DSU receives grant from Larson Foundation

Dakota State University was recently awarded a $23,673 grant from the Larson Family Foundation.

Chris Olson, Assistant Professor in the College of Business and Information Systems stated, “The grant will be used to create a series of narrated video tutorials that show users with physical impairments or disabilities how to use a computer by utilizing voice recognition software. The lessons would coincide with the assignments necessary to complete the online CSC 105 Introduction to Computers course. The users would gain college credit and the proficiencies needed to operate a computer by voice in order to complete subsequent college courses and earn a college degree.” 

The grant will benefit quadriplegics, disabled war veterans, amputees, and those with neurological disorders that affect upper limb mobility that may find it difficult or impossible to use a keyboard and mouse to control a computer. Individuals with the aforementioned disabilities also have a high rate of unemployment according to the February 29, 2012 Wall Street Journal article, “U.S. Pushes Target for Hiring the Disabled.” According to the article, 79.2% of working-age people with functional disabilities are out of the labor force entirely. 

With the use of voice recognition software, individuals can use a computer without relying on a keyboard and mouse for input. With video tutorials that demonstrate how to perform tasks on a computer using voice recognition software, individuals can enroll in and successfully complete a college course. 

Olson and fellow DSU professor, Dr. Jack Walters, created the website, Increasing Access to Online Education Using Speech Recognition Software (http://www.accessible-education.com/), earlier this year. The new video tutorials created as a result of the Larson Grant will build upon that already created work. The current videos walk users through a variety of tasks that can be completed with the speech recognition software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking. The series touches on training your voice, an overview of basic tasks, personalizing the software, writing a program and creating a webpage. All of these functions can make an online degree a reality for those who may have never thought that option to be possible.  

Olson also serves on the Barrier Free Learning Committee (BFLC) at Dakota State University.  The BFLC was created to leverage intellectual, technological and physical resources of the campus to educate and create opportunities for those with disabilities. Faculty and staff from all areas of campus make up the committee. The BFLC gave a presentation of the Increasing Access to Online Education website to the Board of Regents this summer, which was very well received.  

Once the initial college credits are earned for the Intro to Computer course, Olson and the Barrier Free Learning Committee hope the proficiencies gained from the voice recognition tutorials will inspire students to enroll in subsequent courses to earn a college degree. Because of Dakota State University's well-established degree programs available via distance education, individuals with disabilities could earn a college degree by taking courses online. And with the conferring of that degree, the target population will then increase their chances of finding a fulfilling career.  

“DSU is very excited to be a recipient of the Larson Family Foundation Grant, and that they’ve agreed to be a part of this mission, a mission that aligns with DSU’s,” said Kacie Fodness, from DSU’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment.

Last Updated: 11/28/12