E-learning: a passport to neurodiversity

Companies suffer from homogenous thinking. Digital learning helps brings a raft of brilliant minds together, writes Christian Smythe

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Much work has been done in education to accommodate different skills, abilities and personalities, but many would agree that there is still a long way to go. Learning diversity – or neurodiversity – is acknowledging that people learn in different ways. On the whole, most managers accept this, but the world of work can be especially difficult for those with forms of what has previously been termed a mental disability.

Schooling begins and permeates these struggles. As Dr Thomas Armstrong has argued, “for too long it’s been weighed down by a history emphasizing deficit, disorder, and dysfunction, ranging from Goddard’s creation of the ‘moron’ in 1910 to current formulations such as Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.” And while schooling and work both have a long way to go to make up these shortfalls, a solution may lie in current technology.

E-learning is as broad as traditional learning methods, so to claim it has all the answers is hubris. However, it harbours many of the additional benefits of connectivity and layering, similar to how Amazon Video gives you more than just a film, with details of the actors, location and production team.

Take dyslexia. Reading can be a long, arduous and ineffective way of transferring information to dyslexia sufferers, so implementing the same content in either audio or video form can be really useful. With virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), learning resources can become fully four-dimensional and intuitive, which can be more effective for those who struggle to learn directly from a textbook. But, what e-learning can do is still offer the textbook, and bring classroom discussions into the cloud.

Imagine for one moment, you are back at school, reading Shakespeare. For many of us, we have an anthology of Shakespearean terms. Imagine that the Shakespearean dictionary you once had was next to you on a tablet. Then your class can highlight phrases of importance in the narrative, or the tutor can see who is reading what and be requested for assistance remotely. This could benefit those who struggle with mobility to get to a classroom or school, or even on those rare occasions when the weather keeps us all home. E-learning can eradicate this lost time.

Another solution is helping people who struggle with social situations, fears and anxieties. With the rise of domestic VR and AR headsets, we can put people into gentle situations, in the cloud, which can help them overcome these fears. There are cases of fear of flying being almost completely cured by using this technology. Given that, imagine what it can do to a previously unsupported child suffering from social anxiety, speech impediments; or how it can help with real-world confidence-building skills like confronting bullies or speaking up in the classroom.

All of a sudden, we can offer the previously unsupported unprecedented support to help with their issues and improve their life and potential growth, financially and as a person. Furthermore, this technology can help the elderly, aiding the combat of loneliness, isolation and depression.

Despite the excitement, there are infrastructural issues, requiring training and financial backing from companies and governments alike. But we are on the cusp of helping a new generation take a giant leap in their lives. If we all decide to act now and e-learning becomes an integral part of the learning process, no one will feel isolated and unsupported. And if everyone has access to hard- and soft-skill training, in a variety of platforms, every generation can benefit from this technological breakthrough.

— Christian Smythe is head of content & partner strategy at BlueBottleBiz

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