On Thursday 20th May 2021 it is the tenth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access, inclusion and accessibility.
Did you know that 1 billion people Worldwide have disabilities. Some common disabilities and impairments include visual, hearing, motor and cognitive. The goal of Global Accessibility Awareness Day is to shine a light on digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Every user deserves a first-rate digital experience on the web. Someone with a disability must be able to experience web-based services, content and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities.
Alongside our ongoing ‘Build Accessible’ campaign, we are excited to to support GAAD and we will also be taking part in the Global ‘Fix Your Content Day 2021 – Blackboard Ally’.
This 24-hour competition (taking place on Thursday 20th May 2021) is committed to creating accessible and more inclusive digital learning content across institutions globally. The objective of the day is simple, make as many ‘fixes’ as possible to your Blackboard course files through using Blackboard Ally. During the day Blackboard will track the activity of participating Universities and award a champion at the end of the day!
It would be great if lots of staff could engage with this competition, even just making a couple of fixes to your files would help push our accessibility score up and get Edge Hill on the leader board.
To support staff with accessibility and GAAD why not attend our ‘Build Accessible’ drop-in session taking place on the day? Learn top tips on how to make your content more accessible and get support with any accessibility queries. Further details about the drop-in session can be found on the Getting Digital Ready wiki page.
A new feature is now available to use as a Moderator in your online lecture and seminar sessions in Blackboard Collaborate – Gallery View.
What is Gallery View?
Similar to other video conferencing platforms, Gallery View will allow Moderators to see up to 25 camera feeds from session attendees on their screen, allowing them to see individual attendee reactions and improving the overall teaching and learning experience when delivering via Collaborate.
What’s more, Gallery View includes the option to change to two additional viewing modes – ‘Speaker View’ and ‘Tiled View’ – which will follow the active speaker and will make their camera feed the main video that is on-screen – Ideal for presentation and discussion-based scenarios.
Each of the the new viewing modes are selectable on the top right-hand corner of your Collaborate screen:
Speaker View allows for a single user’s camera to be the main display on screen for all the attendees of the session.
Beneath the main screen, you’re able to see the camera feeds of three other session attendees so that you can still gauge their reaction during the presentation or discussion.
Similar to Speaker View, Tiled View allows for the current speaker’s camera feed to be given the main display position in the session, with an additional three session attendee cameras being displayed to the right-hand side of the main camera.
The only difference between Tiled View and Speaker View is the layout, so your favourite view will come down to personal preference!
New Control Features
Gallery View also includes some additional controls that will allow you to configure the overall view on your own screen and to moderate your session whilst using the Gallery View mode.
Your attendees are listed in alphabetical order and their camera feeds can be zoomed in upon to allow for less cameras to be on-screen and for any displayed cameras to be in a larger size.
To view any cameras that are not currently on display, you can navigate between ‘pages’ of your session using the left and right-arrow icons on either side of the session screen.
These controls are highlighted below:
Lastly, you’re able to moderate your session by clicking on individual attendees and selecting the option to either send them a private message, change their role in the session or remove the person from the session:
Whilst in Gallery View, you are also able to switch the focus to any content that you would like to share, such as a PowerPoint Presentation or screen-sharing, and return to the Gallery View mode once you have stopped sharing.
Want to see Gallery View in action? See this short introduction from Blackboard, below.
One of the beneficial features of Blackboard Ally is the Course Accessibly Report. For each module it shows:
Overall course accessibly score.
List of issues that have been identified in the course.
Distribution of course content by type.
The accessibility report organises content into options such as “Content that’s easiest to fix” and “Content with most severe issues”.
Accessing the Course Accessibility Report
To access the report, go to Course Tools – Accessibility Report.
You can then click on the ‘Start’ buttons to begin improving the accessibility of your content.
Blackboard Ally measures the accessibility of your course content and displays an accessibility indicator showing how it scores. The higher the score the fewer the issues.
Low (Red, 0-33%): Needs help! There are severe accessibility issues.
Medium (Amber, 34-66%): A little better. The file is somewhat accessible and needs improvement.
High (Light Green, 67-99%): Almost there. The file is accessible, but more improvements are possible.
Perfect (Dark Green, 100%): Perfect! Ally didn’t identify any accessibility issues, but further improvements may still be possible.
Instructor Feedback Panel
Content with the easiest issues to fix can often be done so directly from the Instructor Feedback Panel for example adding Alt text to images, this is a quick way to improve the accessibility of a document.
Other documents require you to download the document, fix any issues & then upload the improved version, you can do this all from within the Instructor Feedback Panel.
