Supporting Students Online: Inclusive Digital Learning with Blackboard Ally at NUI Galway

Molloy, Kate, Keighron, Cameron and Ennis, Jane Supporting Students Online: Inclusive Digital Learning with Blackboard Ally at NUI Galway.


As part of a National Forum-funded Inclusive Learning project, NUI Galway was the first University in Ireland to launch Ally for LMS, an accessibility tool that is compatible with multiple online learning platforms. When our campuses closed suddenly in March 2020, the project team pushed forward the planned launch of Ally to urgently provide more accessibility options for students learning online.

NUI Galway's Strategy 2020-2025 pledges to adopt the Principles of Universal Design in our learning and working environment to increase accessibility, accommodate different approaches to learning and enable students to fulfil their potential. The move to online learning has both enhanced and created challenges for accessibility. Blackboard Ally has enabled those who teach at NUI Galway to create more accessible learning materials and provided students with the agency to choose alternative formats best suited to their needs. It helps to create staff awareness of accessibility issues and encourages best practice. It also provides institutional-level accessibility data.

Last summer, the project team hosted a series of workshops for those who teach at NUI Galway, supported by Blackboard, to identify the benefits of alternative formats for students, make changes to existing content to improve accessibility, and identify common accessibility issues within digital content. The sessions were facilitated by staff and students. The workshops highlighted the lack of professional development opportunities previously offered in this area. Ally is a simple, straightforward tool to use, which has helped staff to improve accessibility with relative ease.

In this session, those involved in the rollout will discuss the impact that Blackboard Ally has had since its launch at NUI Galway from both the staff and student perspective. Participants will also have the opportunity to examine alternative content formats and discuss the potential benefits of their use in the online learning space.

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