Inclusive Online Learning at NUI Galway: Supporting the Rollout of Blackboard Ally

Molloy, Kate (2021) Inclusive Online Learning at NUI Galway: Supporting the Rollout of Blackboard Ally.


As part of a National Forum-funded Inclusive Learning project, NUI Galway was the first University in Ireland to launch Ally for LMS, an integrated tool that digital content more accessible. The launch was supported in partnership by the local IUA Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning project team. When our campuses closed suddenly in March 2020, the distributed 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 fulfill 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 more inclusive practice. It also provides course-level and institutional-level accessibility data.

Last summer, the 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 in partnership. The workshops further highlighted the lack of professional development opportunities previously offered in this area.

This session will outline the rollout process, the challenges and opportunities that arose, the feedback on Blackboard Ally, and a move toward more inclusive online teaching and learning at NUI Galway.

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