Uni makes spreadsheets smarter

SEN students who find spreadsheets a barrier to taking up courses in STEM subjects are set to benefit from a new project in Sheffield

Students with dyslexia and dyscalculia who find spreadsheets a barrier to taking up courses in science, technology, engineering and maths are set to benefit from a £50,000 project now under way at Sheffield Hallam University. 

Computing lecturers in the University’s Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute (C3RI) will look at new, visual ways in which spreadsheets can be designed after research showed their current layout is a turn-off to the UK’s six million dyslexia and dyscalculia sufferers. 

Project lead Dr Chris Roast said: ‘Learners face significant problems with the numerate and modelling skills necessary for STEM subjects. Added to this, the layout of spreadsheets is neither helpful or useful and can present a barrier to understanding and learning.

‘By thinking visual we are hoping to develop an add-on to current spreadsheet software which tackles this universal problem head-on.’

EQUS (Enhancing the Quality and Usability of Spreadsheets) is one of four projects to receive funding under the Ready Steady STEM Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).

The programme, managed by Jisc TechDis, aims to improve access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects for disabled learners. These subjects can be particularly challenging for: anyone with a print impairment such as dyslexia; blind, partially sighted or colour blind learners; people with manual dexterity problems or anyone with learning difficulties such as dyscalculia. 

SBRI encourages technology solutions to specific public sector and is funded by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board. 

For more information about the competition and the other successful companies, visit www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/sbri