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ally_logo, Blackboard Ally logoWe don’t all read and consume information in the same way as each other and this can be especially true when trying to digest new concepts or complex ideas.

Blackboard Ally is a tool that supports your tutors in making all of their content accessible, but also allows you to view or hear documents in a range of alternative formats (PDF, HTML, ePub, Audio and Braille). Blackboard Ally is available in all modules in Blackboard.

Please note: Much of the remaining content on this page is an edited version of the Blackboard Ally help pages (last accessed 12/07/2023)

  • Quick Start

    Your tutor probably has some documents, possibly in different formats, uploaded to your modules in Blackboard. These will commonly be PDFs, PowerPoints or Word documents. Ally creates alternative formats for those files and you can download these alternatives for your own use. Just choose the version that is best for your needs!

    1. Find a file

    Log into Blackboard and select the course you want to access.

    Locate the file you want to convert into a different format.


    2. Open the file menu

    Select the menu beside the file and select Alternative formats:

    ally_01, Alternative formats in download link in Ally

    3. Choose a format

    Don’t stick to just one format! Use as many formats as you want.

    Blackboard Ally list of download options, Blackboard Ally list of download options

    Ally for Students (video guide) 

    Need help choosing? See Alternative Formats below.

  • Alternative formats

    On the course content page, just after the document link, you will find an Alternative Formats link. When selected, this link opens the Download alternative formats dialog with the following options:

    1. Tagged PDF –This is an accessible version of PDF format and can be created from Word and PowerPoint documents. The PDF format can also use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to convert a scanned document into readable text.

    2. HTML – This basically converts a document into a web page. You can view or save this webpage and use it in situations where you need to adjust the font or colours.

    3. ePub – This is a common ebook format that you can use on your mobile device. ePubs can also be read aloud through many ebook reader apps.

    4. Electronic Braille – This creates and downloads a file in the BRF format that is compatible with most Refreshable Braille Displays (RBD) and embossed printers.

    5. Audio – If you need, or want, to listen to a document, this option downloads an MP3 audio version of the file. This will play back in almost any music player app on almost any device or computer.

    6. BeeLine Reader - This creates an enhanced page for easier and faster on-screen reading

    7. Immersive Reader - Provides an alternative format that enhances the reading experience allowing learners to adjust the text to suit their specific needs, eg, change font size and lettering; contrast; highlight verbs, nouns, adjectives; provide a picture dictionary, etc. 

    The full list of alternative formats can be accessed on the Blackboard website

  • FAQ: Which format should I use?

    The following table describes some possible uses / scenarios for the document that you want to access:

    Blackboard Ally Options, A table showing the different download options for Blackboard Ally

  • FAQ: Does Ally generate alternative formats for student content?

    Ally currently only processes instructional content. This means that only documents added to your course by your tutor will have access to Ally Alternative Formats. Ally currently does not process student content or student submissions.

    If you upload a submission to Turnitin, you can download this as a PDF as either an Originality Report or as a Marked Submission.

  • FAQ: Are alternate formats generated when a request to download is made?

    When an alternative format for a particular content item is requested for the first time, Ally generates this on demand. In most cases, this completes within 1-2 minutes.

    As soon as it has been generated, the alternative format is downloaded.

    Ally then also keeps the result, so any additional requests for the same alternative format can be downloaded immediately.

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