Ally for Students

Have you ever accessed a file or text content on Blackboard that was difficult to read, or you wish was available in a different format? Ally automatically creates different formats for you to download within your Blackboard course - just choose the version that’s right for you.

Demonstration of how to access Ally alternative formats in Blackboard

How do I access Alternative Formats?

Ally Alternative Formats icon - a sylised A logo.

Alternative file formats are available next to the original file or text content in Blackboard. Just click on the Alternative Formats icon and choose the file type that works best for you. If you're struggling to open a PPT file on your phone, try downloading the HTML version instead. Use the audio format to learn on the go. You might find the alternative formats work well with other software you might use, such as ReadIt or ZoomText.





Which Alternative Formats are available? 

The alternative formats generated depend on the original file uploaded, but generally you will be able to choose from the below options:

Audio

The audio alternative reads aloud the text in the original file. This also includes alternative descriptions for images, if they are provided. The audio is downloaded as an MP3, which you should be able to play on any computer or mobile device.

Audio might be useful if:

  • You prefer to listen than read.
  • You study on your commute and want to take your study materials with you.
  • You have a visual impairment.
  • You want to adjust the speed of the audio.

Most audio players, such as Windows Media Player or VLC allow you to adjust playback speed.

Electronic Braille

The electronic braille alternative creates a BRF file that can be read on a refreshable Braille display (RBD), other Braille reading devices, or within a Braille software like Duxbury.

Electronic Braille may be useful if:

  • You have a visual impairment.
  • You are familiar with braille.
  • You want to read and listen to the content at the same time.
  • You want to better understand the format of text on the page

Visit the Blackboard Ally help pages for more information about Electronic Braille.

ePub

The ePub alternative creates a digital publishing file that can be viewed on mobile devices. ePub files are responsive, this means they will automatically adapt to the screen size of your device. With an ePub you can take notes, adjust the text and background settings and create bookmarks.

Apple users can use iBooks to open ePub files, Android users can use Lithium or Voice Aloud Reader.

Adobe Digital Editions opens ePub files on a PC, this can be installed on a University Managed Desktop via the Software Centre, or from here on your personal PC or Mac.

ePub might be useful if:

  • You want to read content on your tablet, eReader or phone.
  • You want to adjust font size and background color.
  • You want to highlight content, take notes, and bookmark important pages.
  • You want to be able to copy, paste, and search text.
  • You study on your commute and want to take your study materials with you.
HTML

The HTML format can be viewed on a browser, and it will automatically adapt to the screen size of the device you are using. It aids screen reader users as it adds structure to documents.

HTML might be useful if:

  • You want to adjust font size and background color.
  • You prefer to read.
  • You use a screen reader.
  • You want to be able to copy, paste, and search text.
  • You want to view your course material on a smaller size screen
Tagged PDF A Tagged PDF uses tags and elements—such as paragraphs and headings to add meaning to a page. It aids screen reader users as it adds structure to documents.

Tagged PDF might be useful if:

  • You want to be able to copy, paste, and search text.
  • You want to use text-to-speech and adjust the speed of the speech.
  • You use a screen reader.
OCR PDF The OCR (Optical Character Recognition) PDF alternatives are created when the original file is a PDF of an image. OCR technology analyses the document, and converts the image into searchable text. The conversion is only as good as the quality of the original file. If the file is difficult to analyze, there may be mistakes, or the alternative format may not be generated at all.

OCR PDF might be useful if:

  • You want to be able to copy, paste, and search text.
  • You want to use text-to-speech and adjust the speed of the speech.
  • You use a screen reader.
Beeline Reader

Instead of using plain black text, BeeLine Reader displays your learning materials using a subtle color gradient that helps pull your eye through the content.

When you select the Beeline Reader alternative format, your content will download as a HTML file that can be opened by any web browser. Once opened, you can customise the colours used to display the text.

Beeline Reader might be useful if:

  • You have difficulty with visual tracking or focus.
  • You read a lot on screen.
  • You experience dyslexia, ADHD, low vision or other visual impairment

Visit the Blackboard Ally pages for more information about Beeline Reader.

More information about Ally Alternative Formats

Ally alternative formats are automatically generated from the original source document. The accuracy of the alternative format can vary, and may not always be an exact match, particularly with regards to layout. You should always ask your tutor if you are unsure about the accuracy of the Ally alternative format.

Please contact digital.learning@sheffield.ac.uk if you have any queries about accessing alternative formats on your Blackboard course.