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January 09 2023

The Master’s Thesis with the Greatest Innovation Potential in 2022

How to help people with dyslexia today? People with dyslexia, especially children, are often overlooked in education – how can e-learning help them?

This challenge has been addressed by Urška Križnik, graduate of the master’s programme in Innovation Management in Social and Education Sector, in her master thesis prepared under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Dr Lea Bregar and co-supervision of Assist. Prof. Dr Milena Košak Babuder. We are pleased to present her master’s thesis, which has been selected as the master’s thesis with the greatest innovation potential in 2022.

Dyslexia is the most researched of the specific learning difficulties, yet many parents and teachers still do not recognise the symptoms that can mark a child for life early enough. It is during this most vulnerable period that children with dyslexia need help and support. Early detection of dyslexia is of paramount importance for the development of a healthy personality and a child’s progress in learning. That is why her master’s thesis titled Designing an E-learning Programme to Help People with Dyslexia – EIPOD developed the design for an e-learning programme to help parents of children with dyslexia. It is aimed at parents of children up to grade 5 in primary school, but is also open to all others who are interested in this subject matter or who want to empower themselves in the field of dyslexia. The course is a MOOC, which is the most widely used form of open education, and allows for a large number of simultaneous participants, has no entry requirements and is free of charge for all participants.

The research strategy of this master’s thesis is mainly based on a qualitative approach, which is derived from the psychological and didactic theory of dyslexia and e-learning, on a qualitative definition of the design of the e-learning model, and on an empirical verification of its appropriateness from a cost perspective. Furthermore, it is based on a qualitative evaluation with a focus group of potential users of the programme.

The focus group, which consisted of children with dyslexia and parents of children with dyslexia, gave a clear signal that not enough is known about dyslexia and its symptoms, both at school level and among parents themselves. For this reason, they were unanimous that EIPOD is a welcome course that will help identify the symptoms of dyslexia early enough in a simple and multisensory way, while empowering parents to the point where they can support, encourage, understand and accept their children’s learning style.

Urška Križnik after the announcement of her master’s thesis as the thesis with the greatest innovation potential in 2022:

I dedicate my master’s thesis titled Designing an E-learning Programme to Help People with Dyslexia – EIPOD to all children with dyslexia (about 10% of them) and their parents. From my own experience, I know how important it is to identify the signs and symptoms of dyslexia early enough and how important it is to support and empower children to overcome the challenges and barriers that dyslexia brings.

The main aim of the master’s thesis was to design an e-learning programme for the Slovenian context, which will provide parents and the rest of the (general) public with concrete information and guidance on how to support a child with dyslexia through the educational process. The programme is free and open to parents of children up to grade 5 of primary school. It is designed as a MOOC, the most widely used form of open education. Divided into five learning units, the course has short and varied content, rich multimedia additions that are interspersed throughout the written materials, an interactive digital story, and a test that parents can use to check whether their child might have symptoms of dyslexia. All follow-up testing is carried out by specialist staff at the school or at centres that test children for learning difficulties. EIPOD has very important features for the participants: flexibility in time, place, content and pace of the training, which is maximised by its quality design. It is simple, short, with well thought-out content that can help parents immediately. It also offers a discussion forum for parents and an Encouragement Forum where children can share their experiences and learning strategies with each other.

I am delighted that the Committee for the selection of the master's thesis with the greatest innovation potential has recognised the message that the thesis conveys. It is important to empower as many stakeholders as possible who are involved in the process of educating children with dyslexia. And it is even more important to remove the label that children with dyslexia are different. They are not. They just learn differently.

I would like to emphasise the following in particular: ten percent of children in education and their parents or care givers need three basic things: information, advice and concrete help. EIPOD can provide information and advice. Concrete help is then the domain of the experts.  Our survey has shown the need for further awareness-raising among the general public, but the tendency to raise awareness among teachers has also emerged many times during the surveying. With this thesis, I want to reach out to them for the time when they have a child in their classroom who has reached the result following a route other than the prescribed one. Who can more easily read materials written in Ariel, Verdana or Calibri. Who is creative. Who thinks outside the box. And who finds solutions through impressions and intuition. Such a child is not different, or lazy or stupid. Such a child pushes the boundaries of development, makes a difference and creates a better world. And has a distinct advantage over the rest when it comes to applying for a job at NASA. At this point, I would like to once again express my deep-felt gratitude to Prof. Dr Bregar whose wealth of knowledge and experience has inspired and guided me throughout this thesis. My sincere gratitude also goes to Assist. Prof. Dr Košak Babuder, who empowered me in the field of dyslexia.

My gratitude also goes out to our DOBA, which enables students to study in a way that allows us to grow and develop and, above all, strengthen our innovation and creativity. A sincere thank you again!

In December, the Selection Committee for the master’s thesis with the greatest innovation potential chose the best from the 14 highest-ranked theses. The Committee consisted of three members: Prof. Dr Boris Cizelj, Assist. Prof. Dr Tomaž Klobučar and Assist. Prof. Dr Branko Škafar.

Statements by members of the Committee:

“The chosen topic is a current one and very important given the number of children with dyslexia in Slovenia, as the results are of direct interest to tens of thousands of people (parents, teachers, adolescents, general public).”

“The author presents this issue in a very systematic way and explains how teachers and parents should be trained to help the affected children effectively. As she points out, this is particularly relevant in the age of digitalisation and distance learning.  In addition to processing a wealth of international and national literature (88 sources), she conducted a very interesting focus group interview and interpreted the results very well.

“The applicability and practical feasibility of the programme is also reflected in the detailed descriptions of the learning units and the concrete solution, as well as in the presented cost calculations. The master’s thesis provides clear information on what activities are necessary for the actual development and practical implementation of the programme.”

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