From the DA team: this blog was originally published on 21 June 2022 and last updated on 27 October 2022.
What are alternative formats on Anthology Ally?
Anthology Ally is an online tool on your Moodle modules. It offers an alternative formats tool that you can use to change the format of Moodle resources, such as those shared by lecturers, to your desired format. For example, you can convert a Word document to an MP3 audio file so you can listen to it. This is part of City’s efforts to make learning more accessible to all students, including those who may process alternative formats better.
The tool can convert the following file formats:
The formats you can convert the above file formats into include:
- Tagged PDF
- Electronic braille
- BeeLine Reader
- Immersive Reader
The tool generates the alternative formats using automated technology. This means that the files it produces are not checked by any staff, such as lecturers. Automated alternative formats are considered a supplementary resource, and so users should not rely solely on the alternative format when reviewing learning resources.
Where to find it and how to use it
You will be able to spot or navigate to the alternative formats icon next to resources.
Select the icon will open an overlay window where the alternative formats available will be listed. Select your desired destination format, then download.
First impressions of formats
The HTML format can be useful if you are using your phone and don’t have Adobe Reader installed. MP3s can be a good option for low vision users to listen to content in detail. That said, MP3s can also be used by those who may interpret audio information better than visual information, making it an additional learning and revision tool.
During our testing, HTML files were quick to download. However, upon testing, we discovered that some parts of the text in the original file were missing. In the case of the file we used, users may miss out on valuable content. Formatting is also a consideration – integrating graphs, tables or images may pose challenges, so it is something to keep in mind when using the tool.
The tagged PDF format is also quick to download. It is another useful alternative as it can be opened on virtually any platform. However, we noticed the text did not convert consistently, so the file should not be used in isolation. That said, the file generally looks good, and is easily accessible and navigable.
The MP3 alternative format posed no problems with consistent conversion or any missing text. that the alternative formats tool cannot access, such as speaker notes in a PowerPoint file, these do not make it into the MP3 file. As such, MP3 files should not be used in isolation.
Despite this, the format may also be used by those who may interpret audio information better than visual information.
Which format is best?
If you are not sure which format to use, Ally has published a full table featuring all the available formats and how they meet your study needs, which can help you decide which format to use.
Note: You might not see every alternative format in your list of choices to download. The formats generated depend on the original content type.
The Alternative Formats tool in Anthology Ally is highly useful for users that want to access information in different ways to optimise their experience based on their individual needs. However, users should be aware that there are always improvements to be made with this tool.e
From the personal perspectives of students who have tested it, we think that the general concept is great and that City thinking about further embedding assistive technology into learning resources to remove barriers to higher education, which is an incredible feat. At the same time, we recognise that further work needs to be done in this area, and this is laying the groundwork for further developments.
Further guidance and resources
- Anthology Ally for Students (City LibGuides)
- Student Disability Support (Student Hub)
- Student Neurodiversity Support (Student Hub)
- Student Digital Support Community (Microsoft Teams)
Andrei Rata, Candidate for BSc (Hons) Finance, Bayes Business School (formerly Cass)
Kate McCarthy, Candidate for MSc Speech and Language Therapy