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mworden
New Member

ALLY

Is anyone here familiar with Ally, the accessibility checker? The Open Education Initiative (OEI) in California is rolling this out soon and I would love to hear some reviews.

Mark

34 Replies
tr_jbates
Community Champion

If you're referring to Ally - Making course content accessible, UCF is in the final stages of setting up a pilot.  I'll be sure to post our impressions when we've had a chance to put it through its paces.

Thank you @Jacob Bates.

Jacob, any updates on this and how it supplements or replaces UDoIT?

I did a presentation at Instructurcon last week looking at the differences between Ally, UDOIT and one other accessibility tool. If interested, you can download the slides at Mission Possible: Accessible Course Materials - Google Docs . The video should be available in a couple of weeks. 

As of right now at least - there is little overlap between Ally and UDOIT, they are both great tools that look at different types of course accessibility (with a little bit of overlap). 

I searched high and low for the presentation video today. Does anyone know if it has been made available yet? I'm eager to see it! 

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Canvas has not released the videos from the conference yet, but I will post it in this thread as soon as it is available. Thanks! 

The video has been published, I made it available in a blog post that includes information from the presentation at Comparison of Canvas Accessibility LTI Tools 

What  @christopher_phi ‌ said 🙂

We are still going through the security review process before starting our Ally pilot.  I will let you know what our impressions are once the pilot is underway.

nolaug
Community Participant

Jacob, any updates on this and how it supplements or replaces UDOIT? We are currently looking at both. I was also curious if anyone who has used either Ally or UDOIT has experienced and performance issues in Canvas while these tools are running in the background checking courses.

Thanks for any information.

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tr_jbates
Community Champion

It's hard for me to draw a proper comparison between the two because our pilot of Ally is still in limbo, but I think there is definitely room for both of them in the ecosystem.  As for slowdowns, we didn't notice any with our limited pilot of Ally in 2016, and UDOIT has not caused any slowdowns in Canvas since we launched it at UCF in Spring 2015.

nolaug
Community Participant

Thanks, I appreciate the information.

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jon_stocker
Community Participant

We run UDOIT from a Heroku server and it runs fine, just some delay on initiation. Where planning on putting it on a college server soon. Very useful tool here at Merced College.

kiporter
Community Participant

Which Heroku plan did you use for production?  I'm wondering if the Heroku Hobby plan is good enough for us? We are a small college with just over 800 courses a semester.

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Hi Jacob. I will be conducting a year-long pilot of Blackboard Ally in our Canvas instance. I am interested in learning more about how schools engaged their faculty in the pilot and the types of survey questions you used to assess faculty and student satisfaction. 

Thanks,

Kelvin Bentley

AVP for Digital Learning Innovation

University of West Florida

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I wish I could help, but we did not end up going through with an Ally pilot.  We may do one in the future, in which case I might be asking you the same thing 🙂

christopher_phi
Community Champion

We recently setup the pilot at Utah State and have been really impressed with what we have seen so far.

The service consists of two major tools:

  1. The first one is a reporting tool that evaluates your content and provides an accessibility score on files that you can look at by course, by file type and over different periods of time.
  2. The other part is a remediation tool that automatically improves some of your files and provides alternative formats where possible.

Right now we only have the reporting tool setup.  The Ally team is working through some implementation details with the remediation tool that they hope to have resolved soon.

That said, even just having the reporting has already been very helpful and provided some great insight into where we are at and where we need to focus some of our improvement efforts. We are going to be using the course level reporting tool to prepare for fall semester. I don't know how much it was the intent of the developers, but it had an effect on my of gamifying the work that we do to make our content more accessible with the goal of making each semester better than the last.

The Ally team has been very responsive to feedback and seem to have a good understanding of the problem they are trying to solve. I'll try to remember to revisit this thread once the remediation tool gets setup.

 @christopher_phi ​, thank you for this information. I think just having the reporting tool would be heaven. I'm looking forward to hearing about the remediation tool.

kari
Community Contributor

 @christopher_phi ‌ are you still using Ally and if so, how is the remediation tool?

Kari

We have been using Ally with the remediation tools available for about a month and have generally been pleased with what they are doing. It is not a magic bullet, but the user experience they have created does a good job of clarifying what they are able to do or not. The OCR they do is great, but for now there are still a number of remediation issues that need to be manually. That said, they do provide helpful workflows to assist faculty or others with that remediation process. 

