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Past Research

Past projects conducted by LCIRT researchers

  • Using TinkerPlots as a Tool for Teaching Statistics (2011-14)

    Dr. Michelle Bower and Dr. Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki stand in front of posterLandmark College investigated the effectiveness of TinkerPlots (software developed as part of NSF grant DRL-9818946) as a tool in helping students with a diagnosed LD develop an understanding of key concepts in statistics. The goal of this project was to increase the number of students with an LD who successfully complete introductory statistics courses and who develop a strong enough grasp of the concepts to consider furthering their education in a STEM field. This project is intended as a demonstration project and proof that it is possible to increase the number and diversity of students who can successfully understand and work with statistical data and hence pursue careers in data-driven STEM fields.

    Title: "Investigating the Effectiveness of TinkerPlots in Helping Students with Learning Disabilities Understand Statistical Concepts.” National Science Foundation logo--image earth with letters NSF
    Funder: National Science Foundation
    Award Number: 1128948
    Award Amount: $70,936
    Funding Period:  2011 - 2014
    PI: Dr. Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki 
    Faculty Associates: Dr. Michelle Bower, Frank Klucken

    The approach was pilot tested in introductory statistics courses at Landmark College in Putney, VT, as well as comparable level courses at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, MA. The students at Landmark College consisted exclusively of individuals with a diagnosis that affects their learning, whereas the students at Holyoke Community College served as a comparison group reflecting a more typical student profile, one that includes students with disabilities and other conditions that influence learning (e.g. first-generation college status, minority status, primary language other than English).

    Project Description

    Tinkerplots graph with colorful barsIn many STEM fields, the ability to understand statistics and perform data analysis is an essential component. In fact, today’s scientists are increasingly expected to be expert statisticians. This makes developing an understanding of statistical concepts and being able to truly comprehend and work with a dataset essential to the successful pursuit of many STEM careers. These skills are not merely important in order to pass statistical courses that are often gatekeepers in scientific STEM academic programs, but they are an essential part of the daily work of most scientists, engineers, network administrators, and others in the STEM arena.

    Statistics is becoming such a critical component of our daily lives that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics proposes introducing statistical concepts to students as early as first grade (NCTM, 2000). Unfortunately, most adults tend to form incorrect interpretations of statistical data (Konold, 1995) and often rely or shortcuts or heuristics rather than sound statistical reasoning (Kahneman, Slovic, & Tversky, 1982). Given these findings, one would be correct in deducing that students generally struggle in traditional statistical classrooms and often have trouble reasoning about aggregate data. However, advances in technology have allowed for the development of tools that allow us to quickly produce, manipulate, and represent large amounts of data. One particular tool, TinkerPlots (Konold & Miller, 2005), has shown promise in enhancing the understanding of students ranging from elementary school to graduate school (Paparistodemou & Meletiou-Mavrotheris, 2008; Lesh, Ader, & Bas, 2010).

    Project Team

    Dahlstrom-Hakki holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a Research and Education Specialist in the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT). Bower is the Chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department. She received a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from Illinois State University. Frank Klucken, a member of the Mathematics & Computer Science Department at Landmark College, has also presented on this project at conferences and is a member of the research team. Klucken holds an M.A.T. in Teaching Using Internet Technologies from The Graduate Center of Marlboro College.


    Dr. Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki and Dr. Michelle Bower presented findings from this research on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Annual Meeting in New Orleans. The presentation was titled Making Data Accessible to Diverse Populations of Students. Dahlstrom-Hakki and Bower are continuing to analyze their data and are in the process of preparing a manuscript for publication.

    Dahlstrom-Hakki notes, “We believe the approach we used tends to work better not only for our students but for the general student population, and the data backs that up.” In the courses that he and Bower tested, students interacted with real-world data as soon as possible. They were encouraged to develop gut feelings and intuitions about the data, then to transition those gut feelings and intuitions into formal statistical understanding. “Students learn better and better understand statistical concepts when they engage in real data collection and analysis,” Bower adds.

    National Science Foundation logo--image of earth with letters NSFThis material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1128948

    Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


  • Innovative Apps Contest for Landmark College Students (2014)

    Student outdoors looking at cell phone

    LCIRT was awarded a grant from Learning Disabilities Foundation of America (LDFA) to sponsor a contest fostering collaborations between students and faculty around innovative use of apps for learning. The goal of the Apps Club contest was to identify best practices for mobile device and apps use in the classroom as informed by a unique partnership between students and faculty. 

    This contest was open only to Landmark College students. Students initiated the partnership by identifying a receptive faculty member and demonstrating iPad apps that they were currently using in their academic or social life. Faculty offered pedagogical knowledge, while students provided insight on how these technologies help them to learn. Together they explored potential classroom applications that scaffold the learning needs of students who learn differently.

