Fall 2021 Pilot of Blackboard Ally

Beginning Fall 2021, anyone who is teaching a course, including all NIU faculty, instructors, staff, and teaching assistants, are eligible to sign up to be part of the initial pilot of Blackboard Ally at NIU. You can be among the first to offer students the flexibility of accessing course materials in the format that best meets their needs.

What is Ally?

Blackboard Ally is a powerful tool that can make your courses more accessible to all students through principles of universal design for learning. Using machine learning algorithms, Ally scans any files you add to your Blackboard course to generate alternative formats for your students and to provide you with feedback about the accessibility of your materials. Ally will also provide you with guidance on how to improve the accessibility of your files, to help you build lasting skills for creating accessible materials.

Pilot Participation

The Blackboard Ally pilot is open to anyone who is teaching a course at NIU. To sign up, simply complete the Blackboard Ally Pilot Interest Form.

Ally will be enabled in your courses during the week of August 16-20, or within 2 business days if you sign up for the pilot after the semester has begun.

Expectations for Participants

Getting started with Ally is really easy and should not require much time. After introducing your students to accessing the alternative formats, we ask that you also spend some time exploring Ally's accessibility scores and feedback to improve a few of your files. 

  • Post resources for students in your Blackboard course about accessing alternative formats (provided in the Ally toolkit)
  • Improve the accessibility scores for 3-5 files by using Ally's feedback and guidance
  • Distribute a mid-semester, anonymous survey to your students about their use of Ally
  • Respond to an anonymous end-of-semester survey about your use of Ally
  • Join the NIU Blackboard Ally pilot learning community to provide support to colleagues who are also participating in the pilot, which includes being added to a Microsoft Team, receiving occasional emails or Teams messages from CITL and other pilot participants, and attending optional synchronous discussions

Questions?

Check out the Ally FAQ if you have questions about Blackboard Ally, or reach out to us at 815-753-0595 and citl@niu.edu for questions about the pilot.


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Get Help

Technical Support and Student Help

Division of IT Service Desk

815-753-8100
servicedesk@niu.edu

Teaching Support and Faculty Help

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

815-753-0595
citl@niu.edu

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