When
it comes to teaching and learning, everyone has their own style and approach to
gathering, presenting and consuming information. Having the ability to
personalize the environment in which you are working to fit your own needs and
style can help simplify the experience and allow you to find what you are
looking for and complete your task much faster.

 

The
work coming out of the IMS
Access for All
group is about allowing a user to define personal
preferences for how they need to interact with a system, and ensuring the
content available to them has the right meta-data to accommodate these
preferences. Imagine a world in which students are presented with content in
the manner best suited to their needs at any given time. While there is some
argument about the value of user and accessibility preferences (see Jared
Smith's recent article titled: Web
Accessibility Preferences Are For Sissies?
) there is definitely a balance
that needs to be maintained to ensure the best experience for all users.

 

Deferring
to the browser text size controls or respecting the users' operating system
settings for color and contrast (both of which are done in Blackboard Learn)
provides a more consistent user experience across commonly used websites and
applications and doesn't bombard other users with controls that are of no use
to them. But allowing a user to control the layout of content or globally turn
off elements in the interface can help everyone define an environment that
works for them.

 

In
Blackboard Learn, if permitted by the system administrator (or teacher in the
case of a course page), a user can change the order of information on any
module page as well as its overall color scheme. Users can either drag and drop
elements or use the keyboard reordering button at the top of the page to move
content to where it makes the most sense to them. For users with cognitive
disabilities this may help them create a more understandable view of the
information. For screen reader or keyboard only users this allows them to place
the most frequently used information or links higher on the page for quicker
access.

Screen capture of Notifications Dashboard highlighting the Keyboard Reordering Options 

Changing
the color scheme of a module page may help those with slight vision impairment.
Users with higher vision impairments can choose to overwrite the Blackboard
Learn colors and styles with the operating system high contrast settings
defined on their local computer.

Screen shot of Blackboard Learn "My Institution" page shown in high contrast colors

The
text editor in Blackboard Learn is encountered in various locations and
provides a series of rich text editing options such as font styles (bold,
italics, etc.), tables and more. Although these options are accessible using a
keyboard, they do cause the page to render slightly slower and result in more
options for a keyboard or screen reader user to navigate past before reaching
the text field. The use of these rich text editing capabilities is optional and
can be disabled by a user at any time. Users can set this preference globally
in the "Personal Information > Change Personal Settings" area.
They can also toggle the editor on or off any time they encounter it. Taking
advantage of this setting will be beneficial for anyone who uses the keyboard
more than a mouse, or is on a low-bandwidth connection.

 

While
Blackboard Learn does already allow for a certain amount of personalization we
are always thinking about the next set of options that should be available to
users. If you have thoughts or ideas about this please feel free to share them
here or post them to http://suggestions.blackboard.com.

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  • Dina Pinsky

    In Blackboard Learn (9.1), it seems like students can post blog entries but not start their own blogs. They do not have the “create blog” button that I have as the instructor. Am I missing something?

  • JoAnna

    Hi Dina – Your understanding of this is correct. At this time blogs can only be ‘created’ in the course by the instructor (the same is true for Journals and Discussion Boards). However, your suggestion is one that we’ve heard before and continue to investigate. The more clients that suggest the same improvements the faster they cross the desks of us User Experience folks. My advice is to go to http://suggestions.blackboard.com and submit an official suggestion for student created blogs. These suggestions are regularly reviewed by our Product Management team and evaluated each time we make plans for a new release.