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Ally 1.36 | Release to production 2 December 2019
New features, Updated features
Ally for Websites content feedback
The Ally content feedback component is now available for Ally for Websites. In the Ally for Websites accessibility report, the score indicators for PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoint documents and Images can be clicked to launch the feedback component, which contains information about:
- What accessibility issues have been identified in the content item
- A preview of the content item and highlights that show where specific issues can be found in the document
- Documentation on what each issue means
- Detailed guidance on how to fix an issue
- A link to where the content can be found on the website
This feedback component will make it much easier for content creators to understand how accessible a content item is, what its issues are and how it can be made more accessible.
More on how to use the feedback to improve your content
D2L Brightspace institutional hierarchy
The D2L Brightspace integration has been expanded to include the institutional hierarchy information for a course under the Department id and Department name columns in the courses.csv CSV export in the institutional report. This institutional hierarchy information is based on the `Department` organizational units that have been configured within Brightspace. This enables the calculation of the Ally score for each department in the institutional hierarchy through a tool like Excel, and serves as part of the foundational work to support native reporting by institutional hierarchy in the institutional report as part of our roadmap.
This feature requires an additional permission for the Ally API user. This can be configured under `Security > Roles and Permissions` by enabling the `Course Management Info` > `See Course Info: Enable for Course Offering` permission for the Ally API user.
A Library Reference could already be provided by instructors for scanned documents and untagged PDFs as a way to provide additional metadata for files where the instructor doesn’t have access to an original and has no other means of improving the accessibility of the file. Ally 1.36 introduces the ability for instructors to provide a Library Reference for all other PDFs.
Ally 1.36 bug fixes and improvements
- Improved the hover and focus styles of the Ally for Websites alternative formats button.
- Improved the Moodle integration to automatically accept the user policy for the Ally API user.
- Images embedded in the header or footer of a Word document are now excluded from the alternative description check.
- Fixed a bug that caused specific instructor feedback guidance fragments to not be translated correctly.
- Improved the handling of replacing a file with a different file type through the Ally instructor feedback.
Ally 1.33 | Release to production 2 July 2019
New Features, Updated Features
D2L BrightSpace integration
We are extremely proud to announce that Blackboard Ally is now available for D2L BrightSpace. Ally is seamlessly integrated into the D2L BrightSpace interface and provides the same functionality as the other Ally for LMS integrations, with alternative formats and instructor feedback being available for uploaded files such as PDF, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Images.
Next to these different file types, the institutional report also contains the results of checking the following WYSIWYG content types for accessibility issues:
- File topics
- Quiz topics
- External link topics
- Discussion topics
It may take up to July 25 for the integration to be available in D2L BrightSpace production environments, depending on which monthly release wave the environment is on.
Student alternative formats
Alternative formats panel
Instructor accessibility score
Instructor feedback panel
Administrator institutional report
More prominent alternative formats
In the last year alone, students have downloaded more than 2 million alternative formats through Ally. This has been a great confirmation of the Universal Design for Learning principles that Ally was designed with and how improved accessibility and choice can benefit all learners. Therefore, we are making the “Alternative Format” option more prominent to allow students to more easily find the alternative formats and access them more quickly.
Given that these more prominent Alternative Format icons affect the main LMS UI, we are doing a soft release of this feature. Institutions that want to enable the more prominent alternative formats straight away can request this through a Behind The Blackboard ticket. On August 1, all institutions will automatically be moved to the more prominent alternative formats, although it is possible to request a later date as well through a Behind The Blackboard ticket.
This is an overview of how the more prominent alternative formats are displayed in the different LMSs:
- Blackboard Learn: The Alternative Formats icon has been removed from the content dropdown and is now available as a single click next to the original file name.
- Blackboard Open LMS and Moodle: The Alternative Formats icon replaces the “Download” dropdown and is available as a single click next to the original file name.
- Instructure Canvas: The dropdown icon next to the original file name has been made more prominent. There are multiple actions that can be taken on a file (e.g., preview), so the dropdown is still in place to group those various actions and prevent the screen from becoming too cluttered.
- D2L BrightSpace: The Alternative Formats icon is available as a single click from the Table of Contents and the individual content pages.
Detailed usage tracking is now available for the Ally for Websites and Ally for Web Community Manager integrations. The following (anonymous) usage data is tracked for the alternative formats:
- How often is the alternative formats modal opened?
- How many alternative formats are downloaded?
