What Is Ally?

What is Ally?

This spring, College of DuPage will be piloting Ally, a new tool for Blackboard, with the goal of a full rollout later in 2019. Haven’t heard of Ally? 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 enhance the usability and accessibility of the content in their courses.

What does that actually mean? 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 adhere to the latest accessibility guidelines will be tagged and the steps needed to improve them will be provided to the instructor. It’s important to note that these changes are not required, but they are suggested to improve the quality of courses.
  2. Provide alternative formats. One of the biggest benefits of Ally is that, using machine learning, it provides alternative formats of all course documents. Though Ally, students can choose what format best suits their needs. Options include: tagged PDFs, HTML, ePub, electronic Braille, audio, and even translations. Even better, Ally does all the work–no action is required on the part of instructors.

The Benefits

It’s important to remember that while Ally is designed with the needs of students with disabilities in mind, it’s actually a tool that 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, these changes don’t come without some work on the part of  faculty, but throughout the entire process Learning Technologies will support you, show you best practices, and, in some cases,  may even be able to share some of the load of content remediation with you.

Going forward, Ally will be a key component to helping College of DuPage adhere to its institutional philosophy by promoting equal access to education and 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.