What's New in Ally

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A special note from Product Management

As we move into 2018, we are thinking about and 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.

New Features, Updated Features

Ally 1.13.1

Continuous Delivery 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.

Universal design

  • Alternative formats
  • Blackboard Learn Learning Modules
  • Moodle and Moodlerooms course copies
  • New courses

Alternative formats

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 Moodlerooms course copies

Ally now automatically processes the content in copied Moodle and Moodlerooms courses.

Large Moodle and Moodlerooms course copies can take several hours to complete, and Ally only scans the copied content items once the course copy has been fully completed.

New courses

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.
Updated Features, New Features, Canvas Integration, Blackboard Learn Integration, Moodlerooms Integration, Academic Effectiveness

Ally 1.13

Continuous Delivery 1.13| Release to Production 12 February 2018
New Features, Updated Features, Learning Management System Integrations

In this Ally 1.13 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.

Universal design for learning

Improved alternative formats

The conversion algorithms for the alternative formats have been updated and should bring a significant improvement in accuracy for documents with a higher accessibility score. This is achieved by incorporating more of the semantic information that’s present within the original document.

Improved instructor feedback for images

Several improvements have been introduced in the instructor feedback flow for images without an alternative description. This includes improved guidance and error messages for images with an invalid alternative description, an easier editing workflow for images that already have an alternative description, and so on.

Library reference information available to students

Students are now able to see library reference information in the alternative format modal. This library reference information can be provided by the instructor in the instructor feedback flow for scanned documents and untagged PDFs.

New language support

Ally is now available in these languages.

  • Polish
  • Norwegian
  • Catalan

Availability in these languages includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats (including the audio format).

Heading check for WYSIWYG content

An additional accessibility check has been added for WYSIWYG content. This accessibility check verifies that the heading levels in the WYSIWYG content correctly follow the heading levels that are present in the Learning Management System (LMS) itself.

This check should now be part of the reported accessibility issues in the institutional report.

Decorative images

The Ally integration for Canvas has been updated to align with the new “Decorative image” functionality that was recently introduced in Canvas. This ensures that Ally is able to recognize images that have been marked as decorative in Canvas, as well as Canvas recognizing images that have been marked as decorative through Ally.

Bug fixes

  • Fixed a bug in the Blackboard Learn Original integration where the accessibility indicators for Content Items with multiple attachments wouldn’t display properly.
  • Fixed a bug in the Web Community Manager integration where courses with a space in the URL would not be checked for accessibility issues.
  • The CSV export in the institutional report will now correctly mark the HTML accessibility checks that succeeded as a “1”.
  • Prevent the “This image does not have an alternative description” issue from being listed in the institutional report for images that have been marked as decorative.
New Features, Updated Features

Ally 1.12.3

Continuous Delivery 1.12.3| Release to Production 6 February 2018
Updated Features, Instructure Canvas Integration

Bug fixes

  • Fixed a bug that prevented the alternative format download option and accessibility indicator from displaying for content items linked from WYSIWYG content (e.g., Page, Syllabus). This was caused by a display change in the latest Instructure Canvas release.
  • Fixed a bug where the instructor feedback guidance on how to generate a tagged PDF from Powerpoint® 2016 on Microsoft® Windows® did not load correctly.
Updated Features, Canvas Integration

Ally 1.12.2

Continuous Delivery 1.12.2 | Release to Production 31 January 2018
Updated Features

Moodle Performance

A number of changes have been introduced in the Moodle and Moodlerooms 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.

Bug Fixes

  • 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
Moodlerooms Integration, Updated Features

Ally 1.12.1

Continuous Delivery 1.12.1 | Release to Production 16 January 2018
New Features, Updated Features, LMS Integrations

Alternative descriptions

Alternative descriptions for images provided through the Ally instructor feedback are now also pushed back into the source of the context in which the image is used.

For Blackboard Learn, this is currently available for:

  • Content Item
  • Web Link
  • Content Folder
  • Course Link
  • File

For Instructure Canvas, this is currently available for:

  • Page
  • Announcement
  • Assignment
  • Discussion Topic
  • Syllabus
  • Quiz

Additional areas will be added as new LMS REST APIs become available.

Course copy

Any metadata provided through the Ally instructor feedback that can not be pushed back into the LMS (e.g., library reference) will now automatically be copied over when a course is copied.

WYSIWYG content reporting

The WYSIWYG content reporting feature announced as part of Ally 1.12 (Ally 1.12 announcement) has now been enabled for all Instructure Canvas institutions.

