Claver & Gray: Anthology Ally

Anthology Ally (formerly, Blackboard Ally) is an accessibility awareness tool that is automatically available in instructors’ Canvas courses. In particular, it identifies ways that documents and Canvas pages could be difficult for students with disabilities to access, and offers guidance on how to remediate them. Additionally, it enables all students to access course materials through alternative formats, such as mp3 audio, which may be preferable in some situations, such as while commuting. This does not affect the originals. Prior to its campus-wide release in May 2021, Academic Technology Services invited campus departments to participate in a pilot test to gather feedback and identify support issues. 

As one of the first to come forward, the Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Department took the pilot test one step further by creating a training program for their instructors and offering incentives to encourage participation. 

Early Adopters

As intrepid early adopters of Anthology Ally, FCS faculty members discovered how easy it was to just “jump in” and start using the tool to fix issues in their course content without spending extensive time. Ally’s online feedback tools provide accessibility tips and training as part of the course development process. Learning about accessible design has never been easier.

"I really would encourage faculty to just take a shot. Even though we've been faced with a lot of different tools that we can use for our online instruction, this is one that is very worth taking the opportunity to do and to learn. It really helps your class and takes it to the next level without that much of an investment of time and energy."
-Maria Claver

Hear about faculty experiences with Anthology Ally in interviews with ATS’ Assistant Director of Instructional Design, Mariza Hernandez. Note: You’ll hear Dr. Gray and Dr. Claver refer to ‘BlackBoard Ally’ in the interviews. Anthology Ally was previously named BlackBoard Ally.   

At the Forefront of Access for All 

FCS Department Chair Dr. Wendy Reiboldt knows her faculty like to be on the cutting edge and relish the challenge of trying something new. As a department focusing on individuals, families, and communities in a diverse society, accessibility is part of their mission. FCS faculty are devoted to equity and access at all stages of life. Recognizing that Anthology Ally would support her faculty in this mission and benefit students, Dr. Reiboldt seized the opportunity to jump in early with Anthology Ally.

“One thing I learned a long time ago is that accessible design is really universal design. That is, even when we do something for a person that needs accommodation, we see others benefiting as well.”

A Pilot to Support Faculty Success

After identifying three large, multi-sectional courses (GERN 400, NUTR 132, and CAFF 427) as candidates for the study, Department Chair Dr. Reiboldt invited instructors in over 66 course sections to participate, potentially impacting upwards of 2,000 students. 

In collaborating with ATS, full-time lecturer Casey Goeller created an instructor training course that included an orientation to Ally, and a catalog of resource materials to support the learning process. 

By sharing examples of their improved course materials, instructors showed how effectively Ally can guide the remediation process. In addition, instructors who completed the pilot study achieved a minimal 80% overall compliance score, as measured by the Ally “Course Accessibility Report.” With only a small investment of time, instructors easily re-used this high-scoring content in other course sections, quickly multiplying the benefit for a larger number of students.

  • Blackboard Ally. Explore the multiple features that help address your accessibility needs!