OCCC using new software, lets students control their learning

OCCC is debuting a new software called Ally that will work to make online learning more accessible to students who need certain accommodations. Such accommodations can be for students with visual, reading, and other challenges.

The software will help students who require their content to be presented in a certain way and allows students to choose alternate reading formats, Dr. Glenne’ Whisenhunt, director of the center for learning and teaching, said.

Ally has tools to aid students with dyslexia, students that utilize a braille reader, students that need audio, and more. 

The software program will work within Moodle. It will allow the course content to be adjusted so that it is presented in a format based on a particular student’s needs or preferences, Whisenhunt said.

“This [the new software program] is a huge addition to OCCC!” Whisenhunt said.

The software is run continuously and alerts Student Support Services about what content needs to be changed if any is added that can’t be accessed by students with disabilities.

Ally is being piloted now in some second eight-week classes.

The plan is for the software to be in use in all online classes starting this summer term, Whisenhunt said.

Students will be able to see what content Ally is able to affect, as there will be a unique looking A next to the content such as PDFs and Pages, Whisenhunt said.  

Ally will not work on quizzes or forums.

Ally will allow students to immediately make adjustments to course content, such as online documents posted by the professor, so they can read it or have it read to them by a screen reader, she said.

“This software allows students with special learning needs to be able to access course content that is in Moodle on the first day of class without having to wait for modifications to be made,” Whisenhunt said.

These changes not only help students with special learning needs but also students who prefer a different format, Whisenhunt said.

The tool used to aid with dyslexia generates a document that is easier to read on a screen which may also be preferred by non-dyslexic students, Whisenhunt said.

Students who need to hear their instructional materials are also helped by Ally.

The software can generate an audio file if a student wants or needs that format, Whisenhunt said.

“This also gives [all] students the option to download a .mp3 file to listen to while working out or driving,” Whisenhunt said.