WCET’s 2017 WOW Awardees Transform the College Learning Experience with Innovative, Technology-based Solutions
Blackboard Inc.: Blackboard Ally
Blackboard Ally is a new technology that integrates closely with the Learning Management System (LMS) and focuses on making digital course content more accessible. Blackboard Ally automatically scans course content in the LMS for accessibility issues. Within the context of the LMS, it then provides feedback to instructors about the accessibility of their content, as well as detailed guidance on how to improve the accessibility and quality of their content. Ally will also automatically generate alternative accessible versions (Semantic HTML, ePub, audio, electronic braille, etc.) for course content and will make these available to the student through the LMS. Lastly, Blackboard Ally will generate an institution-wide course content accessibility report. This enables the institution to understand how they are performing with regards to the accessibility of their course content and how they can further improve. Ultimately, Ally helps foster Universal Design thinking and can help provide access to higher quality and more usable course materials that can benefit all students.
Creating barrier-free opportunities for all students to succeed in reaching their higher education goals is critical for our nation’s health and prosperity. Technology-enhanced teaching and learning has been lauded from the start as a way of increasing student access to higher education but some of these tools have inadvertently hindered students with disabilities. By providing institutions and faculty with an easy to use, integrated solution, Ally can help provide the guidance and feedback necessary to improve course content and give all students access to a wider variety of course materials that may be best formatted for their unique educational style and needs. This is a type of personalization unlike any other that we have seen on a wide scale and has the potential to alter who can access and succeed in higher education.