What Is Ally?

What is Ally?

This spring, College of DuPage will be piloting a new tool for Blackboard called Ally, with the goal of a full rollout later in 2019. Haven’t heard of it? You’re not alone. Here, we explain just what Ally is and what it does for both instructors and students.

The Basics

Blackboard Ally is a tool that helps instructors to enhance the usability and accessibility of the documents in their courses.

What does that actually mean? Well, there are two main functions of Ally.

  1. Give instructor feedback. Ally evaluates all documents uploaded to Blackboard for accessibility. Any documents that don’t comply with accessibility guidelines will be tagged and the steps needed to improve them will be provided to the instructor. It’s important to note that this isn’t REQUIRED but it is suggested.
  2. Provide alternative formats. One of the biggest benefits of Ally that doesn’t require any additional effort is that it provides alternative formats of documents to students using machine learning. Students can now choose what format is best for them including tagged PDFs, HTML, ePub, electronic Braile, audio, and even translated versions.

The Benefits

It’s important to remember that while Ally is designed with the needs of students with disabilities in mind, it’s at heart a tool that helps you create an environment that’s more inclusive to ALL students and has the potential to impact the experience of every single student in your courses. Alternative formats allow students to choose the format that best suits their learning preferences, account for temporary or undiagnosed conditions, or even help students who may not be native speakers.

Additionally, the accessibility checker tools will help you to ensure that your course materials are as easy-to-use for your students as possible. Removing a hurdle to simply accessing information will give students more time and energy to focus on learning and pursuing their educational goals. Of course, this doesn’t come without some work from faculty to make those changes, but throughout the entire process, Learning Technologies will work with you, show you best practices, and, in some cases,  may even be able to share some of the load of doing that with you.

Going forward, Ally will be a key component to helping College of DuPage adhere to its institutional philosophy by promoting access to education as well as supporting our diverse student body.

Learn More

Ally isn’t here yet, but it will be soon, so there’s no better time than now to learn more about it. Here are some resources to help you learn about Ally.

Additionally, if you would like to take part in the Ally pilot, please let us know (learningtech@cod.edu). We’re looking to capture the experience of using the tool from faculty from a wide range of disciplines and levels of experience with Blackboard.

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