    Each student-faculty team submitted a proposal . A Contest Review Committee reviewed the proposals and announced the winners in December 2014:

    • First place, $200 each: Ashlee Charrette and Jeanette Landin. AVID Accounting, to help students understand the purpose and process of using T-accounts in accounting class through the use of sounds, colors, and movement of objects
    • Second place, $150 each: Stanley Roth and Bradford Towle. Study Blast, to help students study for tests using adaptive learning, avatars, and a game format
    • Third place, $100 each: Bailey McGinn and Norma Willingham. Never Alone, a mobile app to let people with LD know when there is someone else with LD in the area, to facilitate connections and community
    • First runner up: Sam Ripper and Rebecca Matte. Efficient Study Tracker, to help students track study time and behaviors to increase efficiency and reduce distractions
    • Honorable mention: Tyler Haarman and Cindy Tolman. Periodic Study Buddy, to help students study for chemistry class through better knowledge of the periodic table of elements
  • In just one short decade, mobile technology has evolved and revolutionized the way students engage, interact, and learn. What has made this revolution both exciting is the exponential proliferation of apps. For students with learning disabilities (LD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), apps provide a unique opportunity to eliminate access barriers, because they are ubiquitous and prolific. Apps can be installed in seconds, be accessed any place and anytime, and offer immediate solutions for academic learning and coursework.

    E-learning initiatives and app technologies are an important part of postsecondary education. Unfortunately, limited research is available on the effectiveness of apps for students with disabilities, due to the fact that they are still a new and emerging technology. Landmark College has been on the leading edge of technology research and innovation in the field of learning disabilities. Researchers from LCIRT, in particular, have been pioneering important research efforts to enhance educators’ understanding of new app technologies and to gauge students’ usage of academic apps at Landmark College.

    At the 2013 International Dyslexia Association conference, Dr. Manju Banerjee and Dr. Sapna Prasad of LCIRT presented an app evaluation tool informed by the principles of Universal Design for Instruction. Dr. Banerjee and Dr. Prasad are now expanding their research to better understand which apps and mobile devices students with LD, ADHD, and ASD use for their coursework and academic learning, and the process by which students choose apps. They have created an Apps and Mobile Devices Survey and are collecting feedback from students at Landmark College who have firsthand experience using apps for their coursework.

    This survey will help researchers identify the most user-friendly and effective features of apps designed for note-taking, reading and organization; and increase the understanding of the broader impacts that app technology can have on the academic progress of students with LD, ADHD, and ASD. Another opportune outcome of this research is an assessment of Landmark College students’ technology preferences as the College continues to march forward and explore the world of eLearning for those who learn differently. 

  • In 2014, Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT) received an internal grant to host a focus group of expert evaluators and diagnosticians for LD, ADHD, and ASD from around the Northeast region. The goal of this project was to investigate the feasibility and value of evaluations that are more deliberately customized to the setting demands of postsecondary education for which a student needs accommodations or strategic recommendations.

    Nationally recognized evaluators representing three states shared their expertise and insight on issues including:

    • Understanding the disability documentation needs of current and emerging populations of postsecondary students with LD, ADHD, and ASD
    • Evaluating the feasibility of an innovative “Learning Profiles Assessment” that expands and adapts traditional neuropsychology/educational testing for better informed decision-making
    • Suggestions for assessment resources and practices at Landmark College, including recommendations for assessment information for prospective and current students and families

    The focus group, consisting of seven external evaluators and five internal Landmark College faculty, researchers, and administrators, met on May 23, 2014, in Putney, VT.

  • Dr. Manju Banerjee and Dr. Sapna Prasad received a grant from The Alliance for Access to Computing Careers (AccessComputing) in April 2013 to host a two-day Capacity Building Institute (CBI) with the goal of promoting cross-campus collaboration to increase the number of students with invisible disabilities successfully pursuing higher degrees and careers in computing fields. 

    AccessComputing works to increase the participation of people with disabilities in computing and IT fields by increasing the capacity of postsecondary computing departments to fully include students with disabilities in courses and programs. Students with invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities (LD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are highly underrepresented in their attainment of computing degrees and IT careers. 

    You can learn more about this project by reading the published proceedings from the CBI.

    This CBI, titled "Pathways to Success for Students with Invisible Disabilities," provided a forum for postsecondary faculty from the computer science and engineering fields, disability service providers, and instructional technology personnel from multiple colleges and universities to:

    • Discuss access challenges, share successful practices, and identify systemic change initiatives
    • Increase their understanding of the profiles of students with LD, ADHD, and ASD
    • Expand their collective knowledge of best practices for students with LD, ADHD, and ASD, including strategies for applying Universal Design (UD) principles to instruction
    • Form collaborations with each other to coordinate their efforts to develop strategies and the capacity of their institutions to serve such underrepresented groups of students

    The CBI was comprised of individual presentations by recognized leaders in the field, including Dr. Richard Ladner and Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, and group discussions which offered participants greater understanding of how disability support services, faculty, and information technology personnel can work together to support students with invisible disabilities.

  • Jill Hart and two students from University of Maryland, Baltimore County are looking at a lap top screen.