Ally has been very responsive to feedback and they are doing a good job in listening to feedback and providing frequent releases. The product is useful as it is, but I anticipate the remediation features getting better and better over time. 

joseph_henle
New Member

Does anyone know how to add Ally to a Canvas Course?  Is it available in the free version or is it only in the paid?

Thanks!
Joseph

There is no free version. You need to work with the Blackboard Ally team to install it on your instance of Canvas. 

That makes sense.  By free, I was actually talking about the free version of Canvas not Ally.  Do you know if it is possible to get Ally added to a course using the free version of Canvas?

Gotcha. I'm not sure on that, but I would assume the answer is yes. You may want to check with the Ally team, they are generally pretty responsive. 

canvas-admins
New Member

Another tool I've found useful is the Siteimprove Accessibility Checker (not affiliated in any way), free from the Chrome Web Store . It's an in-browser add-in. 

I'm interested in the remediation done by Ally. Does a human get to vet a remediation before it's implemented?

The Siteimprove and other similar checkers (Wave is my favorite) check HTML content but do not check the accessibility of files. 

Right now Ally is primarily looking at the accessibility of files (i.e. Word, PDF, PowerPoint, Images, etc..) although they are working on being able to evaluate HTML as well. 

The remediation that Ally provides does not replace the original file, instead it is provided in alternate versions of the files. Besides the automatic remediation, the tool also gives hints and direction on fixing errors that exist in files. 

kmeeusen
Coach Emeritus

Hi  @mworden ‌

Our entire state system has adopted ALLY, and made it available to our system colleges at a reduced price. We saw a demo, and just loved it. Our system already uses UDoIt, and I have it in our school's account as a Canvas integration.

If you would like to talk with the lead on the ALLY project for our State Board,  @jess_thompson ‌ is in the Community and I am sure she will answer any questions you might have - she is cool that way!

Kelley

a_craik
Community Contributor

Hi all

I wonder if someone could answer a couple of hopefully straightforward Ally questions for me:

  1. I've seen prices referenced online like this:
    BLACKBOARD ALLY (1 - 2,000 FTE)$12,000.00
    BLACKBOARD ALLY (2,001 - 4,000 FTE)$18,000.00
    BLACKBOARD ALLY (4,001 - 8,000 FTE)$30,000.00
    These are presumably the max cost per annum for each bracket?  (e.g. 2,000 FTE would cost $8,000 p/a, but 1,000 FTE would cost $4,000 p/a)
  2. I'm slightly confused by the language used in the Ally promo material I've found so far - does Ally solely look at the content of uploaded files, or does it also check content of Canvas wiki pages/syllabus/quizzes/etc?

Thanks for any help here Smiley Happy

Adam

nolaug
Community Participant

Adam,

I cannot reply to #1 - since I did not do the contract with Ally, however, we have Ally installed on our LMS for about a year now. Regarding #2 - Besides checking Files, you will notice the accessibility icon scores will also appear next to a file or image linked in a content page. Remember within the Rich Content Editor, there is the Canvas Accessibility Checker which we are encouraging our faculty to use to check their html content in pages or the syllabus tool, quizzes, etc. (Where ever the Rich Content Editor is used.)

I took a brief screen shot of a sample content page to reflect the above. I hope this helps. Feel free to reach out with other questions. Happy to help if I can.

Nancy

Example of a Canvas Content Page with the Blackboard Ally scoring associated with the files linked in the page.

a_craik
Community Contributor

Thanks Nancy, that's really helpful in clarifying the capabilities of the tool

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Nancy, we implemented Ally and enabled all courses last week. The Accessibility Report shows and up and is working, but we have no alternative format icons or icons for instructors on the page, as you have illustrated above.

Any tips you can share? I feel as though we are missing something...

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nolaug
Community Participant

Are the icons showing up on all your documents and things in Files? In Files, when you click on the three little dots to the far right of a document, you will see options such as download, rename, move, delete, and this is where you will see the alternative formats listed.

As far as the Pages tool, we see the icons on any document or image we use (not links) on those pages. The alternative formats are found in Files though next to each file.

Hope this helps.

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a_craik
Community Contributor

Just to update (I can't seem to edit the original post) I have one more point for clarification if anyone can help:

I had presumed that the no. of FTE counted was employees - not students. Is that correct, or are these price brackets based on no. of students?

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Number of FTE students.

The 1 - 2000 FTE band is their lowest.

They base the figures on the attendance data reported to your state the most recent year.

They may be able to negotiate some on the training costs or other incidentals.

You may get more bang for your buck by adding in the Ally for Websites for your school website in the same contract.