Learning environments

  • Abstract

    The increasing use of technology to enhance learning means both disabled students and higher education institutions face the challenge of adapting technology to meet the educational and special needs of students. As most e-learning systems are not designed to meet special needs, it is imperative to look for newer ways of designing e-learning systems to ensure that they are disability-aware and meet their assistive technology needs. In this light, this paper summarizes the result of research to seek better ways of enhancing learning for disabled students. Here, the resultant ONTODAPS system is introduced, including the methodology developed to design the system, its architecture and evaluation by 30 disabled students. The results of the usability evaluation are presented and discussed. It is hoped that researchers, instructional designers and developers of e-learning systems would look to this paper to gain insight into the design and development of disability-aware e-learning systems that will ensure that they are both accessible and usable to disabled students.


    Nganji, J.T. and Brayshaw, M. (2014). Designing and reflecting on disability-aware e-learning systems: the case of ONTODAPS. The 14th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies- ICALT2014, July 7-9, Athens, Greece, pp.571-575.[Link to article] [Link to PDF]

  • Abstract

    Existing virtual learning environments (VLEs) in educational institutions are not designed with the expectation that students with disabilities will use them. Consequently, retrieving relevant information by some students with disabilities is a challenging task. The focus of this study was to propose the design of VLEs to incorporate ontologies that facilitate information retrieval by students with disabilities in their learning, thus serving as a semantic web-based assistive technology in education. An Ontology-Driven Disability-Aware Personalised E-Learning System (ONTODAPS) was designed and then used to recommend specific learning materials to learners based on their learning goal and disability type. Preliminary results of the evaluation of ONTODAPS, by 30 students with disabilities, indicate that 70% of the participants found ONTODAPS to offer a better personalisation, better access to learning materials (68%) and is easier to use (63%) in retrieving learning materials than Sakai. Thus ONTODAPS serves as an assistive tool in their education through retrieval of relevant learning materials in a suitable format which is compatible with their disability.


    Nganji, J.T., Brayshaw, M. (2015). Facilitating Learning Resource Retrieval for Students with Disabilities through an Ontology- Driven and Disability-Aware Virtual Learning Environment. International Journal of Information Retrieval Research (IJIRR), Volume 5, Issue 3, pp. 75-98. [Link to Article]

  • Abstract

    The number of students with disabilities in UK higher education institutions increases every year. Delivering education online is becoming increasingly challenging as institutions encounter some disabilities requiring adjustments of learning environments. The law requires that people with disabilities be given equivalent learning experiences to their non-disabled peers through “reasonable adjustments”. Educational institutions have thus utilised assistive technologies to assist disabled students in their learning, but some of these technologies are incompatible with some learning environments, hence excluding some disabled students and resulting in a disability divide. To solve this problem, amongst other solutions, e-learning personalisation has been used and more recently, this is also achieved using Semantic Web technologies such as ontologies. Nevertheless, as ontologies are incorporated into learning environments little seems to be done to personalise learning for some disabled students. This study, in order to bridge the gap, proposes a personalisation approach based on a disability ontology containing information on various disabilities encountered in higher education, which can be used to present disabled students with learning resources relevant and suitable for their specific needs.


    Nganji, J.T., Brayshaw, M. and Tompsett, B. (2011). Ontology-Based E-Learning Personalisation for Disabled Students in Higher Education. Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp. 1-11. [Link to article]

Julius T. Nganji's Profile


Julius T. Nganji, PhD

Researcher, passionate about digital accessibility & usability and improving user experience.

Adjunct Lecturer

Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy
Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto



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