Ally at Webster University

What is Ally?

Ally is a set of tools to make course content in WorldClassRoom (Canvas) easier to access and use. It benefits:

  • Students with accessibility needs, including visibility and attention challenges
  • Students seeking easier access to course materials from mobile phones, tablets, and electronic readers
  • Students who need file types different than the format uploaded by the instructor
  • Instructors looking to iteratively improve their course content to look neater, be more accessible, and be made available automatically for a variety of student devices

 

Ally provides two basic services: automatic creation of alternative formats for students and instructor reports of content that isn’t fully digitally accessible.

 

Automatic creation of additional formats allows students to choose the format in which they want to view/access educational materials. These options include PDFs, HTML, electronic Braille, audio files, and transcriptions. Students can choose based on what works for their needs, whether based on the device they are using, physical need, or study preference.

 

Instructor accessibility reports help faculty take the first steps to make content more inclusive for all learners by providing direct and specific feedback on improving the accessibility of course files. The product is integrated through WorldClassRoom (Canvas) and provides feedback on how to improve accessibility of documents and educational resources to provide better student access and opportunities for success. Ally does NOT modify documents and materials – it scans documents and makes recommendations for how to make them more accessible.

For Students

Ally is a set of tools to make course content in WorldClassRoom (Canvas) easier to access and use. It benefits:

  • ·Students with accessibility needs, including visibility and attention challenges
  • Students seeking easier access to course materials from mobile phones, tablets, and electronic readers
  • Students who need file types different than the format uploaded by the instructor

Ally provides automatic creation of additional formats for students. Automatic creation of additional formats allows students to choose the format in which they want to view/access educational materials. These options include PDFs, HTML, electronic Braille, audio files, and transcriptions. Students can choose based on what works for their needs, whether based on the device they are using, physical need, or study preference.

We will be hosting live demos for students to learn more about Ally. You can register for the time that works best for you via the links below:

Date  Time
Tuesday January 12, 2021 [Register here] 6 p.m. CST
Wednesday January 13, 2021 [Register here] 6 p.m. CST
Friday January 15, 2021 [Register here] 8 a.m. CST

 

Ally was recommended by the Transition Technology Task Force, a group formed by the Academic Continuity and Support Working Group, to address additional technology needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Content uploads to Canvas increased by 96% in the Spring 2020 pivot to remote learning, creating a range of accessibility issues in the process because we had to move so quickly. Additionally, the pandemic accentuated problems for students underequipped for new forms of online learning who were using mobile phones or small tablets and slow or infrequent internet connections to access content not easily consumed in these manners.

Ally was recommended to ensure that the increased number of course files being made available through Canvas are accessible to students and to help students address any technology challenges they may encounter. Ally helps make Canvas a more accessible and equitable learning environment by making course content more inclusive, aiding in Universal Design (designing curriculum for all learners and their needs), and promoting access for students with varying socioeconomic backgrounds, with access to varying technology resources, and with ADA accommodations.

Ally provides a score regarding digital content for instructors to make improvements to their classes over time. This score provides instructors with a report on how accessible content is based on standards used by things like screen readers for people who are visually impaired. If Ally cannot read the content, the file won’t be readable in other situations, such as when a student wants to use an electronic reader or even something as simple as searching a file for key terms. Ally generates a report of the challenges it has with a file to help in making improvements for these situations. Some challenges affect all students, like poor scans of documents, while others may affect students with specific needs, such as missing descriptive text on images or potential color contrast issues.

For example, suppose a student wanted to listen to a document on the way to school, and there was an important graph on the second page. Without “alternative text” provided for that graph, the audio would simply say “image,” and a student would miss out on knowing that the

graph showed important ideas (e.g., “This graph shows the decrease in mortality rates over time, starting in 1990 and declining by an average of 2% annually until 2010.”). Instructors can address these types of challenges over time to make the course more accessible to all students.

Ally provides various student resources and information at https://help..com/Ally/Ally_for_LMS/Student

This short video is helpful in getting started with using alternative formats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByB6kawQg8k&feature=youtu.be. You may also visit the resources available at https://help..com/Ally/Ally_for_LMS/Student/Alternative_Formats for more details and options. 

Students with technical issues about Ally or other features in WorldClassRoom (Canvas) may contact the IT Service Desk for support. For questions about how to use Ally to support your success as a student, including support for assistive technology formats or general use with time management or study skills, please contact the Reeg Academic Resource Center.

For Faculty

Ally is a set of tools to make course content in WorldClassRoom (Canvas) easier to access and use. It benefits:

  • Students with accessibility needs, including visibility and attention challenges
  • Students seeking easier access to course materials from mobile phones, tablets, and electronic readers
  • Students who need file types different than the format uploaded by the instructor
  • Instructors looking to iteratively improve their course content to look neater, be more accessible, and be made available automatically for a variety of student devices

Ally provides two basic services: automatic creation of additional formats for students and instructor reports of content that isn’t fully digitally accessible.

