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New eCampus tool will support student success by making it easy to ensure course content is accessible to everyone

Ally, a new tool in eCampus, will be available in fall 2023 to help instructors create course content that improves the experience of all students, particularly those with accessibility needs, and helps ensure their academic success. Using Ally, faculty can receive, review and quickly act on feedback to improve content using simple, step-by-step instructions. Ally makes it easy to accommodate different learning styles and needs, offering flexibility that may contribute to student retention.

Ally, which is being piloted during summer 2023 sessions, offers quick-start tips and recommends actions to improve the accessibility scores of many forms of content. It uses the instructor’s original documents to create alternative files, such as text for screen readers, alternative text for images, MP3 audio files of text, electronic braille, and more. Offering alternative formats, such as an MP3 file for listening versus a text file for reading, supports a more personalized student experience. Ally also flags potentially harmful content, such as GIFs and other visual media with rapid movement, flickering or motion that could trigger seizures or other physical responses. Learn more in this Ally FAQ or watch this video.

Ally will help support not only the 10% of students who have already registered with WVU Accessibility Services, but many more who have not disclosed a challenge or who may be reluctant to request an accommodation. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only about one-third of students with a known need chose to inform their college or university. Other studies suggest that while as many as 94% of high school students with an accessibility need get some kind of help, only 17% of college students who are eligible for accommodation receive it.

All fall 2023 eCampus content will be automatically scanned, and instructors can find reports with accessibility scores and feedback under the Course Tools in eCampus. The data will provide faculty with the information needed to target specific improvements and to offer specialized assistance.

While Ally will be turned on for all courses by default, engaging with the tool is not mandatory. However, Accessibility Services, Information Technology Services and the Teaching and Learning Commons strongly encourage faculty to take advantage of the opportunity to review and improve content; Ally’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) is powerful, but not perfect. If having alternative formats would compromise educational goal, such as in a foreign language course where the objective is for students to demonstrate the ability to read aloud, the service can be turned off on a file-by-file basis.

Student-generated content won’t be scanned. Health Sciences instructors should note that while Ally is not currently integrated with SOLE, integration options are being reviewed.

Instructors seeking more intensive, one-on-one guidance should contact WVU Accessibility Services at 304-293-6700.

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