- What alternative format types are downloaded?
- In which (sub)domains or sections have alternative formats been downloaded?
In the Ally for Web Community Manager integration, the following content creator feedback is tracked as well:
- How often is the content creator feedback opened?
- How many content items are improved through the content creator feedback?
- In which sections have improvements been made through the content creator feedback?
Similar to the Ally for LMS integrations, a usage report can be requested through a Behind The Blackboard support ticket. As part of our 2019 roadmap, this data will be exposed directly in the Ally report as well.
Ally 1.27 | Release to production 1 March 2019
New Features, Updated Features, Moodle Integration
Additional Moodle content types
Ally 1.27 introduces the ability to check a number of additional Moodle WYSIWYG content types for accessibility issues, and includes these results in the institutional report.
Support for the following Moodle WYSIWYG content types has been added:
- Book chapter
- Lesson page
- Page content
- Page introduction
This functionality is available for all institutions using Blackboard OpenLMS or self-hosted Moodle institutions using Moodle 3.5 or above and the latest version of the Ally Moodle plugins
Configuration UI in Moodle
The Ally Configuration UI can now be accessed directly through the Moodle administrator interface. The Configuration UI is available through Site administration > Plugins > Admin Tools > Ally configuration.
This feature also requires the latest versions of the Ally Moodle plugins.
Ally 1.27 bug fixes and improvements
- Added a “Url” column to the course CSV export in the Blackboard Learn and Canvas integrations that contains the download/access URL for each content item.
- Added a “Url” column to the domains CSV export in the Ally for Websites integration that contains the download/access URL for each web page and content item.
- Fixed a bug that caused the “Send” button to show in the alternative format “Help” screen when the help request feature was disabled.
- Fixed a bug in the Learn integration that prevented courses containing content items with blank titles from synchronizing correctly.
- Implemented several improvements to the list recognition algorithm used for the alternative formats.
- The Ally for Websites crawler has been extended to make the maximum crawl depth configurable at the institutional level.
- Improved the Canvas integration to show the alternative formats for links containing a “span” tag.
A special note from Product Management
Continuous Delivery v1.18 | Release to Production 22 August, 2018
We are developing our teaching and learning products toward the greater good of a holistic, next generation digital learning environment through the lens of three critical, unifying product themes: academic effectiveness, learner engagement, and education insight. By focusing on these themes, we will unify the development of our products to empower excellence in teaching and learning, inspire genuine interest, attention, and interaction in the learning process, and enable continuous improvement through accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process.
In the Ally 1.18 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness and learner engagement. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list into groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.
- Moodle WYSIWYG content reporting
- Audio alternative format update
- Institutional Report updates
Ally 1.18 | Release to production 22 August, 2018
New features, Moodle Integration, Updated features
Moodle WYSIWYG content reporting
Ally 1.18 introduces the ability to check content created in the Moodle WYSIWYG editor for accessibility issues, and includes these results in the institutional report.
These Moodle WYSIWYG content types are currently supported:
- Course summary
- Forum description
- Forum post (first in thread)
- Glossary description
- Glossary entry
This functionality is available for all institutions using Blackboard Open LMS or self-hosted Moodle institutions using version 3.4.3 of the Ally Moodle plugin. WYSIWYG content reporting will automatically be enabled for institutions on these supported versions, and any courses with new activity should show the WYSIWYG content results in the institutional report.
Going forward, institutions upgrading the Moodle Ally plugin should create a support ticket to request that this functionality is enabled.
Audio Alternative format
In the audio alternative format, images without an alternative description that follow each other are grouped in a single “x images without an alternative format” to help remove some redundancy from the generated audio.
Institutional Report updates
Improvements made through the Ally Instructor Feedback are now reflected immediately in that course’s report within the Institutional Report. This removes the 15 minute delay that was previously present.
Bug fixes and improvements
- Introduced several improvements to the contrast checking algorithm, especially in cases where individual punctuation marks were incorrectly generating contrast issues.
- Fixed a bug that prevented Ally from successfully checking HTML files with older encoding (e.g., CP1252 instead of UTF-8) for accessibility issues.
- Improved the Instructor Feedback to always provide an upload option, including when guidance is not yet available.
- Fixed a bug that prevented the successful creation of the Electronic Braille Alternative Format for Croatian documents.
- Fixed a bug in the Ally for Websites integration that removes the number of web pages from the reported number of files/attachments.
