Putting the ‘access’ into accessible teaching materials​

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


A year on from the mass pivot to online learning and higher education is continuing to adjust to ‘the new normal’.

One aspect of online education that was largely underestimated was that of digital accessibility as we all rushed to experiment with new online learning approaches and a plethora of tools and technologies to support us as we did. At GCU we began to identify solutions and workflows that would not only assist staff in ensuring they were meeting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, but also help them understand and appreciate the student learning experience and provide an equitable and inclusive learning experience for all.

Just prior to the start of the COVID pandemic we rolled out Blackboard Ally to all students and staff. Ally is an accessibility toolkit that is deeply integrated with our VLE and is extremely valuable in helping to meet the challenge around accessibility in three mains ways:
1. Ally automatically checks module level learning materials against the WCAG to ensure it meets the accessibility standard required.
2. Ally assesses and gauges the accessibility of instructor created module content and it delivers useful guidance to assist users to improve the accessibility of their content.
3. Ally provides students with a vast range of accessible alternative formats of the original files that have been provided by the instructor.
We have uncovered a few interesting findings from analysing the data from Ally that are helping us to improve staff awareness around the issues of accessibility in learning and teaching and aim to offer a more inclusive experience for all learners.

The delivery of lecture and tutorials now relies heavily on the use of online webinar-based platforms and the University moved to ensure that we were compliant with accessibility legislation. The ability to provide captions or transcripts requires access to appropriate technology. We developed Microsoft Azure’s text to speech service to power an automated speech to text captioning service and workflow with our streaming media server, Planet eStream. This is currently being piloted at our institution as it has the potential to also offer required features to meet the accessibility legislation.

The pilots are addressing the need for staff to have improved access to automated captions particularly for video and audio recording, and the need to address the time limited claim for disproportionate burden.

Both these tools are enhancing the learning experience for all our students, not just those with accessibility requirements. They also go a long way to helping staff not only meet legislative requirements, but understand why, all digital teaching materials need to be accessible in order to provide an inclusive learning experience for all learners. This poster will reflect on the key findings from a challenging and rewarding journey over the past year. We will outline the feedback we received from the various software pilots as well the enhancements that were made on the road to providing tools to support GCU in delivering an accessible and inclusive learning experience for all.
Period8 Sept 2021
Event titleALT Annual Conference: Shared Experience, Different Perspectives
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Accessibility
  • learning & teaching