    Students with invisible disabilities are significantly underrepresented in careers within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. To what extent can interest in STEM be encouraged by providing students hands-on experience in the STEM fields? Landmark College partnered with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Southern Illinois University to offer students an opportunity to actively learn and engage in the type of work conducted within the Computer Science field. Two workshops were held at Landmark College to introduce students to Human-Centered Computing (HCC) methods, electronic tablets and computer programming. Participating in such workshops provides students the opportunity to see themselves as designers or programmers and has the potential to raise their interest levels and their self-efficacy about a future career in a STEM field.

    Project Descriptions

    AccessComputing Minigrant 1: Participatory Design for Accessible Apps and Games (10/1/11 – 9/30/12) 

    Landmark College, in collaboration with the Information Systems Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), held a one-day workshop in December 2011 on HCC methods and participatory design for Landmark students. Students had the opportunity to join a participatory design team, interact with applications (apps) prototypes created by UMBC graduate students, contribute their feedback, and learn how to make design modifications to meet user requirements

    AccessComputing Minigrant 2:  Electronic Tablets & Computer Programming Workshop (1/1/12 – 12/31/12) 

    Electronic tablets offer a variety of accessibility options for diverse audiences, and applications (apps) which have the potential to help struggling students become independent learners. A two-day workshop was held at Landmark College in February 2012, in collaboration with the Computer Science Department at Southern Illinois University (SIU), to provide students at Landmark the opportunity to learn how to develop electronic tablet applications intended to meet their individual learning needs, as well as to become aware of the programming tools used in the computer science field. We explored whether Landmark College’s Master Notebook organizational tool could be replicated in whole or in part by existing or future apps, and whether Quorum, a programming language developed at SIU, will benefit students with invisible disabilities.


    We are currently in the process of collecting and/or analyzing the data from these workshops.

    This project was funded by grants from the AT&T Foundation and the Alliance for Access to Computing Careers (AccessComputing), which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program of the Directorate for Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) (grant #CNS-0540615, CNS-0837508 and CNS-1042260).

  • This implementation research project aims to explore the use of a Universally Designed online adaptive learning platform to meet the learning needs of a neurodiverse population of learners. 

    Adaptive learning promises to deliver personalized learning to meet the individual needs of every unique student. This promise, if fulfilled, will address a major issue of accessibility for a growing number of students for whom traditional online education has not been effective. Courses piloted by this project will be developed and delivered by Landmark College faculty members. If successful, this project will form the basis for the creation of high quality online content accessible to diverse populations of students in a cost effective manner. Furthermore, this research will lay the groundwork for collaboration on a grant aimed at scaling up this model of online education.

    To learn more about how adaptive learning works, view a demonstration of SGL's Adaptive Learning Management System.

  • In March 2009, the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT) completed a Demonstration, Enrichment, and Information Dissemination grant from the National Science Foundation’s Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) grant program. This award was used to create universally-designed online algebra learning resources for use by students in developmental algebra courses, focused on improving access and usability for students with learning disabilities. Additional grant activities included developing companion learning strategies to optimize the use of the online learning resources, training faculty at four two-year institutions to use the learning resources and strategies in developmental math courses, evaluating student outcomes and changes in faculty attitudes toward students with LD; and disseminating the results. Since mastering mathematical concepts is crucial to learning in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, improving math instruction for students with LD is hypothesized to improve the achievement and confidence of those students. Designing effective and usable tools to enhance STEM learning for students with disabilities has the potential to achieve widespread impact.

    Project Description

    NSF RDE Grant HRD-0726252: Universal Design in College Algebra: Customizing Learning Resources for Two Year Students with Learning Disabilities

    In order to pursue postsecondary education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and computing, students must be able to master fundamental mathematical principles that serve as part of the foundation of these fields. Given the importance of mathematics as a gateway to advanced degrees and cutting-edge career opportunities, it is important to investigate methods which can facilitate learning and understanding of math concepts for students with learning disabilities and attention disorders (collectively referred to here as “LD”). The overarching goal of this project, UD Algebra, was to increase interest and confidence in learning math for students with LD, thereby leading to more students with LD succeeding in additional STEM courses and pursuing STEM careers. A secondary goal of this project was to increase educators’ awareness and improve educators’ attitudes about the potential for students with LD to succeed in STEM.

    To achieve these goals, the team began by evaluating the accessibility and usability of existing free online algebra learning resources (LRs) for use by students with LD. The was then able to create universally-designed algebra LRs that are accessible to students with LD along with companion learning strategies to optimize the use of those LRs. These resources and strategies are freely available through the project’s website. Finally, the team trained faculty members at four institutions and testing the aforementioned resources and strategies at each of those institutions.


    The materials, resources, and strategies developed as part of this grant are made freely available on the project website located at

    Data from students (both with and without LD) at four institutions showed that students who had used the developed LRs had more confidence in their math ability and a more positive attitude towards math than those who had not.

  • LCIRT was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant program for a two-year project entitled Improving Access to Technological Education Programs and Careers for Community College Students with Learning Disabilities (LD).

    Visit the Access Tech Careers website for more information.

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