Piloting Blackboard Ally: Faculty Perspectives

Handouts Media

Scheduled at 3:15pm (50 min) in Waverly on Thursday, November 21 (2019).



  • Christa Miller, Director of Inclusive Media Design, Virginia Tech

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Blackboard Ally is advertised as a tool capable of technical accessibility checks of ALL content in a learning management system (LMS). Virginia Tech pilot tested Ally to determine if it could support faculty in the design and deployment of accessible course material. This session provides lessons learned, faculty feedback, and future plans.


During 2018-2019, Virginia Tech pilot tested Blackboard Ally within the Canvas LMS. Leveraging existing financial structures, we purchased a 2000 seat pilot license to determine if and how Ally could move the accessibility needle on our campus. Our proposal emphasized how the institutional report could provide much needed data to inform our professional development and outreach efforts. We also emphasized the availability of real-time alternative text regardless of accommodation support to push our office's Universal Design for Learning initiative forward.

During our pilot, we targeted existing accessibility allies to be faculty participants. We then provided one-on-one training and monthly check-ins to monitor progress. In this session, we share our faculty participants' opinions of Ally as well as the relative accessibility of their content before and after Ally. We also share our findings related to real-time alternative text and our plans for the future.


  1. Inviting existing accessibility allies increases motivation and persistence
  2. Defining what critical gap the tool fills improves administrative buy-in
  3. Making a minimum ask and stretch ask improves financial support

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Alternate Format, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Christa Miller

Christa Miller is a proud Virginia Tech Hokie and is currently the Director of Inclusive Media Design. She first became interested in assistive technologies (AT) while earning her BS in Electrical Engineering. Her passion for accessible technology and universal design then led her to pursue her MS in Industrial Systems Engineering, concentrating in Human Factors.

Between 2006 and 2018, Christa has worked in many roles for Assistive Technologies, part of Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS). Notable among these was as the lead Braille Transcriber for Braille Services. Her unique knowledge of the tools and technologies needed to produce Braille for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses has led her to consult with disability service providers from many other post-secondary institutions and share that knowledge at national conferences.

In her current role, Christa has enjoyed co-leading a many professional development programs aimed at providing teaching faculty, instructors and graduate teaching assistants with the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to create inclusive learning environments.