains when using online CBM than when using offline CBM
Source: Hall, Cohen, Vue & Ganley, 2015
What Features Are Available?
We wanted to learn how accessible some of the most popular digital learning materials are, so we investigated open educational resources (OERs). OERs are popular all over the world because they’re free educational materials that anyone can share, improve, remix, and redistribute. We searched 10 OER repositories, or databases of free or open source educational materials.
We explored whether 10 OER repositories allowed users to search for specific features, such as standards alignment and accessibility. Only 3 repositories allowed users to search for accessibility features. Meanwhile, all 10 repositories allowed users to search by subject, and 9 could search by grade level. 6 repositories allowed users to search for standards-aligned resources (Common Core or Next Generation Science), 5 for resources including assessments and quizzes, and 4 allowed for full courses or curricula.