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Education technology and neurodiverse learners - Exploring the expansion of educator toolkits to engage neurodiverse students in immersive learning environments in higher education

Research Support Unit

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Dr Z Dooly , Dr Felicity Kelliher No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Post summary

Applications are invited to apply for the WIT PhD Scholarship Award 2020, to research the application of digital technology within immersive learning environments to support neurodiverse students and educators. Neurodiversity is an umbrella term, including dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia, autistic spectrum and Tourette syndrome.

The research will explore adaptive learning techniques using the principles of Artificial Intelligence in an education setting (AIEd), the study seeks to use an immersive learning environment (ILE) which has the potential to be inclusive, flexible, personalised and engaging for neurodiverse students. The research question asks, Can AIEd toolkits enhance neurodiverse students’ immersive experience?

The aim of this research is to explore the expansion of AIEd educator toolkits to help immerse neurodiverse students in higher education learning environments. Cognisant of a student-centric approach to education, the proposed application of AIEd uses pedagogical models to link the student learner and the subject domain. Known to help with student learning, immersive learning environments (ILEs) are learning situations that are constructed using a variety of techniques and software tools, including game-based learning, simulation-based learning and virtual 3D worlds.

An action learning research method underpins the study. This research will explore the design of learning programmes and tasks that allow these students to draw on their known strengths and can create opportunities for students to access the class curriculum in ways that best suit their individual learning abilities.

The scholarship will provide an annual stipend of €15,000. A budget of €2,000 annually is allocated to cover materials, consumables and travel costs. In addition, an allowance of €4,500 per annum will be awarded to cover postgraduate tuition fees. Non-EU nationals will be charged at EU rates.

Standard duties and responsibilities of the scholarship

This is a full-time 4-year structured PhD scholarship. The successful applicant will;

-     Be located at Waterford Institute of Technology for the duration of their studies;

-     complete required PhD pathway modules as an aspect of the structured PhD programme;

-     undertake 2 hours per week of in-term departmental work activities as directed by management, in conjunction with the supervisory team;

-     participate in academic conferences and fieldwork events, as agreed with the supervisory team;

-     contribute to academic culture at Waterford Institute of Technology.

Other duties include:

-     Delivery of agreed academic, practitioner and policy papers in conjunction with the supervisory team;

-     engaging in agreed activities that help to support and enhance the WIT School of Education and Lifelong learning, School of Business and related research centres.

It is a requirement of this award that both the supervisory team and the successful applicant must undergo research integrity training as provided by Epigeum.

Person specification



·       Applicants should hold or expect to attain, as a minimum, a 2.1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in Education, Business or Social Science related areas at undergraduate or professional level.

·       Applicants should have demonstrable experience in conducting research at either undergraduate or postgraduate level.


·       Applicants should hold or expect to attain a Master degree in Education, Business, Social Science or related discipline.

·       Applicants who have relevant postgraduate research experience.

Knowledge & Experience


·       An interest in and some knowledge of academic research and what it entails for the researcher.

·       Demonstrable knowledge and experience in at least one of the following: higher or adult education, digital technologies and/or sociology.


·       Interest/knowledge/experience in teaching neurodiverse students and digital technologies for education.

·       Relevant professional experience.

·       Experience and understanding of qualitative methods of data collection.

·       A demonstrable competence in academic theory in education, digital technologies, business and/or sociology.

Skills & Competencies


·       Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English, please see WIT’s English Language Requirements for details.

·       Desirable Aptitude for project planning and management.

·       Ability to build rapport with project stakeholders, student life and learning services, lecturers, technologists.

·       Experience and/or training in qualitative research methods.

·       Demonstrable communication and presentation skills (written and verbal).

·       Teamwork and group facilitation skills.

·       Self-motivation, time management skills and focus to fulfil the research process.

Further information

Supervisor(s) Dr. Zeta Dooly, Dr. Felicity Kelliher (WIT), Prof Cicely Roche (TCD)  

Department / School Dept of Education /School of Education and Lifelong Learning and Dept of Management and Organisation, School of Business WIT and Trinity Teaching & Learning, TCD

Duration 48 months PhD

Status: Full Time

Funding information WIT Scholarship 2020/2021

Value of the Scholarship Annually Stipend: €15,000 Fees: €4,500 Research costs: €2,000 

Teaching requirement Two hours of academic development activities per week during the academic year in line with scholarship requirements.

Closing date and time

Advertisement Period 04/01/2021- 15/01/2021

This Competition will close at 4pm Irish time on the 15th of January 2021. 

Interview date TBC

Commencement date Q1 2021

For any informal queries, please contact Dr. Zeta Dooly at email: [Email Address Removed]

For queries relating to the application and admission process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions Office via email [Email Address Removed]  or telephone +353 (0)51 302883.


Application procedure

Download the Research Postgraduate Application Form and return completed applications to [Email Address Removed], quoting WD_2020_44_WSCH in the email subject line. Please note that paper submissions will not be accepted

Please note that paper submissions will not be accepted.

Funding Notes

Funding information WIT Scholarship 2020/2021
Value of the Scholarship Annually Stipend: €15,000
Fees: €4,500
Research costs: €2,000

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