College can be tough, especially between classes, study time, work and family obligations. It can be even tougher for those with additional challenges like a learning disability.
Enter Diverse Learners — an organization that provides support services to university students with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD/ADHD, mental health issues or other chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia — all over the United Kingdom.
What’s unique about Diverse Learners, says founder and specialist teacher Kerry Pace, is that she and her team provide all of their services — from study skills, time management, personal development and software training — completely via Skype. And the benefits of remote support, she says, are twofold.
In addition to the convenience as well as the time and cost savings of working virtually through Skype with her clients, Pace says the real benefit is to the students.
“Students oftentimes can’t access support services at their universities because they’re also working full time,” she said, noting that Skype allows students to gain support services around their schedules, often in the evening when support services at their school are typically unavailable.
Furthermore, she says that traveling to a large, crowded location and navigating the entire experience may not be conducive to some individuals’ particular conditions.
“Someone with ADD, memory issues or agoraphobia, a fear of going out, for example, may find it quite stressful even just driving to the university and parking,” Pace explains. “With Skype, you don’t have to travel — you can work right from your home. So it uses much less energy.”
“We teach software, including mind mapping, text-to-speech and speech recognition, so we can demonstrate the software and direct the lessons in real time with screen sharing,” she says.
Skype’s video messaging feature, Pace contends, is much more effective than other means of traditional communication and, oftentimes, faster.
“With text or email, there’s a high chance of misunderstanding the message or someone misconstruing what you’re trying to convey,” she says, noting that with video messaging, the content comes across perfectly clear. “And an email that may take 10 minutes to write becomes a video message that takes 20 seconds.”
Diverse Leaners has plenty of testimonials on its YouTube page of students’ experience of working with the organization via Skype, but, like anything else, there can always be some uncertainty when trying something new.
“Some people are skeptical if they’ve never tried Skype but once they’ve done it they always say, ‘I wish I’d done this sooner,’” she says. “Anything you can do in a classroom, you can do on Skype.”