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Ally, A11y and Online - Fiona MacNeill

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Ally, A11y and Online - Fiona MacNeill

  1. 1. a11y, ally, and online: Service Design for Blackboard Ally Fiona MacNeill | | @fmacneill University of Brighton
  2. 2. This presentation is about Blackboard Ally… …it is also about the services and people that operate around Blackboard Ally
  3. 3. Concepts used in this presentation Service Design Big picture mindset Before, during, and after use Operations around the goal/s Relationships between activities User Experience Design Big picture down to the minutiae During use Functions to support the goal/s Individual activities Methods + Tools I am a learning technologist, but I am also a trained user-centred designer. I take inspiration from Service Design and User Experience Design.
  4. 4. What we will cover… a11y How we approached accessibility prior to having Ally ally How we implemented a service design for Blackboard Ally at University of Brighton online How we drove engagement through online training, guidance, and outreach There will be time for questions at the end Jill and Tucker are on-hand in the chat and Q&A
  5. 5. Tool Used: Proto Persona (Gothelf, 2013) University of Brighton Four campuses on the South Coast of England Behaviours and Actions • Emphasis on Inclusive Practice • Widening participation a crucial driver • Management buy-in for auditing • Recognised need to improve resources Demographic and Psychographic Details • Students: 18,987 | Staff: 2,600 • Schools 13 (moving to 7) • Disabled students 21% Learning disability: 13% or 1 in 8 • Disabled staff 8.8% Needs and Pain Points • Student communications and support • Limited staff resource for accessibility • The pandemic: academic staff burnout • Mismatch between expectations and outcomes
  6. 6. a11y ~ a [ccessibilit] y ~ a [string of 11 characters] y
  7. 7. The emotion line of when
  8. 8. ally ~ an add-on for Blackboard VLE. Blackboard Ally improves the experience for all users by providing alternative document formats. Blackboard Ally provides feedback to staff so that accessibility can continually improve.
  9. 9. Blackboard Ally was announced on 21st May 2020 for launch on 17th August 2020 • Used Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) as an opportunity for outreach. Inspired by Govt. Digital Service (Fry, 2020) • Announced Blackboard Ally via a webinar on Microsoft Teams and gave a demo • Celebrated GAAD via Twitter, Periscope and an MS Teams Escape the Room game 5,970 Tweet Impressions (21 May) 17 x the Twitter traffic of a typical day
  10. 10. We were totally ready for Blackboard Ally Overall accessibility per month – Ally statistics for historic content 2018-2021 Based on the average of the accessibility scores of all content items that were added during each month 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Trough Accessibility Training (July 2019) GAAD 2020 Bb Ally
  11. 11. Our to-do list 1. Who | Identify and communicate with stakeholders. Win over hearts and minds 2. What and When | Plan for a phased roll out of Blackboard Ally 3. Where and How | Deliver training completely online with self-service options
  12. 12. Tool used: Task Scenarios (e.g., McCloskey, 2014) Task scenarios are itemised stories about a specific tasks in context Helpful for finding pinch points in an existing workflow as the basis for support and training design Scenario 1: Check existing documents: Scanned PDFs without OCR Practical Goal: Learn what is wrong with the document using the Ally report tool and resolve the problem. Context: On a personal computer connected to the Internet using a web browser at home. User will login to the VLE and open their module… User/s: Academic staff; Professional staff who create student-facing resources.
  13. 13. to-do 1.1 Identify and communicate with stakeholders… The Task Analysis uncovered an opportunity to establish a referral pathway to our libraries. Method used: Customer value chain also known as an ecosystem map (Kalbach, 2016, p. 86).
  14. 14. Task Scenarios: Students Scenario 1: Download content from the LMS/VLE in a different format Scenario 2: Ask for help to report an issue with a document
  15. 15. to-do 1.2 Identify and communicate with stakeholders… An opportunity to build and strengthen internal collaborations
  16. 16. to-do 1.3 …Win over hearts and minds Key points Minimise tracking/auditing due to perception as surveillance Create a core message in your own words Core Message – Three Things you Need to know about Ally 1. Ally saves time by automatically creating alternative document formats 2. Ally supports the access needs of all students 3. Ally provides feedback which is only visible to instructors to help improve the accessibility of content in My Studies
  17. 17. to-do 2. Plan for a phased roll out of Blackboard Ally Two phases were planned with the ethos of improvement first, statistics later Planned to delay release of the ‘Course Accessibility Report’ until Dec 2020
  18. 18. The Course Accessibility Summary Consider how a service sits alongside other software and services Delayed the ‘Course Accessibility Report’ further to May 2021 and renamed it ‘Accessibility Summary’ Report ~ Reporting = Tracking
  19. 19. online ~ the challenge of working online and reaching people during a pandemic even when you are a technical person