Automatic creation of additional formats allows students to choose the format in which they want to view/access educational materials. These options include PDFs, HTML, electronic Braille, audio files, and transcriptions. Students can choose based on what works for their needs, whether based on the device they are using, physical need, or study preference.

Instructor reports help faculty take the first steps to make content more inclusive for all learners by providing direct and specific feedback on improving the accessibility of course files. The product is integrated through WorldClassRoom (Canvas) and provides feedback on how to improve accessibility of documents and educational resources to provide students with choice of how to best access materials and opportunities for success. Ally does NOT modify documents and materials – it scans documents and makes recommendations for how to make them more accessible.

Join us for live sessions to learn how to use Ally to improve accessibility in your courses:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 6, 12-1 p.m. CST, Lunch and Learn: Introduction to Ally
  • Thursday, Jan. 7, 12-1 p.m. CST, Lunch and Learn: Introduction to Ally
  • Thursday, Jan. 7, 5-6 p.m. CST, Introduction to Ally
  • Tuesday, Jan. 12, 12-1 p.m. CST, Lunch and Learn: Introduction to Ally
  • Thursday, Jan. 14, 12-1 p.m. CST, Lunch and Learn: Introduction to Ally

You can access these sessions in Open Office Hours here: https://worldclassroom.webster.edu/courses/1346121/external_tools/52293

Ally provides a score for the digital content in your course. This score provides you with a report on how accessible content is based on the standards used by things like screen readers (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1) for people who are visually impaired. . If Ally cannot read the content, the file won’t be readable in other situations, such as when a student wants to use an electronic reader or even something as simple as searching a file for key terms. Ally generates a report of the challenges it has with a file to help you in making improvements for these situations. For example, suppose a student wanted to listen to a document on the way to school, and there was an important graph on the second page. Without “alternative text” provided for that graph, the audio would simply say “image,” and a student would miss out on knowing that the graph showed important ideas (e.g., “This graph shows the decrease in mortality rates over time, starting in 1990 and declining by an average of 2% annually until 2010.”)

Ally provides an organized report, embedded instructions for addressing these types of challenges, and even helps identify areas that will have the greatest impact for students. Watch this short video to learn more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJx-AW1EFdo

Ally was recommended by the Transition Technology Task Force, a group formed by the Academic Continuity and Support Working Group, to address additional technology needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Content uploads to Canvas increased by 96% in the Spring 2020 pivot to remote learning, creating a range of accessibility issues in the process because we had to move so quickly. Additionally, the pandemic accentuated problems for students underequipped for new forms of online learning who were using mobile phones or small tablets and slow or infrequent internet connections to access content not easily consumed in these manners.

Ally was recommended to ensure that the increased number of course files being made available through Canvas are accessible to students and to help students address any technology challenges they may encounter. Ally helps make Canvas a more accessible and

equitable learning environment by making course content more inclusive, aiding in Universal Design (designing curriculum for all learners and their needs), and promoting access for students with varying socioeconomic backgrounds, with access to varying technology resources, and with ADA accommodations.

No. Ally reports are not visible to students, and no visible changes occur to course content without faculty modification.

While the faculty and the University do have a legal obligation to create accessible environments for students with documented disabilities, the focus of Ally at Webster is to improve the student experience incrementally as instructors address reported issues with their course content.

Ally reports provide faculty opportunities to improve accessibility each time they teach. Immediately addressing all of the issues that may be identified by Ally is likely unrealistic. Instead, faculty can select a few improvements (creating new scans for readings, adding descriptive text for images, etc.), and act on them. As time allows, faculty can implement additional improvements until the course is fully accessible to all students.

Ally can assist with making web-based course content more accessible, which will benefit all students and provide greater access for students with some types of documented disabilities. However, academic ADA accommodations frequently consist of additional interventions.

No. Faculty are responsible for their course content and providing accessible course materials. Ally identifies issues and provides feedback on how to address those issues. Ally reports help faculty see potential accessibility issues that can be identified automatically by computer technology, but it does not alter course content.

Ally provides suggestions within the feedback. It also provides a robust assortment of instructor resources and support: ·

Faculty with further questions about Ally at Webster University should access the Webster Knowledge Center for additional resources, guidance, and support information.

FAQs

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Contact Us

Faculty with further questions about Ally at Webster University should access the Webster Knowledge Center for additional resources, guidance, and support information.

Students with technical issues about Ally or other features in WorldClassRoom (Canvas) may contact the IT Service Desk for support. For questions about how to use Ally to support your success as a student, including support for assistive technology formats or general use with time management or study skills, please contact the Reeg Academic Resource Center.