Ally 1.16.4 | Release to production 21 June, 2018
New features, Updated features
Institutional report improvements
Several improvements have been added to the institutional report CSV exports.
Library references provided through the Ally instructor feedback for scanned and untagged PDFs are now included in a Library reference column in the course CSV export for individual courses. This is intended to make it easier to review library references provided by instructors.
The new Library reference column is not the same as LibraryReference, which counts the number of items that don't have references and could be improved with them.
The severity level for each reported issue is now also included as part of the CSV exports. This makes it easier to parse the severity of each issue in an automated way.
The severity level is included in the column headings. For example, ImageSeizure:1 and AlternativeText:3.
- 1 represents severe issues
- 2 represents major issues
- 3 represents minor issues
More on the institution report export
Bug fixes and improvements
- Fixed a bug in the Moodle(rooms) integration that would cause unexpected items from being included in the institutional report, including Moodle skin resources and assignment feedback resources. We are also in the process of removing these resources from the existing institutional reports.
- Fixed a bug in the Moodle(rooms) integration that prevented image previews from showing in the instructor feedback for images.
- Implemented several accuracy improvements to the contrast accessibility checks for HTML content.
- Fixed a bug that incorrectly reported “The page contains form elements without labels” errors for HTML content.
Ally 1.13.1 | Release to production 20 February, 2018
New Features, Updated Features, Learning Management System Integrations
In this Ally 1.13.1 release, we focused our development and design on academic effectiveness. You’ll see below that we’ve also aligned our feature list in to groups based on value and benefit to you and your users.
- Alternative formats
- Blackboard Learn Learning Modules
- Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS course copies
- New courses
The existing “Accessible versions” option has been renamed to “Alternative formats” to better represent the purpose of these alternative formats, as well as help encourage all students to explore and use these formats.
Blackboard Learn Learning Modules
Ally now supports posting alternative descriptions for images provided through the Ally instructor feedback back into the page source for the Blackboard Learn “Learning Modules” content type.
This means that all images in Learning Modules are now expected to have the Ally accessibility indicator.
Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS course copies
Ally now automatically processes the content in copied Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS courses.
Large Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS course copies can take several hours to complete, and Ally only scans the copied content items once the course copy has been fully completed.
In the last few weeks, there have been several cases where delays built up in the processing of new courses. Ally 1.13.1 contains several improvements that should greatly speed up the processing of new courses in the Learning Management System (LMS).
Bug fixes and improvements
- Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn integration that prevented alternative descriptions for images to be saved through the instructor feedback in “Forums”.
- Fixed a bug that prevented alternative descriptions for images containing a non-breaking space character from successfully saving.
- Fixed a bug in the Instructure Canvas integration that occasionally caused the “Accessibility” column to show in the Files tool for courses that do not have Ally enabled.
- Implemented a number of wording improvements in the descriptions for the available alternative formats.
- A number of small accessibility improvements have been made in the course report within the institutional report.
Ally 1.12.2 | Release to production 31 January, 2018
A number of changes have been introduced in the Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS integrations that significantly improve performance, especially for larger installations. These performance improvements include both the initial onboarding process, as well as the rendering of the accessibility indicators and alternative formats in courses.
Improved CSV Export
Within the Institutional Report CSV export, WYSIWYG content data is now split out by WISYWIG type (e.g., Page, Syllabus, etc.), making it easier to understand the content type distribution within courses.
- Fixed a bug where items that were improved through the Ally instructor feedback and then deleted from the course would still be included in the institutional report
- Fixed a bug where the correct content type would not be shown when listing content items with a specific issue in the institutional report
Ally 1.12 | Release to production 20 December, 2017
Updated Features, LMS Integrations, Web Community Manager Integration
Web Community Manager (WCM) integration
The Ally integration for Web Community Manager (WCM) is now available. WCM is distinct from Ally’s other integrations, as WCM is a content management system that is mostly used by K-12 schools and districts in the US.
In the first release of the Ally - Web Community Manager integration, Ally provides the ability to check the pages and embedded media in a WCM instance for accessibility issues, and generates an accessibility report similar to the LMS institutional report. Instructor feedback and alternative formats are on the roadmap for future releases.
More on Ally in Web Community Manager
WYSIWYG content reporting
Ally 1.12 introduces the ability to check content created in the LMS (through the text/WYSIWYG editor) for accessibility issues, and includes this data in the institutional report.
