Blackboard Ally for Instructors

Ally Supports Inclusive Education

eLearning and Emerging Technologies is pleased to announce the addition of a new enterprise software solution called Blackboard Ally to support the university’s work in providing inclusive education through accessibility.

Ally is available in all courses in Blackboard and focuses on making digital course content more accessible. By using inclusivity, sustainability and automation as its key pillars. Blackboard Ally assists faculty and tackles accessibility in a way that benefits all students.

Ally was made available to all faculty and students at GVSU on June 21, 2018.

Ally Benefits

  1. Increases capacity to support faculty in building high quality accessible content and correcting files already in their Blackboard courses.
  2. Assists in the creation of alternative accessible content in Blackboard through the real-time conversion of files uploaded into Blackboard without any faculty intervention or extra work. Automatically generated alternative file formats include: Tagged PDF, HTML, ePub, Electronic Braille,  Audio
  3. Provides additional ADA Section 504 and 508 due diligence and good faith effort of evaluating content that has been uploaded by faculty into Blackboard.
  4. Supports requests for an institutional dashboard view for the level of accessibility of all courses in Blackboard at GVSU.
  5. Responds to student needs for accessible versions of content without the extra overhead of development time for our existing staff or faculty.
  6. Builds institutional capacity to respond to increased federal and legal requirements for accessibility at GVSU.

In short, Blackboard Ally reviews the accessibility of course content and provides faculty guidance, insight, and tips for lasting improvements to content accessibility. Faculty receive feedback on the accessibility of their content, along with step-by-step instructions to improve files.

In addition to providing faculty with insight to course content accessibility, Ally automatically creates alternative versions of your files to support Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This allows students to choose the type of file they want that best suits their needs. While faculty are in the process of improving files, students still access alternative copies. 

Currently, Ally checks the following file types that have been uploaded to Blackboard: 

  • Images
  • PDF files
  • Microsoft® Word files
  • Microsoft® PowerPoint® files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files
  • YouTubeTM Videos without Captions

Ally also creates the following alternative versions for students to be used while commuting, driving, when audio is preferred and on mobile devices. 

  • Tagged PDF - Structured PDF for improved use with assistive technology
  • HTML - For viewing in the browser and on mobile devices
  • ePub - For reading as an e-book on an iPad and other e-book readers
  • Electronic braille - BRF version for consumption on electronic braille displays
  • Audio - MP3 version for listening 

GVSU Strategic Connection

Strategic Priority Area 1: Actively engage learners at all levels.

Institutional outcome D: Grand Valley supports innovative teaching, learning, integrative scholarly and creative activity, and the use of new technologies.

Objective 1.D.2: At least 93% of faculty members regularly use electronic course management tools, such as Blackboard, in their teaching.

Objective 4.D.1: Effective technologies are integrated into every function and structure across the institution.

Objective 3.B.1: All systems and policies ensure inclusiveness and accessibility.

Inclusiveness/Access - Incorporating multiple voices and experiences by valuing identities, perspectives, and backgrounds.  Strengthening and expanding possibilities through technology to increase accessibility and remove barriers.


Can't seem to get your Ally dials green? Contact us!

Blackboard Administrator
(616) 331-8526 
4450 KHS 

Blackboard Ally Webinar Demo

“Ally documents evidence of my efforts as faculty to make my teaching more accessible.

Through incremental changes Ally guides me step by step to adjust course files.  As I’m learning how to use Word better, all other file formats are generated in my course automatically.

Ally uses gamification to indicate my progress in making files student-friendly.  Getting to 100% is an emotional rush!”

- Szymon Machajewski, CIS Affiliate Professor, teaching CIS150 in the School of Computing and Information Systems and recipient of the Most Inclusive Classrooms in the United States

“GVSU is committed to inclusive education, and I am focused on ensuring my courses are accessible. Blackboard Ally will help me ensure that my courses are as accessible as possible for my students, save me time, and most importantly help faculty at GVSU to focus on improving student success.”

- Cheryl Kautz, Affiliate Instructor in the School of Computing and Information Systems and recipient of the Most Inclusive Classrooms in the United States

Page last modified October 10, 2018