Implementation of Ally

Cardiff University gives Brunel University advice on how their institution can use Impact to implement Blackboard Ally successfully.

Jin Tan

System Support/Developer Analyst and Learning Technologist

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Brunel University first learned about Impact at the Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference (TLC) in 2015. They have been an Impact customer since 2017. Over the previous academic years, Brunel utilized Impact to facilitate a smooth implementation of Ally.

Implementing New Tools

Over the summer of 2019, Brunel was under a bit of time pressure to implement Blackboard Ally before the semester started in September. They had considered a phased roll-out but were unsure whether or not that was fair to students, given that some would have access to Ally and some would not. Brunel initially did onboarding for that year’s modules and got Blackboard to onboard for the older modules at a later date.

Brunel anticipated that questions would arise as a result of this and was prepared to use Impact to handle incoming support queries. Brunel initially put up several hint messages to inform users of the new tool, but according to Alice La Rooy, Head of Digital Education Brunel University, these messages were somewhat panicked and not placed optimally. They contacted Impact for guidance we helped them use Campaigns and Impact’s out-of-the-box messages to achieve their goals.

Using Impact Campaigns to Achieve LMS Goals

Brunel University divided its efforts into two Impact campaigns:

Campaign 1: Ally for Students

Brunel University has roughly 13,000 students in its taught and research programs. To inform all of their student users about this new tool, Brunel utilized one hint message. This message, namely the ‘use alternative formats’ message, consisted of a short descriptive text and a video explaining to students what Ally is, how it works, and how it is useful for them. It came out-of-the-box as a part of Impact’s Ally content. The message was placed on the Ally ‘A’ symbol next to files that students would eventually have to click on.

By the end of the month, 12,945 users had seen the hint message, which was a concrete measure of campaign engagement that they could then work with. Furthermore, the tool adoption reports allowed Brunel to measure exactly how many students used an alternative format with Ally, which turned out to be 4,500 students over that first month.

Campaign 2: Ally for Staff

The staff campaign included more monitors and messages than the student campaign. In total, Brunel used three messages. These messages would appear when staff members were performing specific tasks within the Ally environment and guide them towards best practices.

Throughout the implementation of these two campaigns, Brunel’s support team did not receive an overwhelming number of support queries about Ally – almost none, in fact.

Looking to the Future

Brunel will continue to create effective campaigns with Impact to introduce new tools, increase tool adoption and LMS usage and provide optimised support to all LMS users. Looking forward, Brunel excited about the permission-based access for the Impact Dashboard coming up as a new release this year. This update will allow additional users to be granted access to certain features on the Dashboard. The ability to give permission to use only certain features will make it easier for learning administrators to include input from additional staff members without losing oversights.

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