New tool offers students an easier way to read material on Canvas

Do you need help on Canvas to make information more understandable?

Ally for Students is a tool that was created to break down canvas material and put that information in alternate formats in order to help students. (Photo courtesy of Leslie Reeves)

Ally for Students is a tool that was created to break down canvas material and put that information in alternate formats in order to help students. (Photo courtesy of Leslie Reeves)

Cynsere Kelly, Staff Writer

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, college school districts have been trying to make course material easier to access to appease students so they can get the content they need in a way that suits them. Ally for Students is a tool that can be used with the grading site, Canvas. 

Ally for Students was created to break down Canvas material and put that information in alternate formats in order to help students. 

“The Los Rios Community College District Learning Management System Coordinators spent months vetting products that would help faculty be more aware of making online course content more accessible to all students,” said Leslie Reeves, universal design for learning coordinator. 

Reeves is a coordinator who was present when Ally was discussed and also talked about why Ally was discovered by the coordinators. 

“We discovered Ally was the best tool to help with online learning because it provides alternate formats for students, and it integrates seamlessly with the canvas learning management system,” Reeves said. 

Reeves added that Ally automatically detects when new course content is added and will run it through several different processes.

“This procedure is automatic and runs behind the scenes, the instructor logs into canvas, goes to one of their courses, adds a new document or image… then Ally determines the type of content, then runs the content through a checklist,” Reeves said. “Finally, based on checklists and algorithms, a range of accessible alternatives become available to all students in the course.”

Ally makes information equally accessible to all students because it allows for the same content to be presented in many different formats. 

“It provides immediate alternate formats that help to address various differing abilities while leaving the original document intact,” Reeves said. 

Reeves also said this format also works well on mobile devices.

“Ally will generate an ePub that students can upload to their smart devices and read using the iBooks or Kindle E-Readers, or Electronic Braille version for students that have that technology,” Reeves said. 

Reeves also explained how audio can help students learn. 

“Audio, which is a Universal Design for Learning, is at its best since many of us learn better by listening and students can take the recording and listen to their text lectures anywhere,” Reeves said. 

Reeves added that a reader program called Beeline could make reading on a screen easier and faster.  

“[The] BeeLine reader, which is new, uses a simple cognitive trick using eye guiding color gradients to pull students’ eyes through long blocks of text,” Reeves said.

 Ally for Students can help solve equity concerns when it comes to understanding course material, according to Reeves  

“Ally for Students really levels the playing field for students to be able to access their course materials in Canvas, in a format that is best for them,” Reeves said.