In the next in the series of Active Online Reading posts from our student researchers, Lee Bowditch, second year undergraduate studying for a BSc in Business & Management Undergrad at Salford Business School, shares his thoughts on his own experiences of online reading at university.

When I was asked to be a part of the Active Online Reading project, at first, I presumed that I was being asked to read a lot of books online. This thought almost made me say “thanks, but no thanks”. This is because reading is not one of my strengths. I read and write at a slow pace compared to others. It was after looking at the information, and understanding what project was about, that I saw it as an opportunity to improve my reading skills and to find out what methods and techniques other students use, perhaps providing me with ideas I could adapt for my own study regime.

Improving my reading has been one of my focuses since starting my degree, which I began after over 20 years out of formal education. I joined Salford University at the age of 40 as a mature student and within my first year I found that, since the last time I put ‘pen to paper’ for education, a lot had changed in the style and methods of both reading and writing. One of the personal aims that I am looking forward to achieving whilst undertaking this project, is to talk to other students about their methods of study and how they overcome obstacles, if, perhaps like myself, they have difficulties in reading.

My involvement in the research project will be to organise and facilitate a focus group of students. I am looking forward to conducting this session as I enjoy listening to people’s opinions, and the environment on a focus group encourages people to expand and talk further with each other than just giving an answer to the initial question asked.

Regarding my own reading practices, even though reading online is not one of the areas I thrive in, is an inevitable task and something that I have to undertake as part of my degree. This was especially the case during the first year due to the university campus being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that all reading had to be done online. When reading online, I use the ‘Read Aloud’ function to overcome the medical obstacles that I face. This makes it easier for me to engage with the text, enabling me to keep track of where I am. It means that the reading does not get broken up if I have to look away due to words starting to move around (part of my condition). It also gives me a chance to understand the text more, as by hearing the words spoken, I find it also makes it easier for me to concentrate on what is being said meaning that I don’t miss something out.

Note: Screenshot of MS Word Review tab taken from (Access 14 March 2022
Screenshot of MS Word Review tab taken from (Accessed 14 March 2022)

‘Read Aloud’ is a built-in function of Microsoft Word which you can find under the ‘Review’ tab, and it has enabled me to combat situations with which I would not normally be able to deal. For anyone that has troubles with reading and writing, like me, this tool is worth a look if you have not used it before. It will not produce your work for you! But it has become a really important tool for my degree work.

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