Alternative Formats

Alternative formats provide greater opportunity for all of your students to access the information they need in the way they need or want it. For example, Blackboard Ally creates audio and electronic braille alternatives for students with visual impairments. The BeeLine Reader can make reading on a screen easier, and audio formats allow students with a long commute to listen to their learning materials while they drive. 

Students can choose the format, or formats, that best suit their learning needs, and instructors don't need to do anything.

Find the available alternative formats

Ally creates alternative formats of the original content instructors add to their courses. These formats are made available with the original file so everything is in one convenient location.

The alternative formats created depend on the original content. If you don't see an option to download alternative formats, Ally isn't enabled for that course or the file is not a supported content type.

Select the Download Alternative Formats icon wherever you see it to download the content in a different format. 

Alternative Format Icon in Original Course View

in original course view, the alternative formats icon is placed next to the title of the content

In the Original Course View, the Alternative Format icon is placed next to the title of the content.

Alternative Format Icon in Ultra Course View

on the ultra course view content tab, the alternative format icon appears to the far right of the file name

In the Ultra Course View, the Alternative Format icons appears to the far right of the file, when you are on the Course Content tab of the course. 

on a document in ultra course view, the alternative format icon appears at the top of the document and allows you to select which files in the document you wish to download as alternative formats

If the content is in a document (which opens as a separate panel that slides from the right), the Alternative Format icon appears at the top of the page and allows you to download an alternative format for any content on that page.

Alternative Format Icon in the Blackboard Mobile App

to download alternative formats in the Blackboard mobile app, click the three dots menu in the upper right to access the content menu

In the Blackboard mobile app, the Ally Alternative Formats icon is not visible. Instead, click the three dots (...) in the upper right corner of the app to open the content menu and find the option to download alternative formats.

Frequently Asked Questions

What file types does Ally support?

Ally will check and provide alternative formats for any visual or text-based content that you have added to your Blackboard course, including the following file formats:

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft® Word files
  • Microsoft® Powerpoint® files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files
  • Image files, including JPG, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF

Ally also checks any text and images created using the text editor, although the results for that content is currently only available in the course accessibility report.

What alternative formats does Ally generate?

Ally provides alternative formats for these content types:

  • PDF files
  • Microsoft® Word files
  • Microsoft® Powerpoint® files
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice files
  • Uploaded HTML files

These alternative formats can be generated:

  • OCR’d version (for scanned documents)
  • Tagged PDF (currently for Word, Powerpoint and OpenOffice/LibreOffice files)
  • Mobile-friendly HTML
  • Audio
  • ePub
  • Electronic Braille
  • BeeLine Reader
What about copyright and prohibitions on making derivative works?

This is an important question, particularly if you are using materials from other sources, like journal articles or publisher resources. Generally, you would not be allowed to modify these materials unless they have a creative commons or open-source license that allows derivative works.

There are a number of reasons why it is acceptable for Ally to provide these alternative formats, however:

  • Alternative formats are only and always available with the original file.
  • Students must be enrolled in a course to get alternative formats, which allows for an argument that these are instructional materials shared under fair use guidelines.  
  • Ally does not provide alternative formats for any documents with metadata stating no derivatives of a document can be generated. Ally will only scan the document for accessibility issues and include this data in the course report and instructor feedback.
What does Ally do with YouTube videos?

Ally checks YouTubeTM videos for captions and presents this information in the course accessibility report. Auto-generated YouTube captions aren't considered to be valid captions due to the likelihood of errors. Any YouTube video with auto-generated captions is considered "not captioned".

Ally checks for both embedded YouTube videos and links to YouTube videos. There isn't any feedback or alternative formats available at this time for videos.

Can I disable alternative formats for specific items?

Yes. You can turn off alternative formats for individual content items, if you want. You can enable it again later.

To disable alternative formats for a specific content item:

  1. Find the content in your course and click the Alternative Formats icon
  2. Click the arrow next to Download alternative formats to open the menu
  3. Click Disable alternative formats for this file
  4. Click Close to close the alternative formats pop-up
Is there a file size limit?

Ally doesn't enforce a file size limit. There may be cases where the algorithm fails to generate alternative formats for certain large files. 

  • Keep the original content to fewer than 100 pages to generate an OCR format.
  • Limit content to 100,000 characters for the audio format.
  • Limit content to 30,000 characters for the translated format.
  • Limit corrected files uploaded through the Instructor Feedback panel to 50MB.

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