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Majors & Degrees

Olson brings accessible learning to DSU

March 17, 2014

The capability to earn an online degree without ever physically touching a computer seems like an oxymoron to many. Ask someone how they received an online degree and they will probably tell you about the hours they spent at their keyboard, typing away on term papers or code. But thanks to a grant from the Larson Foundation in Brookings, S.D. and DSU Professor Chris Olson, the idea of earning any degree entirely online without ever using a keyboard or mouse is one that is obtainable for anyone.

Through the grant, Olson developed a series of voice narrated tutorial videos for the DSU online course, Introduction to Computers. The course consists of 13 voice-narrated tutorials that align with a chapter in the textbook. Olson’s online course targets those who have access issues or disabilities along with their rehabilitation counselors. He teaches the user how to leverage the power of the voice recognition software, Dragon Naturally Speaking, to create word processing documents, slideshow presentations, spreadsheets, databases and web pages. The course will be offered this summer, May 19th through August 8th.

Using the skills from the class, Olson hopes that those with disabilities continue on with their education and complete a degree program. Olson, who is a quadriplegic, earned both a Master’s and Doctorate degree through using these assistive technologies. This gives him first-hand knowledge on what it’s like to complete not just a course, but a whole degree program online.

"There are many job opportunities for those who can use a computer. I hope this course can help people learn how to operate a computer using voice recognition software to earn a degree from DSU so they can go on to fill some of those jobs," said Olson.

The desire to promote educational opportunities for those with disabilities came about through the efforts of the Barrier-Free Learning Committee at Dakota State University. The Barrier-Free Learning Committee (BFLC) began meeting in 2008. The purpose of the committee is to facilitate the pursuit of the most current information and methods with regard to streamlining pedagogical and technological methodologies, devices, delivery systems, and environments which might otherwise prove an impediment to students, faculty, and staff with disabilities.

For more information on the summer course, contact Chris Olson at chris.olson@dsu.edu .