Make Your myLesley Content More Accessible

Faculty often ask if Blackboard is accessible. While most web-based tools can always be more accessible and easier to use, the basic answer is “Yes, Blackboard is accessible.” The real problem often comes when we upload files and documents to Blackboard that may not be as accessible as they should be. We may not even be aware that the files we uploaded aren’t accessible to students with impairments. Blackboard Ally wants to fix that.

When an instructor uploads a file to myLesley (Blackboard), using the exact same process they currently use, Ally compares the file to a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Checklist. It then does three things.

For students, Ally automatically converts that file into alternative, accessible formats. Alternative formats include Tagged PDF, HTML, ePub, electronic braille and audio. If the instructor uploads a scanned chapter or article, Ally will convert it to an OCR PDF which can be read as text by a screen reader.
Ally alternative formats

This a proactive and automatic process that happens without the instructor or Disability Services doing anything. Students do not need to self-identify or request alternative versions. The downside is that the quality of these alternative versions can vary. The more complex the original document, the more difficult it is to create a converted document that is useful and easy to navigate by the students who need them.

Therefore Ally also provides guidance to faculty on how to improve the accessibility of the documents uploaded to Blackboard. Each uploaded document receives an accessibility score and red, orange or green icon. Clicking on the icon presents you with information on what accessibility issues are in the document, information on why it is an issue, and links to tutorials on how to make changes to the document.

Ally has let you, the instructor, know that your documents may not be accessible and how to improve their accessibility without the need to attend a training or to have Disability Services reach out to you. You can slowly educate yourself on accessibility and improve not just the documents that are currently in your course, but also all future documents you will create. Over time, you will simply create accessible documents from the beginning because now you know how and how easy it can be.

Lastly, Ally provides an Institutional Report telling the university which courses have inaccessible content and what kinds of content are problematic. This means that the university can target its outreach and training based on our specific issues. One program may have a lot of courses with images and no alternative descriptions. Another’s biggest issue may be that Word documents require headings and subheadings. Instead of offering generic training and support for everyone, we can now reach out to each program and offer training and assistance for the issues they actually are having. The report also allows us to demonstrate our improvement over time.
Ally institutional report main issues

Ally will be available to all myLesley courses beginning this Fall. Keep an eye out for those accessibility scores on your documents. Ally is also making continuous improvements so don’t be surprised when new features and guidance become available.

If you have questions about Ally or need assistance, email elis@lesley.edu.

Take Attendance in myLesley

Blackboard has rolled out a new Attendance tool, allowing instructors to easily and quickly track attendance. Using the Attendance tool will create an Attendance column in the Grade Center, which will provide an overall attendance score.

Instructors can now find the new Attendance tool by going to the Control Panel > Course Tools > Attendance.

access the attendance tool

 

For more information see Attendance or view the tutorial video below:

Grade Center Improvements

myLesley’s recent update to Blackboard’s latest version (Q2 2018) included several enhancements to the Grade Center making it easier to navigate while grading your students’ work.

Full Titles of Grade Center Columns

You can now view the full title of your Grade Center column making it easier to distinguish between similarly-titled grade items.

Before
Grade Center Column Titles Before

Now
Grade Center Column Titles After

 

View More Grade Columns

The width of the Grade Center is no longer fixed. You can now view as many columns as the size of their window will allow. If you are on a small screen, you may only see a few grade columns and need to scroll. If you are on a larger screen, you will see more columns. The grade center will adapt to the size of your browser window.

 

Full-Screen Mode

Need even more space to view the Grade Center? Instructors now have the ability to view the Grade Center in Full Screen mode. Full Screen mode collapses the side navigation and the top banner, allowing you to see more of the Grade Center on your screen.

 

More updates are coming to myLesley throughout the summer. Keep an eye out for all the new features.

New Features in myLesley

On June 8, 2018, myLesley was updated to the most recent version of Blackboard (Q2 2018). The update included a few new features and options. There will be more features released [enter tag link] for this version over the summer so keep an eye out.

Customize Your Course Menu Colors

When Lesley University transitioned to SaaS in January, we also updated to the latest theme design Blackboard offers. The advantage of the new theme is that myLesley will adapt to the device you are currently using whether it’s a cell phone, tablet, small screen laptop or large screen monitor. The disadvantage is that custom menu colors weren’t supported, but that’s in the past. Custom menu colors are back!

Customize CourseTo customize your menu colors, go to Control Panel, select Customization and then select Teaching Style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Select Menu StyleNext, scroll down to Select Menu Style.

Select the Background Color and Text Color you wish to have.

Keep accessibility in mind when choosing menu colors. You want colors that have a high level of contrast to ensure readability.

Sadly the Buttons option is not currently compatible with our version of Blackboard.

Be sure to click Apply after selecting your new colors or it will not take effect. Click Submit when you are done to apply your choices to your course menu.

View Blackboard’s Course Style Options information to learn more about customizing your course.

Rescheduled SafeAssign Maintenance in myLesley

SafeAssign, the anti-plagiarism service in Blackboard, will not be available Monday, April 2nd, 3:00AM – 10:00AM ET. Blackboard will be performing maintenance to move the service to new servers.

What does this mean for you? 

Assignments submitted by students during this time will not be processed by SafeAssign, nor will they be queued for processing once the service is back online. Instructors can Direct Submit any submitted assignments once the service resumes.

Please note that the Assignment tool itself will not be affected. The maintenance will only affect the SafeAssign feature within the Assignment tool.