If you aren’t familiar with Ally yet, it’s a tool that integrates with Blackboard allowing instructors to address accessibility issues (learn more). Ally also gives students the ability to download course content in a format that meets their needs.

Learn how these Ally Advocates at Harper have utilized Ally’s features to improve the accessibility of course content and their advice for getting started with Ally.

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Blackboard Ally: Faculty Journeys with Improving Content AccessibilityDawn McKinley, Associate Professor, Business and Social Science

Explain the approach you took to improve the accessibility of your content. Include how using Ally helped guide your remediation.
I used the accessibility report and started with the items under easiest to fix. I thought being new to Ally this was a good place to start and learn the system. I then moved to the low scoring content. Here I was able to fix 4 items which had the biggest impact on my overall score. Going forward for me this tool will be more valuable as I start a course and/or add new items. It will be helpful to see as I post items if there are issues so I can address them while I still have access to materials or those who provided them.

What advice would you give faculty who want to make their course content more accessible and are just getting started with Ally?
I would suggest to start with the easy fixes. Get used to the system first. Once you have some comfort move on to items that will make the biggest impact. This will help keep you motivated to make changes. I also would suggest if you have a course that has lots of issues (as may be the case with a new online course you are looking to improve) remember that it may take time and you should focus on just improving, not trying to get to perfection.

How has Ally changed your views and approach to providing accessible content for students? How will you approach accessibility in future courses?
I have always tried to make the course accessible, but in some cases I wasn’t sure where the issues were or how to fix them. This tool makes the issues stand out (even if it doesn’t capture everything) and gives you resources to fix them.


 

Blackboard Ally: Faculty Journeys with Improving Content AccessibilityCrystal Peirce, Instructor, Biology

Explain the approach you took to improve the accessibility of your content. Include how using Ally helped guide your remediation.
My first step was to tackle the lowest scoring content. Most of it was related to my lecture notes, which are a PDF version of my PowerPoints. These notes weren’t tagged so I had to go back to the originals and tag them when I created the PDFs. It was easy to do. After I took care of that, I looked at the easiest things to fix, which was mostly adding headings to documents. I also tried to prioritize upcoming material rather than material we already used.

What advice would you give faculty who want to make their course content more accessible and are just getting started with Ally?
Definitely go for it! I am recommending Ally to all the courses I am peer-reviewing right now. The accessibility report is so easy to read and understand and Ally will guide you through everything. It is so much easier than I thought it would be to make these changes to my course.

How has Ally changed your views and approach to providing accessible content for students? How will you approach accessibility in future courses?
It’s made me realize how easy it really is. And since I use a template for many of my assignments, once the template is made to be accessible, all new assignments going forward are good to go. I don’t know that I would have gone through and made all these changes myself without the assistance of Ally, even knowing how important it is for my students.


 

Cindy Miller, Adjunct Faculty, Computer Information SystemsCindy Miller, Adjunct Faculty, Computer Information Systems

Explain the approach you took to improve the accessibility of your content. Include how using Ally helped guide your remediation.
Overall, Ally is a quick tool to review the entire course site and provide feedback on my course material. I appreciate the Ally report to prioritize Blackboard course items that are either accessible or elements that need attention to be corrected. The user interface is also helpful to correct the accessibility issues. I had previous experience in applying accessibility elements to a variety of different Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) files along with HTML and Ally is a helpful tool that confirms my overall course structure and to verify accuracy amongst the different software applications. This is a tool that I can continuously use currently and in the future.

What advice would you give faculty who want to make their course content more accessible and are just getting started with Ally?
Carefully evaluate the accessibility report for an overall summary of the course. Reflect positively on the course items that were completed successfully. Separate items of severity with low scores and issues of severity. Review the report by identifying course items that are easiest to resolve in the course design and easiest to fix. Remember that the course design does not have to be perfect; strive to achieve an acceptable accessible score (within the green range) that works best for you. Be patient with the Blackboard Ally modifications as the server does not automatically update to reflect the course design changes that were applied.

How has Ally changed your views and approach to providing accessible content for students? How will you approach accessibility in future courses?
The use of Blackboard Ally has been helpful in providing an overall course design experience. By updating individual files, Ally verifies that the work that I have accomplished is an inclusive tool supporting accessible information for students. Ally has allowed me to enhance my accessible knowledge and assisted me in expanding my knowledge and skill sets in new and meaningful ways to help students. Knowing that a course has received a high accessible score, this will establish a firm foundation of accessibility for students in future semesters.


 

Want to learn more? Interested in making your course content more accessible?

Learn more about how to become an Ally Advocate.