OFDIT Newsletter January 2023

January 2023

Dear Faculty,

Happy 2023 from your OFDIT team!

This month’s newsletter includes updates about Ally, a new accessibility tool enabled across all SPS course sites in Blackboard. We also share some details about the upcoming CUNY Games Network as well as Teaching Matters workshops, along with information to assist with your Spring course preparation.

We hope you had a wonderful break, and look forward to supporting your work with students in the coming year!

Course Accessibility with Ally

We’re excited to announce that Blackboard Ally, an accessibility tool, was enabled for all CUNY SPS course sites on January 3, 2023.

Ally provides the following:

Alternative content formats for a variety of devices and assistive technologies, available to all course users. Alternative formats can be accessed for both students and instructors by clicking on the Ally icon found to the right of the item, and includes format options such as HTML, ePUB, audio (MP3), electronic braille, and translated language versions, among others.

Ally tools in course

Accessibility scores and accessibility improvement guidance, for instructors only. Instructors will see an accessibility gauge icon next to all individual attachments and files in their courses, which indicates the accessibility score for that item. If the gauge icon indicates a low accessibility rating, clicking the icon gives instructors access to a Feedback Panel for detailed explanations and how-to steps for making that item more accessible.

Accessibility Report, for instructors only. Instructors can view a summary of the accessibility scores and issues for their course site via Ally’s Accessibility Report, available under Control Panel – Course Tools on the course menu. It includes a list of the course’s content items, accessibility scores, and issues.

Ally Resources and Support

See our Blackboard Ally Resource Page for more details, helpful links and resources, or watch this recording of an Ally instructor training.

OFDIT will also be offering Ally trainings for SPS faculty next month; details will be announced at the start of Spring semester.

Questions regarding Ally can be directed to Faculty Support (facultysupport@sps.cuny.edu). We are pleased about the tools Ally provides for creating more accessible courses for all at SPS, and know you will be, too!

Announcing Ally to Your Students

Below we’ve drafted some language explaining Ally, which you can share with your students via an announcement in your course, if you would like (please edit as you see fit):

Dear students, I have some exciting news: CUNY SPS now has a Blackboard accessibility tool called Ally. You may have noticed the Ally icon next to course content text and attachments. You can click on this icon to access available alternative formats for the course material. For example, you can convert a PDF into an HTML document for easier reading on mobile devices, or into an MP3 audio file for a text-to-speech version. You are welcome to explore this tool at your convenience but please note you are not required to do so.

For more details, see the resources listed below, or contact the Office of Disability Services (disabilityservices@sps.cuny.edu) with any questions about this new tool.

Upcoming CUNY Events

Interested in game-based pedagogies? Want to learn more about using observation and dialogue-based inquiry to connect with your students and extend their critical thinking skills? The following hybrid and online events are open to CUNY instructors:

CUNY Games Conference 

January 23 and 24, 2023 (Hybrid – in-person and online) the CUNY Games Conference 9.0 will be presented by the Games Network of the City University of New York. See the CUNY Games Conference website for more information and to register.

Art as a Tool for Empathic Teaching 

Teaching Matters Professional Development Series:

Friday, February 3, 10:00-11:00 AM (Virtual Event)

Art as a Tool for Empathic Teaching, presented by Cris Scorza and Dyeemah Simmons, from the Whitney Museum of American Art. See the event page on Eventbrite for more details and to register.

Preparing Course Sites for Spring

Our Course Site Checklist for Faculty can be helpful when prepping your online course for the new semester.

You will find useful SPS quick guides from our OFDIT team and links to Blackboard Help pages, as well as a checklist of all the elements that need to be updated in a live course site for an upcoming semester, including:

  • Welcome announcement
  • Instructor card
  • Syllabus/Course Schedule
  • Due Dates

Ensuring that all dates for your course are accurate for the new semester is especially important; this includes dates mentioned in text items as well as assignment and folder availability.

Though you will need to manually update any dates mentioned in any text, Blackboard availability and due dates can be reviewed and updated via Blackboard’s Date Management tool, either individually, as a group of items, or all of the dates at once. This is a great option if you are using content from a previous semester and would like to adjust your dates for the new semester. To learn more about how to use this tool, please see our quick guide, or contact our team for assistance.

Making Video for your Online Class

As the new semester approaches many of you will be recording video introductions and overviews. Making a video for your online class is really about making a connection with your students. Seeing and hearing their professor builds community in the classroom and increases engagement. If you’ll be making a video, please check out our guide: Making Video for your Online Class. This 2-page guide offers tips on increasing the production value of your recording, or in other words, how you can look more professional on camera. Alternatively, faculty are welcome to visit us on campus to use the OFDIT Media Studio for full video support.

Faculty corner image

Call for Faculty Corner Submissions

If you have a useful or interesting pedagogical or technical tip (in 200 words or less!) that you are excited about, we would love to hear from you and add your submission to our next Faculty Newsletter. Please use our Faculty Corner Submission Form to submit your pitch. Your submission can be in text or video format – whatever you prefer!





As always, OFDIT is here to help with any questions you may have. We are available for one-on-one support and would be happy to schedule a Zoom call to discuss any questions you may have. You can contact us at facultysupport@sps.cuny.edu.

All the best,

Your OFDIT Team

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