Within the Project of Excellence on Digital Humanities, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures is encouraging the use of a blended approach to promote accessible teaching, also through specially prepared digital teaching technologies and methodologies.
As part of the Didactic Area project, courses of this type have already been activated for companies (specialized languages), secondary school teachers and students at the University of Verona.
Thanks to the resources allocated to the Project it has been possible to purchase two software packages in order to favour the accessibility of teaching materials. The Blackboard Ally program, which has been installed and configured for the University e-learning platform (Moodle) by the technicians of the University's Innovative Technologies for Didactics working group. Ally, as the English word says, proves to be a precious “ally” as it allows the real-time verification of the accessibility degree for the materials uploaded onto the online platforms: by doing so, on the one hand, the teaching staff can have a precise verification of the accessibility degree for teaching materials; on the other, it will also have the opportunity to monitor the accessibility of all courses over time, by highlighting any progress or critical issues, as this acquires much more relevance within the courses offered by our Department or Study courses.
Moreover, Ally provides clear and precise information on how to improve the accessibility of materials, thus stimulating virtuous behavior by the teaching staff.
Finally, from a student perspective, a fundamental aspect is represented by the possibility of automatically and autonomously converting teaching materials into alternative formats (html, ePub, electronic Braille, Audio mp3, BeeLine Reader, Machine Translation, PDF analyzed with OCR), depending on the student’s individual needs or preferences.
For further details on the adoption of Ally by the department, see this blog post on the Blackboard web site.
The second program is Readspeaker, a text-to-speech speech synthesis technology integrated in Moodle, which allows users to listen to the Moodle textual contents, including sections and page structure. It supports the languages offered by our Department: Italian, English, German, Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese. In addition to reading, Readspeaker provides the possibility of highlighting colors, text zooming and automatic scrolling.
In this perspective, by recalling art. 10 of the University Statute, Digital Humanities actively contribute to “overcoming barriers” and making all courses accessible in a blended mode.