College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University

Mason LIFE Receives Funding to Test Innovative Scheduling App

October 25, 2018

In an effort to provide ongoing support to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Mason LIFE is piloting a new program based on the app, Life Sherpa. The primary researchers on the project are Robin Moyher and Heidi Graff of the College of Education and Human Development’s Mason LIFE Program.

Mason LIFE focuses on academics, employment, independent living, and community integration for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Life Sherpa is an app that aims to help students with disabilities become more independent in employment settings by creating routines for the students to follow while offering help, if needed. Last year, Moyher and Graff conducted preliminary research on the app’s impact on students’ daily residential routines.

The next phase is set to begin—testing the app with 12 students to determine their "growth in spontaneous and appropriate office-related conversation abilities, employment skills, and resiliency,” and whether there are “higher ratings on quality of life indicators as a result of using the Life Sherpa," according to the Mason LIFE faculty researchers. Modus Create, a product studio, is providing funding for the evaluation research project.

The intent of this research is to answer several questions:

  • Is there a functional relationship between using the Life Sherpa app and increased productivity?
  • Will participants show improvements in language, employment skills, flexibility, and quality of life?
  • What are the thoughts of the participants, both students and support staff, as they use the app?

The participants will be students and support staff of the Mason LIFE program who will be assigned to intervention and control groups. In addition to using the Life Sherpa app, students and support staff will be interviewed before and after the research and will be given assessments that measure their employment and language skills, resiliency, flexibility, and quality of life.

The focus of the research will be office work and clerical skills as well as customer service. According to Moyher and Graff, the evaluation will assess how students who use the app function in an office atmosphere as well as the impact on the program staff in supporting the students.

The research team explains that "Our project will assess how well the program’s staff support students, the impact of the app on the amount of support staff needed, and how well Mason LIFE students are at both learning these skills as well as maintaining the skills."