This allows Ally to review a significantly larger part of the LMS content, and is a first step towards providing alternative formats and instructor feedback for this content.
This feature is currently only available for Instructure Canvas. Blackboard Learn, Moodle, and Blackboard Open LMS require additional APIs and/or push notifications to support this feature. Those teams are working hard on this additional functionality, and we are hoping to enable WYSIWYG content reporting for Blackboard Learn, Moodle, and Blackboard Open LMS as soon as possible.
Additional language support
Ally is now available in these languages.
Availability in these languages includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats (including the audio format).
Ally 1.12 was originally going to include the ability to post alternative descriptions for images provided through the instructor feedback back into the LMS, and we have been working with all of you to make the required API permission updates. However, not all institutions have been able to make these permission changes in time. Therefore, the feature has not been enabled yet, as we didn’t want to introduce any risk over the holidays. The current plan is to enable this feature during the first week of January.
Ally 1.11.4 | Release to production 14 December, 2017
Updated Features, LMS Integrations
The reporting for scanned and OCRd documents has been improved. The institutional report now lists both the scanned documents that have been OCRd, and the scanned documents that have not been OCRd.
Note that the institutional reports are currently being reprocessed to reflect these changes, and it may take up to 24 hours for this to be available in your institutional report.
- Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that would cause the alternative formats to be available for locked content items.
- Improved the positioning of the accessibility indicators for Blackboard Learn 9.1 Q2 2017 CU4 and above. The accessibility indicator positioning has also been improved in text-only mode for all Learn releases.
Ally 1.11.1 | Release to production 21 November, 2017
Updated Features, LMS Integrations
Instructor feedback indicators
The instructor feedback indicators now show a tooltip with a summary of the item’s accessibility score. An additional “perfect” indicator has also been introduced, which is used when the item’s accessibility score is 100 percent. These improvements are aimed at increasing instructor engagement with the indicators and making them more obvious.
Ally is now also available in Canadian French. Availability includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats (including the audio format).
OCRd documents are no longer marked as just scanned. Instead, the document will be flagged as OCRd and additional instructor feedback will be shown. The accessibility score of OCRd documents will be discounted by roughly 33 percent, as OCRd documents can still be difficult to read.
Improved scanned document recognition
Several improvements have been made to the recognition of scanned documents, including those with narrow or uncommon margins.
Moodle theme support
A number of improvements have been made to allow Ally to support a larger amount of Moodle themes, including the “express” theme.
- There was a bug that caused the institutional report to not always reflect alternative text that was provided for images through the instructor feedback. This issue has now been resolved, and the institutional report should be showing the up-to-date scores.
- Fixed a bug where downloading a content item from the institutional report would cause the item to be downloaded inside of the institutional report frame, making it difficult to get back to the report. The content item will now always download in a different tab/window.
- Fixed a bug in the Moodle integration where Ally wasn't be able to process content items uploaded by users that are no longer in the system.
- Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration where images wrapped in a link to a different content item would not be displayed. The image will now be shown, and there will be an accessibility indicator for both the image and the linked content item.
Ally 1.11 | Release to production 19 October, 2017
Self-hosted Moodle integration
Ally is now fully available for self-hosted Moodle! The self-hosted Moodle integration has the same functionality as the other LMS integrations and is made available as a standard Moodle plugin. This integration is available for Moodle 3.2 and above.
This is fourth Learning Management System to support Ally, along with Blackboard Learn, Blackboard Open LMS, and Instructure Canvas.
Alternative format modal
The alternative accessible formats modal has been updated to provide a clearer description and possible uses for each alternative format.
Institutional report performance improvements
The loading times in the institutional report have been significantly decreased, especially for larger institutions. Listing the list of courses that have a specific issue, the list of items within a course with a specific issue, etc. should now be significantly faster.
Up until the 1.11 release, Canvas administrators would be unable to provide improvements through the Ally instructor feedback, as Ally would attempt to masquerade as those users and Canvas would (correctly) not allow this.
A fix for this limitation is now available, and will allow Canvas administrators to also provide improvements through the Ally instructor feedback.
- We fixed a bug in Learn where courses that do not have Ally enabled would show the placeholder used for the accessibility indicator, which unnecessarily altered the spacing within the content.
- We fixed a bug in Learn where improved content items provided through the Ally instructor feedback would not have a meaningful name in the content collection. All items provided through the Ally instructor feedback will now have a meaningful name.