Therefore, any new or updated WYSIWYG content will immediately be reflected in the institutional report. We will also be processing existing WYSIWYG content in existing courses in the background, but it’s expected that this will take several weeks to complete given the large number of items that need to be onboarded.

Instructor feedback wording improvements

Several wording improvements have been introduced in the various instructor feedback flows. These improvements cover the different languages in which Ally is available.

New Features, Updated Features, Blackboard Learn Integration, Canvas Integration

Ally 1.12.0

Continuous Delivery 1.12.0 | 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 Moodlerooms 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 Moodlerooms as soon as possible.

Additional language support

Ally is now available in these languages.

  • German
  • Italian
  • Turkish

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.

More on permission updates

New Features, Blackboard Learn Integration, Canvas Integration, Moodlerooms Integration, Web Community Manager Integration

Ally 1.11.4

Continuous Delivery 1.11.4 | Release to Production 14 December 2017
Updated Features, LMS Integrations

OCRd documents

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.

Bug fixes

  • 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.
Updated Features, Blackboard Learn Integration, Canvas Integration, Moodlerooms Integration

Ally 1.11.3

Continuous Delivery 1.11.3 | Release to Production 7 December 2017
Updated Features, LMS Integrations

Improved list recognition

Several improvements have been made to how list are recognized and converted in the alternative formats, especially for lists created in Word or Powerpoint.

Bug fixes

  • Fixed a bug that prevented alternative descriptions for images from being present in the audio alternative format.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that would cause the instructor feedback indicator to show up in certain scenarios for courses that don’t have Ally enabled.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that would cause some jumping of the interface when hovering over an accessibility indicator.
  • Fixed a bug in the Canvas integration that would cause the Canvas content preview icon to disappear in Pages.
Updated Features, Canvas Integration

Ally 1.11.2

Continuous Delivery 1.11.2 | Release to Production 27 Nov 2017
Updated Features, Blackboard Learn Integration

Blackboard Learn Lesson Modules

A bug was fixed in the Blackboard Learn integration that caused the Ally instructor feedback indicators to not be available in the Lesson Modules.

Updated Features, Blackboard Learn Integration

Ally 1.11.1

Continuous Delivery 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.

Canadian French

Ally is now also available in Canadian French. Availability includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats (including the audio format).

OCR documents

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.

Bug fixes

  • 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.
Updated Features, Blackboard Learn Integration, Canvas Integration, Moodlerooms Integration

Ally 1.11.0

Continuous Delivery 1.11.0 | Release to Production 19 October 2017
Updated Features

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, Moodlerooms, 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.

Canvas administrators

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.

Bug fixes

  • 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.
New Features, Updated Features, Moodlerooms Integration, Blackboard Learn Integration, Canvas Integration

Ally 1.10.2

Continuous Delivery 1.10.2 | Release to Production 5 October 2017
Updated Features

HTML accessibility checks

The speed at which Ally can check for accessibility issues in HTML content has been significantly improved, resulting in faster scoring for HTML files.

Improved file processor

Several improvements have been made to the file processor to reduce the number of files that can’t be processed successfully.

Bug fixes

  • Seizure inducing images are now also shielded in the Ally mobile view.
  • We fixed an issue that caused the columns in the Canvas files tool to be slightly misaligned.
  • Items added as an “Image” type within Learn no longer have a redundant second accessibility indicator.
Updated Features

Ally 1.10.1

Continuous Delivery 1.10.1 | Release to Production 26 September 2017
Updated Features

Course CSV Export

Next to the existing CSV export capabilities in the institutional report, you can now export the data for an individual course as a CSV file.

This CSV export contains an entry for each content item in the course, including:

  • Item name
  • Item type
  • Accessibility score
  • Identified accessibility issues and score breakdown

Custom heading styles

The Ally accessibility checklist has been updated to also recognize custom heading styles as valid headings in Microsoft Word documents.

Accessibility indicator improvements

The Blackboard Learn 9.1 integration has been expanded to show accessibility indicators for images in a number of additional areas, including when embedded inside of the content editor.

We currently expect all images that don’t have alternative text set directly through the LMS to have an accessibility indicator.

Updated Features

Ally 1.10.0

Continuous Delivery 1.10.0 | Release to Production 15 September 2017
New Features, Updated Features

Additional language support

Ally was already available in US English, UK English, Spanish and Dutch. With the 1.10 release, Ally is now also available in these languages:

  • French
  • Danish
  • Portuguese
  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • Finnish
  • Swedish
  • Welsh

Availability in these languages includes the Ally interface, as well as the alternative formats (including the audio format).

