Text-based synchronous e-learning and dyslexia: Not necessarily the perfect match!

B. P. Woodfine, M. Baptista Nunes*, D. J. Wright

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


The introduction, in the United Kingdom, of the Special Education Needs and Disabilities Act (SENDA) published and approved in 2001, has removed the exemptions given to educational institutions by the Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1995. This applies to learning web sites and materials that must now undergo "reasonable adjustments", in order not to disadvantage students with learning disabilities as well as non-disabled students. This paper discusses how e-learning and the inherent use of online learning activities raises problems for students with dyslexia far beyond accessibility and web design. This paper aims at proposing that the so widely proclaimed advantages of e-learning to bridge distances, different learning paces and cognitive styles, is at the same time producing close to insurmountable barriers to students with cognitive disabilities in general, and dyslexia specifically. It presents the results of a research project aiming at uncovering evidence that students with dyslexia are in fact less likely to thrive in a synchronous e-learning environment. The paper reports on a set of experiments undertaken with students when engaged in online authentic synchronous learning activities. The paper focuses on text-based synchronous activities, since it is the widest and most commonly used synchronous technology, and provides clear evidence that it can marginalise, demotivate and disappoint students with dyslexia with difficulties in reading, spelling, word order and argumentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-717
Number of pages15
JournalComputers and Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Dyslexia
  • E-learning
  • Learning disabilities
  • Synchronous learning activities


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