  20. 20. to-do 3. Deliver training completely online with self-service options Via MS Teams but using Blackboard Learn with task scenarios With companion session: ‘Creating Accessible Digital Documents’
  21. 21. The Ally Effect Ally has helped us to achieve and maintain a higher level of accessibility across LMS/VLE page content and uploads By February 2021 improvement had plateaued Overall accessibility Jul-Feb in 2018, 2019, 2020 Semester 1 (Oct-Jan) to Semester 2 (Feb-June) transition – Based on monthly averages 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb 2020/21 2019/20 2018/19
  22. 22. Communications goals for Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2021 • To raise awareness of accessibility and why it is important. • To highlight and remind people about Blackboard Ally. • To provide practical tips for accessibility adjustments in university tools and software. • Link to the bigger picture of accessibility: legal standards for institution, and future employer expectations for students. Our new to-do drive and sustain engagement
  23. 23. Objectives for GAAD 2021 for Staff Increase attendance at our training sessions Increase conversion rates by at least 5% (instructor feedback panel launch : no. of fixes)
  24. 24. Objectives for GAAD 2021 for Students Increase conversion rates by at least 2% (alternative formats window launches : downloads) Benchmark period 22 March to 21 April = 57%
  25. 25. Global Accessibility Day (GAAD) 2021 20th May 2021 Participant effort: Low, Mod., High Before During After Tweets, micro tutorial videos Weekly blog posts Online pledge Event attendance Collaboration with University of Sussex Workshop attendance Fix Your Content Day
  26. 26. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 Engagement with Instructor Feedback over time 22/3/21 – 21/05/21 Instructor Feedback Launches Fixes Course Accessibility Report Launches Results for staff Increase attendance at our training sessions – no change 22 April – 21 May: no increase in conversion rate (launch : fix) Launched Accessibility Summary 7 May 2021
  27. 27. Results for students 22 April – 21 May: (alternative formats window launches : downloads) =64% +7% as compared to 57% benchmark +2% goal exceeded 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 Alternative formats usage over time 22/3/21 – 21/05/21 Launches Downloads
  28. 28. Summary – Top tips that work 1. Focus on tool-based tasks and values to stay concise 2. Craft consistent and simple messages 3. Opportunities to collaborate are chances to remind and refine 4. Celebrate and cherish people who attend workshops/events 5. Iterate, iterate, iterate 6. Plan how you will continue to drive and sustain engagement 7. Staff awareness has a bearing on student engagement
  29. 29. We all do better when accessibility is better. Accessibility is better when we all do it.
  30. 30. Thank you for coming! Fiona MacNeill @fmacneill on Twitter Blogging at:
  31. 31. Methods and tools we used • Proto Personae • Information Architecture principles • Task scenarios • Customer value mapping • Project planning template and interactive whiteboard (Mural template) • Usable and context relevant language • Data driven insights
  32. 32. References [1/4] Advance HE (2020) Equality and higher education - staff statistical report 2020. Available at: (Accessed: 27 June 2021). Advance HE (2020) Equality and higher education - student statistical report 2020. Available at: (Accessed: 27 June 2021). Brand, S. (1995) How buildings learn: what happens after they’re built. New York, NY: Penguin Books. Fry, R. (2020) ‘What happened on Global Accessibility Day at GDS’, Government Digital Service Blog, 2 June. Available at: awareness-day-at-gds/ (Accessed: 4 July 2021).
  33. 33. References [2/4] Gothelf, J. (2013) Lean UX applying lean principles to improve user experience. Edited by Seiden, J. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media Inc. Information about different types of disability (2020) University of Brighton (unpublished). Available at: (Accessed: 24 March 2021). Kalbach, J. (2016) Mapping experiences – a guide to creating value through journeys, blueprints, and diagrams. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media Inc. Mapping from students in higher education publication to he student data tables (no date) HESA. Available at: (Accessed: 24 March 2021). McCloskey , M. (2014) ‘Task scenarios for usability testing’, Nielsen Norman Group, 12 January. Available at: (Accessed: 24 March 2021).
  34. 34. References [3/4] Office for Students (2020) Equality, diversity and student characteristics data. Available at: characteristics-data/official-statistics/ (Accessed: 27 June 2021). Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, no. 952. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2021). Rosenfeld, L., Morville, P. and Arango, J. (2015) Information architecture: for the web and beyond. Fourth edition. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc. Staff equalities monitoring report 18/19 (2020) University of Brighton Equality and Diversity (unpublished). Available at: staff/Internal%20Staff_Equalities_monitoring_report_1819%20FINAL.pdf
  35. 35. References [4/4] Student population (2020) University of Brighton. Available at: us/statistics-and-legal/facts-and-figures/student-population.aspx (Accessed: 24 March 2021). Resources All of University of Brighton’s GAAD related blog posts Wakelet board for GAAD in 2020 | Wakelet board for GAAD in 2021

