BBU Ally: Immersive Reader

In the September 2022 Blackboard Ultra (BBU) SaaS update, BBU Ally (The accessibility support functionality available in BBU) has been given additional “alternative format” functionality to include the option of opening BBU pages in the Microsoft Immersive reader.

The following guide has been created to support and upskill staff in sharing this update with their students.

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility, in terms of our VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), means creating learning materials that every student can use and derive the same learning benefit.  Since the EU Accessibility Directive became law in 2018, the university is required to take a proactive and inclusive approach to web accessibility, creating content in a form that everyone can access in the first instance.

What is Ally?

Ally is a product that aims to automate much of the “accessibility process” and will is a key part of Blackboard Ultra. It aims to make Blackboard inclusive for all

Ally does two things:

  1. It takes existing content on Blackboard and automatically reproduces it in several alternative formats. For example, electronic braille for the visually impaired, and audio for learning on the go.
  2. For accessibility changes that cannot be automated, Ally will flag up accessibility improvements to teaching staff using context-sensitive help and make it as easy as possible for colleagues to make these improvements.

For more information regarding Blackboard Ultra Ally please see the following knowledge base articles:

*Note Although Ally allows you to download the alternative format content such as ePub, Audio etc.  Immersive Reader does not download the content but instead opens the content in real-time.  If you require access to the same content in the Immersive Reader format at a later date you will need to re-open the file using the same process (do not look for the downloaded immersive reader format version in your downloads).
Immersive Reader can:
  • Read the text out loud in a voice and speed that can be decided by the reader themselves.
  • Change the background colour of the page which is particularly useful for those students who use overlays or have work printed on different coloured paper.
  • Highlight Verbs, nouns, adjectives and subclauses.
  • Split words up by syllables to help students sound out the words themselves.
  • Line focus allows students to see one, three or five lines at a time, like a reading ruler.
  • Using Office 365, Immersive Reader will allow you to click on certain words and provide a picture as a visual aid to help with understanding.
Where to find Immersive Reader

To access the immersive reader inside Blackboard Ultra Ally, click the Ally icon , it displays a list of formats the item can be downloaded into:

Image showing the alternative formats that content can be converted into via Blackboard Ultra Ally, this inow includes 'Immersive Reader'

Select Immersive Reader and click Download.

*Note Immersive Reader can be accessed inside Microsoft Office applications using the following method.

Open Word Document > View > Immersive Reader

Image showing how to access immersive reader in Microsoft Office applications

Immersive Reader can be used to achieve the following:
  • Read the text out loud in a voice and speed that can be decided by the reader themselves.
  • Change the background colour of the text. This is particularly useful for those students who use overlays or have work printed on different coloured paper.
  • Highlight Verbs, nouns, adjectives and subclauses.
  • Split words up by syllables to help students sound out the words themselves.
  • Line focus allows students to see one, three or five lines at a time, like a reading ruler.
  • Using Office 365, an immersive reader will allow you to click on certain words and provide a picture as a visual aid to help with understanding.
Immersive Reader will then change your document to this layout:

Image showing an example of a standard document being viewed in immersive reader

Changing background colour

Once in Immersive reader, you can change the colour of the background.

Click the Text Preferences button in the top right corner of the Immersive Reader screen.

Image showing the Text preferences button in immersive reader

With the new menu that appears either select from the standard (most commonly used) or select the More colours option to select from an expanded list of background colours.

Within this options menu additional formatting of the text can be performed including:

  • Changing Text Size
  • Increase Spacing
  • Change Font Size
Image showing the basic Background options menu options in immersive reader Image showing the expanded Background options menu options in immersive reader
Showing basic options Showing expanded options

Once the background has been set by the reader, these preferences will be remembered for the next time they use Immersive Reader.

Image showing an example of how immersive reader will display a page once the background colour has been chnaged.

Using the Grammar Icon

Image showing the 'Grammar' preferences button in immersive reader

You can highlight different word groups such as Nouns, verbs and adjectives.  You can also use the grammar section, you can split words up into syllables to help readers sound out the words they may be struggling with.

Image showing how immersive reader will highlight different word groups such as Nouns, verbs and adjectives.

Using the reading preference Icon

Image showing the 'Reading' preferences button in immersive reader

Readers can add a line focus to help with their reading, this can be a one, three- or five-line focus.

Image showing how immersive reader can add one, three or five line focus to help the reader.

Example of line focus set to one line.

Image showing example of line focus set to one line.

Changing language:
*Note This feature is only available in the desktop version of Microsoft Office and not the Blackboard Ultra Ally version.

The reading preference also allows readers to change the language of the text.  The reader can change the whole text or have single word selection enabled.

Using the Picture Dictionary as a visual aid

Image showing how to enable the picture dictionary in Immersive Reader

(Select Picture Dictionary in the preference icon)

*Note This feature is only available in the web version of Microsoft Office 365.

If the readers are struggling with the concept/ understanding of a word, where possible visual aids are added they can simply click on the word and the image will show up underneath.

Image showing how by clicking on any word (where possible) images will be shown underneath to support readers who are struggling with understanding their meaning.

Reading function:

The Play button at the bottom of the screen will read the text to you, the settings option will allow you to change the speed and voice itself.

Image showing how to configure the narration playback speed and gender of voice.