In the example below, the first step would be to click ‘All issues’. Ally lists the issues within the document and provides instructions on how to fix them. From within the guidance you can choose to download the document and once the issues are fixed reupload your improved file. This automatically replaces the existing inaccessible file and updates the Accessibility Score.
To learn more about how to build accessible content we have created a whole section on our Accessibility pages.
We have also scheduled lots of new sessions to support you with this:
Build Accessible: Making Documents Accessible
Build Accessible: Importance of accessible formats and accessibility software (Blackboard Ally)
This month we have a range of bookable staff development sessions on offer, from getting started with Learning Edge to implementing breakout rooms successfully.
Making “Groupwork” Work: Facilitating effective groupwork online
This session will explore techniques, tips and strategies to effectively facilitate groupwork online, with a specific focus on integrating breakout rooms in Blackboard Collaborate and utilising tools such as the whiteboard, Padlet, Vevox and more. Not only will we consider how to set up/use breakout rooms effectively, but how we can use them with a purpose, for example, to work intensely on focused tasks, establish closer connections via discussion/activities and build momentum for discussion back in the main room.
Monday 15th March (12pm-1:30pm) Thursday 15th April (1pm-2:30pm)
Another valuable online resource for staff development is LinkedIn Learning. LinkedIn Learning is an online learning platform which contains a wide variety of courses on topics including business, management, design, photography, IT, marketing, media and much more.
As part of the My Staff Development offer, within each of the pathways you will find a range of LinkedIn Learning courses we have recommended. These pathways have further been divided into Build, Develop and Enhance.
Today, we’re excited to announce that Qwickly attendance session scheduling is now available within all Blackboard courses. This feature has been a widely requested among staff here at Edge Hill University, and now all users have the ability to bulk create scheduled attendance sessions into their online register schedule.
Typically, staff create an attendance session within the moment that they take attendance for a session. This new feature enables staff to schedule attendance sessions for an entire semester before classes start, providing staff and students with:
A clear roadmap of all sessions throughout the semester
Assistance to all staff in identifying sessions where attendance may have been forgotten
The ability for instructors to mark a student excused far in advance, providing clear insight for other staff members of any known absence.
To schedule an Attendance session, staff must go to the bottom of the Attendance setting menu within Qwickly Attendance. Here they can input the start and end date for their courses (or the first and last date of the semester), as well as the days of the week when they meet. Once an Attendance session has been scheduled, it will appear in the Attendance Record and will be immediately available for an instructor to use to track attendance. For further insight please view the video link below, or head over to the Qwickly Section on the Learning Services Wiki.
If you would like any further information about Qwickly Attendance or other learning technologies, please contact your Learning Technologist via Ask LTD
In Jan 2019 EHU acquired a new technology called Blackboard Ally to help improve the accessibility of content within Blackboard, in line with UK legislation.
Ally not only provides staff with an accessibility score and guidance on files uploaded to Blackboard but also provides the files in alternative formats.
Alternative formats provide greater opportunities for everyone to access the information they need in the way they need or want it. With alternative formats all students can meet the same learning objectives using resources that are built to target the needs of the individual student. For example, students have converted lecture slides to audio, listening to them during their commute and to help them revise.
In the past the advice was to upload your materials to Blackboard as PDF’s to aid viewing on mobile devices. Since then, technology has moved on and advice has changed. It is easier and quicker to upload an accessible document in its original format, such as a Word document or PowerPoint. In its orginal format, students can then choose to download a version of the document that’s right for their own learning style through Ally Alternative formats.
We are often asked if students are using this feature? Yes they are!
Our students are now accessing the resources that you upload to Blackboard in a variety of formats, between Sept 2020-Jan 2021 there has been a total of 19,600 downloads across 1,952 courses.
The two most popular alternative formats that students have accessed is ePub and Tagged PDF:
The ePub alternative creates a digital publishing file that can be viewed on mobile devices. ePub files are responsive, this means they will automatically adapt to the screen size of your device. With an ePub you can take notes, adjust the text and background settings and create bookmarks.
You want to read content on your tablet, eReader or phone.
You want to adjust font size and background colour.
You want to highlight content, take notes, and bookmark important pages.
You want to be able to copy, paste, and search text.
You study on your commute and want to take your study materials with you
A Tagged PDF uses tags and elements—such as paragraphs and headings to add meaning to a page. It aids screen reader users as it adds structure to documents.
Tagged PDF might be useful if:
You want to be able to copy, paste, and search text.
You want to use text-to-speech and adjust the speed of the speech.
You use a screen reader.
