Blog written by:
USDLA Board Member
Each year the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) recognizes the preeminent distance learning practitioners from around the world. The annual awards program not only salutes some often unsung but hardworking professionals but also showcases the “best of the best” so that others may admire and emulate their excellence and innovation.
The Innovation Award is given for innovative approaches to the delivery of distance learning and nominations for the awared are judged on innovation, originality, significance, and measurable impact. A recipient of USDLA’s 2018 Innovation Award was the Blackboard Ally Accessibility Solution. The nomination was submitted by Sally Ewalt and the award was presented at the 2018 USDLA annual conference in Indianapolis. Blackboard Ally, a Learning Management System (LMS) agnostic technology, is the first solution that integrates accessibility so closely and seamlessly into already existing systems and workflows. Ally provides guidance to faculty about how to improve the quality of their content for everyone; provides students of all abilities with immediate access to content in formats that may be more suited to their specific needs, and helps institutions understand the accessibility of all their digital course content.
Ally does this by automatically scanning course materials uploaded in the LMS and alerting faculty if the materials are not accessible. Ally checks for a wide variety of issues and alerts may include things such as contrast issues; seizure-inducing graphics; and missing headings, tags, and descriptions. This immediate feedback gives faculty the information they need to make course materials more accessible. In addition to the report, Ally also automatically creates alternative formats of the original document including Semantic HTML, audio, ePub, and electronic braille. Ally also provides an institution-wide accessibility report so administrators can better understand their institution’s accessibility needs and challenges and prioritize resources effectively.
By providing institutions and faculty with easy to use, integrated workflows, Ally can help hundreds of thousands of students access the course materials that are best formatted for their 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. By raising awareness about the importance of accessible content to student success, Ally can also help institutions move towards a more inclusive environment for everyone.
More information about Ally is available at the Blackboard Ally website. https://www.blackboard.com/accessibility/blackboard-ally.html
The USDLA thanks our 2018 International Awards program sponsor, Lifesize.
November 5th – 9th, 2018 – National Distance Learning Week (NDLW)
November 28th – 30th, 2018 – International Forum for Women in E-learning (IFWE) – San Antonio, Texas
Learn more about the USDLA and how you too can be a member. The association supports all core markets including Enterprise, Government, Telemedicine, Education and others.