Award win for Learning Labs’ e-learning portal

The company's online tutorials, helping students with learning difficulties, headed the ‘Tech for Good’ category at Dynamites 18

An e-learning portal developed by Learning Labs has been named ‘Tech for Good’ winner at Dynamites 18, the North East’s IT and technology awards. 10 hopefuls entered the category – ‘recognising an organisation that uses digital technology to improve the lives of others and make the world a better place’ – with only four applicants shortlisted.

Learning Labs’ work is reported to have helped improve educational experiences for students with learning difficulties across the country, and reduce dropout rates. Based in Tyne and Wear and with remote workers across the UK, the company supplies online tutorials to help those supported with access to assistive software via Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). Programmes can include anything from grammar corrections and read-aloud tools – for students with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia – to mind-mapping and organisational software, for those with anxiety or memory difficulties.

The CEO of Learning Labs, Chris Quickfall, said: “I was last in my class to spell my name, learn the alphabet and tell the time. I was the best at maths, but the system’s incorrect assumptions discouraged me from performing where I was strongest. I wasn’t identified as having dyslexia until the age of 21, whilst studying at Northumbria University.

“Had I been identified and received appropriate support earlier, my experience of education would have been much more positive and my achievements could have been far greater.

“I became passionate about improving processes and services for DSA students. I wanted to create a good company that does good.”

From understanding how sentence structure and short-term memory can affect people’s ability to read, to understanding how the brain uses visual references when recalling video tutorials, our team is at the forefront of digital technology for neurodiverse learning. 

Chris started with his first company, an assistive technology supplier known as Invate, straight out of university in 2006. This was followed by launching e-Quality Learning in 2010, an assistive technology training provider. Then, in 2013, he began Learning Labs.

Leading neuroscientists, including Dr Chris Wood at Newcastle University and Dr John Welch of Newcastle Hospitals, were instrumental in Learning Labs’ development. Content design was led by neurodiversity expert, chartered psychologist and head of e-assessment at the International Baccalaureate, Dr Sue Wilkinson.

“Every tutorial or ‘Lab’ is created with the option to read text, watch video and do an interactive version, in both Mac and Windows,” said Chris. “This neuroscience-influenced, digital learning design was created to support visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles.

“From understanding how sentence structure and short-term memory can affect people’s ability to read, to understanding how the brain uses visual references when recalling video tutorials, our team is at the forefront of digital technology for neurodiverse learning.

“My aim has always been to build services and digital solutions that help make the world more inclusive. Learning Labs is a source of continuous support for disabled students that helps reduce dropout rates and improves chances at education, and in life. Creating ‘tech for good’ is at the heart of our group mission and I am very proud of our team for delivering a solution that is recognised for the good that it does.”