Ally alternative formats are automatically generated from the original source document and this is why it is so important (as well as a legal requirement) to make the content you upload accessible. See our wiki pages for help & support with creating accessible content.
We have also scheduled a range of sessions that focus on accessibility:
Build Accessible: Making Documents Accessible – Wednesday 17th March (1pm-2pm) – Thursday 22nd April (12pm-1pm) – Wednesday 2nd June (1pm-2pm)
Build Accessible: Importance of accessible formats and accessibility software (Blackboard Ally) – Friday 19th March (12pm-12:30pm) – Friday 9th April (12pm-12:30pm) – Friday 7th May (12pm-12:30pm)
This government regulation* is an extension of the Equality Act 2010 and is benchmarked against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA (WCAG 2.1 AA Standard). Its purpose is to ensure that public sector websites’ content is accessible for all users and can be used with the most common assistive technologies, including screen magnifiers, screen readers and speech recognition tools.
It is particularly important to be aware that content that is published after 23rd September 2019 must meet these guidelines and any video or audio content published after 23rd September 2020 must include captions and transcripts.
This short blog contains information on the resources that are available to you to enable you to make your content compliant.
*Further information can be found at the end of this blog article – See ‘Further Reading’.
The Learning Design Exemplar – Quick and simple support materialcreated for you
To enable and support staff in their use of learning technologies, the LTD Team have developed The Learning Design Exemplar – A quick and easy-to-use information resource located within each staff members’ Learning Edge (Blackboard) course list.
We’re pleased to also announce a brand-new section – ‘Inclusive by Design’ – in response to working towards achieving accessibility requirements to benefit our students.
This section has been created to serve as a quick resource to guide you through the various techniques, tools and functions that can be used to create accessible content.
Remember: Think “Build Accessible“.
In less than 15 minutes of video guides, this section covers the following topics for making your content compliant:
How to quickly caption your recorded content
Quickly add captions to your Collaborate sessions and videos through the use of Panopto and making them compliant with accessibility requirements.
Using the Ally tool in Blackboard, how it scores the accessibility of published content and documents and how improvements can be made quickly.
Accessibility Quick Wins
7 Best Practice tips to quickly make sure that your documents are accessible for all users.
These techniques and tools can be used to evaluate and improve existing course material accessibility for your students and further material is included to review topics in greater detail.
It’s quick and simple to find:
Simply search for “Learning Design Exemplar” within your course list on Learning Edge (Blackboard) and the course will display in your results:
And that’s not all…
Have you wondered how to go about using breakout groups in your Collaborate sessions but don’t know where to start?
Are you unsure about that particular setting for your Turnitin Submission Dropbox?
Do you need to know how to quickly add captions to your Collaborate session recordings?
It’s all in the Learning Design Exemplar!
Each section provides information and bite-size video guides for the most commonly used learning technologies ranging from Blackboard and Collaborate to Panopto and other tools:
The accessibility of content within the government regulations is benchmarked against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA (WCAG 2.1 AA Standard) and the content’s ability to be used with the most common assistive technologies, including screen magnifiers, screen readers and speech recognition tools.
Published on the UK Government webpages this standard follows four design principles for published content – It must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.
Making sure that your content is recognisable to users by the senses that are available to them.
Making content perceivable includes practices such as:
Providing accurate captions and transcripts for audio and video content.
Ensuring content uses a clear and sizeable font.
Making sure that content can be navigated and read by screen readers by ensuring that it is structured logically, does not use images of text and contains Alt Text to describe images and their meaning.
Follow best practices for use of colour contrast.
Does not use colour alone to convey the meaning of words.
Making sure that your content can be navigated by the chosen method of the user.
Making content operable includes practices such as:
Making sure that the content can be navigated purely by keyboard.
Not using blinking or flashing content, and allowing the user to play, pause or stop content containing movement.
Using descriptive page titles, headings and page links so that the user knows how to navigate the content and where a link will take them.
Making sure that your content is easy for the user to understand.
Making content understandable includes practices such as:
Using plain, concise language and avoiding figurative language or phrases that the user may not recognise.
Making sure that the document or content is consistent and can be followed easily, allowing for it to be predictable for the user.
Explaining any abbreviations or acronyms that are not widely known or in common use.
When using a form, making sure that each field within the form is labelled visibly and meaningfully.
Making sure that your content can be interpreted reliably by assistive technologies and web browsers.
Making content robust includes practices such as:
Ensuring that content uses valid HTML – This can be supported through the use of content editors, such as the content editor within Blackboard.
Following accessibility best practices, such as use of Alt Text for images and Header Rows for Tables, to allow the content to be navigable by assistive technologies.
