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Check your Moodle course with Ally’s course accessibility report

EliotHoving13 November 2019

Blackboard Ally now includes a course accessibility report for every UCL Moodle course.

The course report shows you:

  • a course accessibility score,
  • a summary of the different types of content on your course, and
  • a list of all the issues identified on your course, including an “easy to fix” summary and a “low scoring content” summary.

Decorative image showing Ally's course report

To view Ally’s report on your course, tutors or course admins simply go to their Moodle course and click Accessibility report under the Navigation block. You can also run the report in the Administration block by clicking Reports and then Accessibility report.

Ally helps you prioritise work and track your progress:

The report allows staff to work through a series of files with low accessibility scores or focus on a single issue that may appear in multiple files.

From the report, staff can view “easy to fix” issues, such as documents that are more easily editable (PowerPoints and Word Documents). Ally considers adding alternative descriptions to images as “easy to fix” because you can add alternative descriptions directly using Ally without the need to download, edit and upload the file. This is a nice time-saver but writing alternative descriptions can be challenging, for advice see our guide on Visuals and use of colour.

The Ally course report will also update over time to allow staff to track their progress.

Ally also flags HTML content on your Moodle course:

HTML content refers to content that is written into Moodle such as text added to a Moodle section, page, book, or label through Moodle’s text editor. Ally can help identify text with insufficient colour contrast and unused formatting that can arise when Moodle content is copied and pasted from Word. However, fixing HTML issues can be challenging so, for now, we suggest staff focus on Ally’s guidance on their documents.

If you have any questions, please see the Blackboard Ally UCL wiki or get in touch with digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

Inspiration software to be discontinued

Michele CFarmer5 November 2019

SUBJECT: Inspiration Software, Inc. Closure Notice
For over 36 years Inspiration Software, Inc has been in the business of creating,supporting and selling software tools to advance thinking and  learning skills for learners of all ages.
Over the last few years, the market and technologies needed to serve our
customers have shifted tremendously.

After extensive consideration and with regret, we have decided to stop selling our products and close Inspiration Software. Therefore, as of 25th November, we will no longer be fulfilling orders.

We have notified Student Finance England of our plans to close Inspiration Software and are working with them to ensure there is an orderly exit from the DSA sector for Inspiration 9.

We do have some good news for our customers as our DSA products will continue to be supported and sold by other companies.

• Inspiration® Maps and Kidspiration® Maps will now be a part of
Diagramming Apps, LLC. Inspiration Maps is now a DSA approved product.

• Inspiration 9 IE customers can continue to find curriculum, customer service and tech support through TechEd Marketing at inspiration@techedmarketing.com or 01672 560387.

A dedicated Inspiration 9 support website for users will be launched in November.

For the foreseeable future, existing users of Inspiration 9 for Windows will be able to continue to use it as normal in their studies.

Inspiration 9 for Mac users are likely to face issues if they choose to upgrade their current operating system to Catalina, which doesn’t support 32-bit applications.

If you have any further questions on this matter, please do not hesitate to reach out to Reeza Awoodun (reeza@inspiration.com).

We thank you all for your support in recommending Inspiration 9 over these past years.
Yours sincerely
Mona Westhaver
President & Co-founder
www.inspiration.com

Improving the accessibility of Moodle content with Blackboard Ally

EliotHoving11 September 2019

Blackboard Ally Logo

UCL has acquired a new technology called Blackboard Ally to help improve the accessibility of content within Moodle, in line with UK legislation.

Ally runs within Moodle to provide alternative file formats for students and accessibility guidance for staff.

It will be launched prior to the start of term on Wednesday 18th September.

Alternative formats on demand

Ally uses machine algorithms to convert common file types to alternative formats with no extra effort required from staff. For example, a staff member can upload their lecture slides as a PowerPoint file to Moodle, and Ally will subsequently and automatically offer students the option to download the file in its original format or a range of alternative formats including audio (mp3), PDF, ePub for eReaders, or Braille reader format.

Alternative formats are essential for certain students and provide advantages to all students. Ally’s alternative formats allow for multi-sensory learning which can have benefits to educational outcomes and well-being. For example, at universities already using Ally, students have converted lecture slides to audio for listening to during their commute and to help them revise.

However, alternative formats will only be as accessible as the original source file. You should therefore always ensure you follow best practice when creating your content.

Helping staff identify where accessibility improvements can be made

Ally also provides staff with an accessibility score and guidance on common files within Moodle including PDF, PowerPoint and Word documents.  This includes files already present within Moodle and new files as they are uploaded. The accessibility score and guidance are available to staff but not students. Using Ally and Digital Education’s guidance on creating accessible content, staff will be able to identify and improve the accessibility of their teaching resources.

