Quick study guide: Study tools and different learning styles

Part 4: There is an abundance of study apps and tools available to help students

’Many of the best study tools and apps came about to help or assist students with additional learning needs but are useful for students from any background’ - Linda Doran

’Many of the best study tools and apps came about to help or assist students with additional learning needs but are useful for students from any background’ - Linda Doran


We asked some study experts for their advice on how to do well in college. Dr Majella Dempsey is course leader for the science and maths education programme at Maynooth University. Kathy Bradley is coordinator of the new UCC Skills Centre. Linda Doran is head of the disability support services in UCC. Peter McGuire is a freelance journalist and former lecturer and adult education tutor in Irish Folklore at UCD.

There are abundant study apps and tools available to help students. There’s plenty of evidence to show that the best lectures are tailored for the widest possible group of learners. These lectures will take into account the different learning styles (including visual, musical, spatial, kinaesthetic, aural, verbal, interpersonal and intrapersonal).*

As a lecturer, my ideal class group was diverse and might include men, women (or non-binary people), people on the autism spectrum, people with dyslexia, dyspraxia or additional learning needs, as well as perhaps students with visual, hearing or physical difficulties. That term - additional learning needs - is used deliberately, and I use it because students with different abilities and ways of thinking don’t “disable” or hinder the class: on the contrary, they can look at problems from different perspectives and bring fresh ideas to the class group. Once they have the right supports and are included, people with different learning needs are only ever a positive addition to the class.

Many of the best study tools and apps came about to help or assist students with additional learning needs but are useful for students from any background, says Linda Doran, head of disability support services and assistive technology officer at UCC. “We strongly encourage the use of technology, particularly for students who need accommodations in the exams” she says. “We want our students to be as independent as possible and so they embrace the technology. The advances in built-in accessibility are fantastic.”

She highlighted some of the key study tools that are used by all students at UCC.

Read and Write Gold: a programme that was geared towards dyslexic students and is produced by a company called TextHelp who are based in Co. Antrim. As well as helping dyslexic students, other students use it because it take a text and create an audio version for you. You can then listen to it when you’re on the train or bus, or even when going for a walk. “It’s not just for students who have reading difficulties. I use it to listen to a report, often in the car on the way home.”

Inspiration: an electronic mind-mapping programme. “A tremendous tool that allows you make visual, text-based or audio maps as you choose,” says Doran. “This allows you to pull in video clips and audio files and so appeals to different types of learners.”

Audio Notetaker: Students, particularly those with additional learning needs, may like to record their lectures (don’t do this without the permission of the lecturer but, in this writer’s view, there is rarely a good reason that a good lecturer won’t allow you to do this). “The big challenge can be to manage the recording but this tool allows to bring the recording on to your computer and highlight key parts,” says Doran. “Some students use their laptop to do the recording in the lecture and highlight key parts as they happen. If a lecturer is using PowerPoint, you can use this tool to link the audio to it.”

Voicestream: An app - costing €13 - where students can store books, listen to them and highlight key sections. “Someone with a physical disability may not be able to turn pages but they can listen to the text,” says Doran.

*Intrapersonal learning is perhaps the most unfamiliar term. Put simply, this refers to your ability to understand yourself and work alone and independently.

Here are just a few other study apps, tools and sites that we like:

Khan Academy: mini-lectures on a wide range of topics

Project 252: every week in 2015, this website focused on and spotlighted different educational apps and websites, and it now has a wide database.

Skype and Google Hangouts: can’t meet in person? This is a good way of keeping in touch with your class for peer to peer learning in study groups. You can help each other fill in gaps in your learning and discuss and test ideas.

Coursera: A database on massive online open courses (MOOCs), where you can learn from some of the best lecturers in the world including some in Ivy League Universities. These could help you consolidate your learning.

Quizlet: Use flashcards and create mini quizzes for yourself to test your knowledge.

Students, what study apps do you like and why?