Introducing Blackboard Ally



Earlier today we announced the acquisition of the U.K.-based company Fronteer, and its associated technology, Ally. Later this week we will be opening up opportunities for you to help drive further innovation around course content accessibility within the Ally product.

As someone who has been focused on improving access to education for people of all abilities for almost 10 years, I am incredibly excited about this acquisition. Let me tell you why. Fronteer is a company with technology and philosophies about accessibility that directly align with the strategies I’ve been driving at Blackboard over the last 18 months.

  • Blackboard recognizes accessibility is an imperative, not an afterthought.
  • Blackboard endeavors to fully understand the diverse physical and cognitive needs of all our users – and then we go do something about it.
  • Blackboard is committed to delivering on the incredible promise that technology can bring into the lives of people with diverse abilities.

Fronteer’s Ally technology is designed to help institutions gain greater insight into the accessibility of their digital course content, to provide guidance to teachers about how to improve the quality of their content for everyone, and to provide students of all abilities with immediate access to content in formats that may be more suited to their specific needs. Ally will ultimately be available to any educational institution looking to better understand and improve the accessibility of their content, regardless of what Learning Management System they use.

In addition to the technology, the acquisition of Fronteer brought with it a team of people who share my perspective that accessibility isn’t just about meeting the industry standards in the products we create. It’s about fostering new ways of thinking that focus on the connection between accessibility and high-quality digital education experiences – resulting in more inclusive experiences. Nicolaas Matthijs, CEO of Fronteer and now Product Manager for Blackboard Ally, stated in a recent interview with e-Learn magazine that they “believe there is a need to move away from connecting accessibility to disabilities only. Accessibility is not the same as providing access to people with disabilities. It’s about providing better access to everyone, and improving the quality and experience for everyone.” I couldn’t agree more.

This acquisition illustrates our continued commitment to changing the way technology companies think about accessibility. At Blackboard, accessibility has moved from meeting industry expectations within our products to partnering in the creation of truly inclusive experiences in education. I’m excited about the changes that the Blackboard Ally toolset can bring to digital education. But I am equally excited by the potential of what our newly merged teams can accomplish as we start to work together in earnest.