You can learn more about Ally by visiting the UCL staff guide on Blackboard Ally and by watching Blackboard’s video below:

Students can be directed towards UCL student guide on Blackboard Ally.

Keep an eye on the Digital Education blog for updates.

If you have any questions relating to Ally, or you would like a demonstration for your Department, please contact digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

Digital Accessibility – from Directive to DNA

SamanthaAhern22 July 2019

I have been very excited by the flurry of activity that has been triggered by The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations (2018)   across my own and other institutions. These regulations haven’t really introduced anything new, much of it is covered by existing equalities legislation, but it has shifted the focus. Previously, we could be reactive and in our laziest moments rely on those that needed adjustments to request them. Now, we are required to be proactive. To create content that is accessible by design and follows Universal Design for Learning principles around designing for POUR (i.e., so content is Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust). Aligning with the social model of disability: people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference.

Tweet by Danielle Johnstone describing some of the Lego activity outcomes.Many colleagues I meet are concerned about what the regulation means in terms of workload, what is required of them and how they become compliant. A range of guidance and support is being delivered to help raise awareness and develop the required skills. But, fundamentally there needs to be a mind shift.

Although there are deadlines associated with the regulations, I would argue that digital accessibility is not a compliance challenge but a cultural shift. A move from directive or requirement to part of our institutional DNA.

In a workshop I co-hosted with my colleague Leo Havemann, a participant described Digital Accessibility as being akin to Escher’s staircase, and I believe that they are correct. We will never not need to consider accessibility as part of our learning and content designs, and it may at times be impossible to be 100% accessible to everyone. However, it doesn’t mean that this shouldn’t become part of our day-to-day practice. The recently launched Student Health and Wellbeing Strategy echoes this with Action 1D: Make key concepts related to disability awareness, inclusive learning, health and wellbeing an integral part of relevant professional services staff and Personal Tutor training. Incorporate these concepts into curriculum development, design and governance.

So, how do we make accessibility part of our everyday? The aim of the aforementioned workshop was to crowd-source ideas on how to create the cultural shift, but also to identify what we can do now to help affect our institutional cultures.

Screenshot of tweet by Kris Rogers showing workshop Lego modelFor creating a cultural shift, key themes were to obtain buy-in from senior leadership teams and to embed digital accessibility in induction, training and promotion/development requirements. Making it part of the institutional language and ways of working for all. There was an acknowledgement that we needed to be honest with colleagues that it would require additional effort and different ways of thinking and doing. However, this would reduce over time as a result of skills development, cultural shift and tools to help. There should also be a bottom-up approach facilitated by peer evaluation and creating a network of champions within and across institutions.

With regard to what we can do now, 15% solution, a key theme was walking the talk – demonstrating good practice through our own behaviours and leading the way for others to follow. Training and support were also key themes, as were demonstrating good practice and cultivating empathy.

There may well be dragons to face along the way, but they are worth facing for the creation of a more inclusive and equitable institution.

If you would like to run the workshop at your institution, the materials are available under CC BY-SA 4.0 license: DirectiveToDNA-AccessibilityWorkshop

The materials are also available via OpenEd@UCL.

Digital accessibility face to face sessions

Caroline ENorris11 June 2019

Decorative
As you may be aware, new accessibility regulations have recently come into force which affects most digital content such as UCL web sites, e-learning content and library systems and any files that are hosted on these.  Digital Education are offering a number of options for you to get support with making your content accessible.

Drop in sessions
Every Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. The current location of the drop-in is Room G15, DMS Watson Building.

Get more individual help with making your content accessible, no appointment necessary.
Sessions will also cover making your Moodle courses compliant with the E-learning baseline.
Changes to the schedule will be publicised here so please check before travelling to the session.

Courses
Learn how to create accessible Word, PowerPoint and Excel files in this two hour hands-on course.
Book a place on the Creating accessible documents course

Briefing sessions
A short presentation introducing the legislation, what is required and by when.
View or download the latest version of the PowerPoint slides (last updated 09/07/2019).
Book a place (last session 26/07/2019)
If you would like to arrange a session for your department please email us to arrange.

Self-help resources
You can find further information about how to make your content accessible on our Digital Accessibility pages, including links to online courses.

Educause – Key issues in T&L in 2019

20 February 2019

A US focus to the infographic of course, but an interesting insight nonetheless.

Follow-up notes and “7 things” briefing papers at https://www.educause.edu/eli/initiatives/key-issues-in-teaching-and-learning