Editor's Notes

  • Introduce myself
  • What is Blackboard Ally?

    Excellent session from yesterday, Implementing Accessible Practices at the University of Lincoln, from Michael Shaw, touched on some similar ideas.
  • Who am I and why do I care about this stuff?
  • Introduce colleagues Jill and Tucker on the chat.
  • Declared disability
    - Sector average for disabled students in the UK: 14.5% in 2020 (OfS, 2020)
    - Sector average for disabled staff in the UK: 5.3% in 2018/19 (p. 84; Advance HE, 2020)
  • PVC = Pro-Vice-Chancellor || PSBAR = Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, no. 952.
  • Month accessibility score: The average of the accessibility scores of all content items that were added during that month. Add labels…

    Rectangle 1: First rectangle annotation over the scatter plot. It shows the pattern of a trough then a peak due to triggering of new course areas in May/June. It is coloured grey because this was prior to specific accessibility training being offered to staff. Rectangle 2: Coordinated accessibility training happened from July to October 2019

    Rectangle 3: Course triggering can account for the peak in May, but the depth of the trough as compared to previous years is lessened suggesting that our Global Accessibility Awareness day in 2020 may have helped to lay the groundwork for the introduction of Ally. Rectangle 4: Indicates when Ally was introduced in on 17th August 2020.
  • Training for SSGTs, Specialist student support
    For all academic staff with some bespoke sessions for staff. - In professional development module/course on Blackboard for staff
    - In Emergency Teaching Blog
    - Use of digital standards (GDS)
    - Guidance for Libraries and Service Desk
    - Guidance for students
  • Staff: increase conversion rates within Blackboard Ally by at least 5% in comparison to benchmark period.

    Students: increase conversion rates within Blackboard Ally by at least 2% in comparison to benchmark period.
  • Staff: increase conversion rates within Blackboard Ally by at least 5% in comparison to benchmark period.

    Students: increase conversion rates within Blackboard Ally by at least 2% in comparison to benchmark period.
  • Weekly blog posts During the four weeks leading up to GAAD. Staff weekly newsletter, noticeboard, and tweets.
    Tweets and micro tutorial videos for staff and students YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter
    Workshops, and two collaborative events with the University of Sussex
    Collaborators: Learning and Teaching Hub; Brighton Students Union; Decolonising the Curriculum Lead; Accessibility Lead for Libraries; University of Sussex TEL; Local User Experience Design Community
  • To paraphrase a combination of Eleanor Roosevelt and Paul Wellstone with my own spin.