Alternative formats for uploaded HTML files

Uploaded HTML files will now have alternative formats including audio, ePub, and electronic braille.

Institutional reporting for uploaded HTML files

Accessibility issues identified in uploaded HTML files are now included in the institutional report.

Improved list recognition

The accuracy of recognizing lists in documents has been improved. Therefore, more lists will be correctly converted to a semantic list in the alternative formats.

Bug fixes

In Blackboard Learn, the Ally indicator was incorrectly positioned when embedding content inside of the WYSIWYG editor. This has now been resolved and the indicator is now displayed in the correct position.

New Features, Updated Features

Ally 1.9.2

Continuous Delivery 1.9.2 | Release to Production 9 September 2017
Updated Features

Tagged PDF Parsing

Several improvements have been made to Ally’s handling of tagged PDFs, especially those tagged through Adobe Acrobat Professional.

Institutional Report CSV Export

A bug was fixed that would occasionally cause the institutional report CSV export to fail, especially for institutions with lots of content.

Alternative Format Downloads

A bug has been fixed that would occasionally cause the alternative formats to be incorrectly downloaded on Firefox.

Updated Features

Ally 1.9.1

Continuous Delivery 1.9.1 | Release to Production 7 September 2017
Updated Features

Audio Format Accents

The audio alternative format now uses the most appropriate accent based on the location of the Ally deployment. For example, a user in North America would receive a North American English accent, a user in Europe would receive a British English accent and a user in Australia would receive an Australian English accent for an English document.

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed an issue where the accessibility indicator would be displayed in Canvas when the instructor feedback was disabled for that course.
  • Ensure that the accessibility score for a document is consistently rounded to prevent indicator inconsistencies.
Updated Features

Ally 1.9.0

Continuous Delivery 1.9.0 | Release to Production 29 August 2017
Updated Features

Improved audio generation

The audio alternative format has been significantly improved. Items such as headings, lists and tables are now read in a more consistent and structured way.

Deleted files in institution report

Files that are deleted from courses are no longer displayed in the institutional report, making it easier to get an up-to-date overview of every course.

Localized deployments

The Ally deployments that reside outside of North America now also utilize non-US servers for 3rd party services that Ally relies on. This means that local deployments do not rely on US servers for any Ally functionality.

Bug Fixes

  • In Blackboard Learn, the instructor feedback icon is now displayed in the correct position for items with multiple attachments.
  • The accessible versions download option in Moodlerooms is now localized.
Updated Features

Ally 1.8.1

Continuous Delivery 1.8.1 | Release to Production 12 August 2017
New Features, Updated Features

Stability Improvements

  • Improved parsing for Microsoft Word documents, reducing the number of Microsoft Word documents that could not be processed
  • Improved OCR stability for large scanned documents
  • Increased the number of Canvas user roles that can be interpreted

Term Changes

Ally will now automatically pick up on term changes for courses and will update the institutional report accordingly.

Integration Improvements

An additional set of underlying improvements have been made to help speed up the initial integration process and allow for faster processing of existing courses and content items.

New Features, Updated Features

Ally 1.8.0

Continuous Delivery 1.8.0 | Release to Production 21 July 2017
New Features, Updated Features

CSV Export

Ally now provides a CSV export of the institutional report data. This includes a full export of the yearly overview, term overview, monthly overview and all course reports. This CSV export allows institutions to do custom reporting and programmatically extract the Ally institutional report data.

Audio Format Internationalization

The audio alternative format is now made available in a voice that reflects the language of the source document. The audio format can be generated in US English, UK English, Australian English, Dutch, Spanish, French, Danish, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Welsh, German, Italian, Turkish and Norwegian.

Alternative Format Improvements

Various stability improvements have been made to the alternative format generation process, reducing the number of instances in which an alternative format fails to be generated.

Integration Improvements

A wide range of underlying improvements have been made to help speed up the initial integration process and allow for faster processing of existing courses and content items.

New Features, Updated Features

Ally 1.7.0

Continuous Delivery 1.7.0 | Release to Production 6 July 2017
New Features, Moodlerooms Integration

Moodlerooms integration

Ally is now fully available for Moodlerooms! This is the third Learning Management System to support Ally, along with Blackboard Learn and Instructure Canvas.

New Features, Moodlerooms Integration