A Black Swan in a Sea of White Noise: Using Technology-Enhanced Learning to Afford Educational Inclusivity for Learners with Asperger’s Syndrome

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

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A Black Swan in a Sea of White Noise: Using Technology-Enhanced Learning to Afford Educational Inclusivity for Learners with Asperger’s Syndrome


  • James McDowell Department of Informatics, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK


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Abstract:  Against a backdrop of increasingly vocation-focussed course provision within higher education, of widening participation initiatives intended to promote greater inclusion for learners affected by learning difficulties, and of moves towards greater use of social and collaborative forms of learning, this paper discusses the case of an undergraduate Computing student affected by Asperger’s Syndrome (AS).While there is recognition in the literature of problems associated with face-to-face dialogue for persons affected by AS, there is a paucity of research both into the experience of students in higher education, and around the issue of participation in group-work activities increasingly found in creative aspects of computing. This paper highlights a tension between moves towards collaborative learning and UK disabilities legislation in relation to learners with AS. Employing a qualitative case-study methodology, the investigation revealed how a technology-enhanced learning intervention afforded an AS-diagnosed learner greater opportunities to participate in group-work in a higher education context. The findings suggest that not only can computer-mediated communications afford AS-diagnosed learners opportunities to participate meaningfully in group-work, but also that the learner demonstrated higher levels of collective-inclusive versus individual-exclusive phraseology than neurotypical peers, thereby challenging assumptions around participation in collaborative learning activities and assimilation of peer-feedback.

Keywords:  Asperger’s Syndrome; autistic spectrum; computer-mediated communication; collaborative learning; technology-enhanced learning

Published:   28 December 2015


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v3i6.428


© James McDowell. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.