Before we break for Christmas, take a look at three new sessions that are available for staff to book onto. These sessions specifically focus on moving your teaching online and incorporating some new technologies.
Wakelet is a content curation platform that allows staff and students to save links, share videos, social media posts and images. With Wakelet you can organise your content into private or public spaces and collections, allowing for easy distribution and collaboration. This session aims to provide staff with an introduction to Wakelet, including how to get started, create collections and curate different media types.
Wednesday 9th December (1pm-2pm)
OneNote: Creating Digital Escape Rooms
Escape rooms are highly engaging and experiential team/individual events that are designed to put your creative problem-solving skills to the test. In the digital age it is important that remote teams and students are still provided with these fun opportunities. Can you breakout of this virtual escape room?
OneNote, part of Office 365, is a note-taking program that allows you to get organised in online notebooks. You can divide it into sections, add pages and then insert text, images, videos, tables and more.
But OneNote is much more than just an online notebook and can be used creatively to design engaging and interactive materials for students. This session aims to demonstrate how you can use OneNote to create digital escape room challenges.
Tuesday 15th December (1pm-2pm)
Are we YouTubers?: Using Flipgrid and Microsoft Stream as video-blogging tools for students
YouTube is one of the most popular social media platforms, with nearly 2 billion users. Some recent statistics show that 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and we watch over 1 billion hours of video a day! These numbers are key in showing us that we live in a society consumed by videos and multimedia (not to mention how much time we spend binge-watching on Netflix too).
As a result of COVID-19 the importance of video has surged to the forefront, a key way in allowing us to connect, learn and share ideas. This session aims to consider the impact of online learning and question our use of recording software. How do we record lectures? What methods do we implement to facilitate successful sessions/meetings? How do we make our online sessions and videos engaging?
This session will specifically refer to and demonstrate two key platforms that are powerful video tools – Flipgrid and Microsoft Stream.
In response to supporting staff with digital technologies and staff development, we have developed a new initiative called LTD Q&A.
These informal Q&A drop-in sessions are aimed at supporting staff with digital teaching and learning tools, digital technologies and staff development. For example, come along and ask us a question about Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint, Vevox, Padlet, Turnitin and more …
These drop-ins are a great opportunity to ask a question in a supportive environment, engage in discussion and share best practice with your colleagues.
Today I’m going to discuss badges, and nope, not the ones which are worn and collected by boy or girl Scouts, I’m talking about the digital type, though it would be wise to point out that digital badges are actually somewhat modelled after this type of Scout badging system.
Similar to a physical badge, which signifies the completion of a task or an acquired skill level, digital badges can be used to visually display a wide variety of skills and competencies online. Digital badges also take principles from video game design as they can be used as a reward for completion of a task or a means to unlock additional tasks (that must be completed in sequential order).
So, now that we know a little more about what digital badges are, why would we want to use them in higher education? Well, there has been a significant amount of research over the past ten years. With interest in how digital badges expand online student motivation, engagement, tracking, and an overall sense of achievement and recognition. Throw all of this in the mix and then add a pinch of the current world climate and we have a fairly strong basis to enhance our virtual learning environment (VLE) with the use of digital badges.
As an institution, we utilise Blackboard as our VLE, which means every member of staff has the option to incorporate digital badges into their courses. Although one major detail that I need to make clear is that Blackboard’s offering of digital badges is officially referred to as ‘Blackboard Achievements’ – that’s probably really important to point out.
So, whenever you hear the term digital badges and blackboard – all you need to remember is the ‘Blackboard Achievements’ tool.
So “how do they work”?
Firstly, with the Blackboard Achievement tool, you can designate a multitude of different criteria for issuing digital badges to students directly from each of your courses. Essentially the achievements tool allows you to create and then define any “triggers” or actions that students must complete in their course to be awarded a badge of your design. Some of the common activities that can be used as “triggers” are:
Having students use the “Mark as Reviewed” feature for any content or learning module
Obtaining a specific grade on an assignment or test
Posting to the discussion board, a blog, wiki, etc…
Having a high level of attendance within an online register
As well as giving students a rewards-driven incentive to learning. Digital badges in Blackboard also improves the use of the ‘Performance Dashboard’ tool, which gives staff more detail into online student engagement and tracking.
When badges are created and used within a course, it will enable students to see which badges they have earned and what is required to receive additional recognition. Here all students can gain insight into the following:
Developing a rewards-driven incentive for learning
Using the badges as a framework, to encourage them to explore and participate more
Give more understanding into learning progression to defined competencies so they can see what they need to do to achieve more
For more information about using Blackboard Achievements please use the following videos and resources: