AccessAbility: Planning and delivering accessible Blackboard Ultra sessions 

Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra to deliver online sessions with your students can help to bring together students at a distance whilst still enabling them to receive teaching materials and interact with each other. However, there are a few things that some students might find particularly challenging about accessing this type of learning opportunity. 

For example: 

  • Following the multiple channels of communication can be difficult especially if some of them are inaccessible to the student (e.g. audio for hearing impaired students). 
  • Activities requiring immediate interaction can be more challenging for those with dexterity and spelling issues. 

You may also be unaware of whether any students has a specific need because they might not have disclosed this to you before the session. 

In order to help remove these barriers for students, it is important to think about accessibility when you are designing your session. Keeping the design of the session simple, providing easy ways for students to interact, as well as a balance between providing interest and ensuring content is accessible is a good starting point. You might also find that the adjustments you make to target the needs of specific students also benefit all students. However, look at the guidance provided below for more specific information on using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra inclusively. You might also find the Accessibility Guide for Participants useful for you and your students. 

This advice has been put together based on information from the webinar held by the JISC Regional Support Centre in Wales on 29 January 2013 called ‘Webinars that work: how to minimise barriers and maximise inclusion’ and updated to include features available in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. 

The resources have been divided into sections that look at what to do at different stages of the planning process and by need. 

General Advice 

Before the session 

  • Find out the needs of the students before running the session. 
  • Let them know the limitations of the software. 
  • Show them how to optimise the layout for their needs (Accessibility Guide for Participants). 
  • Get them to test any third party tools they use to see if they work with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, e.g. colour overlays. 
  • Review your session plan and based on the needs of the students arrange any adjustments that are required. 
  • Consider getting someone to type closed captions into Blackboard Collaborate Ultra – this could be a participant in the session, another tutor or someone hired for this purpose. Instructions on this can be found at Live closed captioning. 

During the Session 

  • Check regularly that no one is having problems, as you can’t assume students will make you aware if they are. 
  • Stress where in the sessions contributions are optional, so that students do not feel pressured to participate when they do not need to. 
  • When getting participants to type questions into the text chat area, get them to prefix them with Q to help you and others find them more easily. 
  • Get everyone involved in contributing to accessibility during the session. For instance, helping with typing closed captioning, explaining visual elements on the screen, speaking clearly and at a reasonable pace. 

After the Session 

  • Get feedback after the event and encourage students to be open with any difficulties they faced. 
  • Provide post event resources including links to recordings, transcripts and any files that were used during the session e.g. PowerPoint slides. 

For further advice on making sessions inclusive for disabled students look at the Digital Practice Handbook