Accessibility – Using External Resources

When using external resources such as PDFs or scans and videos in your teaching and learning activities, it is important to check how accessible they are and ensure that all students will be able to use them. This is crucial if you are relying on them to support a learning activity, because usually it isn’t possible for you to edit such an external resource. If the item you want to use is not very accessible, then look for an alternative, otherwise some students will be excluded.

The guidance in the AU accessibility checklist can be used to evaluate how accessible an external resource is.

Please select the most accessible material available – if the only resource that is available is not accessible, think carefully about how you provide that information to student who may find it difficult to use.

PDF documents / scans

Scans of handwritten documents, or non-OCR scans from books, magazines etc are inaccessible to people who need to use screen-readers, enlarge text etc. Wherever possible use OCR readable scans and PDFs. You can talk to the Information Services Digitisation Team about getting appropriate scans of materials. If you use scans of handwritten documents, you could provide a transcription of the content.

The University of Chicago’s guidance on OCR and PDFs is useful if you want to know more about this issue (note that it includes links to services and software not available at AU; it is also only available in English).


Check the video that you want to use has captions or subtitles. For example, if you are using YouTube, there’s a Subtitles/Closed Captions icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.

Screenshot of YouTube video controls with Subtitles/closed captions icon highlighted.

Check the quality of the audio and make sure you can hear and understand it at a reasonable volume.

If there are no captions, or the audio quality is poor, is it possible to lip-read the actors or presenters?

Many TV recordings in Box of Broadcasts recordings include a transcript, so this is a good place to source video. Remember that some BBC programmes are also broadcast with sign language interpreters.

If videos use text to convey meaning, make sure that it has clear fonts and good contrast.

Avoid videos with lots of flashing lights and fast-moving images – if you can’t avoid using a video that contains this, make sure that you warn students (and provide an alternative explanation or video where possible).

The W3C web page on audio and video content is also useful. Although it is designed for people creating audio and video, if gives you some pointers of things to look for when selecting resources.

Making your Blackboard Content Accessible

Screenshot of the Blackboard Ally tool showing 4 dials: Needs help! A little better. Almost there. Perfect!]

  • Have you ever wondered what the dials next to your content mean in Blackboard?
  • Have you seen the Ally Accessibility Report in your Blackboard course but weren’t sure what to do with it?
  • Do you want to make your Blackboard content more accessible, but aren’t sure where to start?

If the answer to any of these questions is Yes, then our new Introduction to Ally course is one for you.

And if you are wondering what Ally even is, then this course is definitely one for you.

The E-learning Essentials: Introduction to Blackboard Ally course (26 February) will take you through the basics of using Ally to check and fix accessibility issues in documents you have uploaded to Blackboard. Ally was introduced back in September (view the blog post introducing Ally) and is available in all 2023-24 Blackboard courses.

If you are interested in creating accessible documents using tools in Microsoft Office packages like Word and PowerPoint, we also have a Creating Accessible Learning Materials session running on 7th March.

All staff are welcome to attend – book your place on the training course booking page.

Panopto Captions in Welsh

Panopto’s automatic speech recognition (ASR) captions can now be added to recordings made in Welsh.

To use of Welsh captioning:

  1. Set the language of your Panopto folder to Welsh.
  2. Import the automatic captions.

If your course contains both Welsh and English recordings, you should create a sub-folder to hold all the recordings for one of the languages:

  1. Login to and find your course folder.
  2. Click on the Add Folder button.
  3. Type in a name for your folder and press Enter.
  4. Click on the new folder and set the language for these recordings.

When you make your recordings, you must select the correct language folder before pressing record. This is because Welsh ASR captions cannot be added to recordings copied or moved from other folders.


  1. There can be delay between changing the language on your folder and the option for automatic captions to appear. If this happens check back after an hour or so and you should see the option available.
  2. The Welsh ASR captions are only available for content created after you updated the language setting on your folder.
  3. The Welsh ASR captions cannot be added to recordings copied or moved from other folders.
  4. If you regularly make recordings in other languages, ASR captions are available in other languages (see the Panopto website for the full list)

Using Blackboard in Welsh

When you next log in to Blackboard you may notice that the language of the interface has changed. The initial language you see in Blackboard is decided by the Preferred Language you have set in either ABW as staff or Student Record as a student.

If you have already set your Preferred Language to Welsh, you’ll see the Welsh language interface of Blackboard, and if you have set your Preferred Language as English, you’ll see the English language interface of Blackboard.

If you don’t see the Blackboard Interface in the language you prefer you can easily change it:

Use the Language option on your Profile Page

screenshot of Profile Page, language options

The new Blackboard Ally tool also gives you access to Welsh language audio versions of Welsh content in Blackboard courses. Any Welsh language documents, PowerPoints, PDFs etc can be read aloud using the Audio MP3 version. For more information on using Blackboard Ally, take a look at our staff or student FAQ.

Is your content visible to students?

Now is a good time to check whether the content in this year’s Blackboard courses is visible to students. With our move to Blackboard Learn Ultra, any materials copied from previous years’ courses are hidden from students by default.

Screenshot of hidden content

You can change the visibility of individual items (see Blackboard help site for making items available). You can make them visible immediately or use the Release Conditions (date/time, specific students / groups, student performance – see Blackboard help site for Release Content guidance for further information).

If you have a lot of hidden material, don’t forget that you can use the Batch Edit tool to make multiple items of content visible all at once (see Blackboard help site for using Batch Edit). Be careful not to make the External Examiners folder available.

When you use Batch Edit to make a folder visible it will also make all the content items in the folder visible.

Remember that you can use the Student Preview tool (see Blackboard help site for using Student Preview) to see how your course and content looks to students.

See our Ultra webpage for further support materials or contact the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (

Ultra Courses 2023-24

When you come back for next academic year, your new courses in Blackboard will look a little different. From September 2023, all new courses in Blackboard will be Ultra courses.

We’ve been using Ultra Base Navigation (UBN) in Blackboard since January 2023, and we know that many of you have found it easier to use – especially on mobile devices.

Ultra courses have the same accessible and mobile-friendly design as UBN – here’s what an Ultra course looks like:

Screenshot of a Blackboard Ultra Course

Because of the way it’s designed, an Ultra course never has more than two levels of folders – this makes it much quicker and easier to find your course materials and assignment submission links. And there’s also a search tool inside every course.

We’ve also redesigned our course template to make sure it uses the language that the course is taught in. If your module is taught in Welsh, your course template will now be in Welsh. And bilingual modules have a bilingual course template.

There’s lots of information about Ultra on the Blackboard website, including an introduction to navigating your way round an Ultra course (note – the video on this page is on an external site and only available in English).  

All your previous years’ courses are still available – so if you need to look back at old course materials, you can do that too.

Can I access old courses and materials after the move to Ultra?

Blackboard Ultra icon

Previous year courses will remain available (in line with the university’s retention policy). You will be able to access old courses, and course materials using the Courses dropdown menu.

Please note that access to Turnitin submissions from before summer 2022 has changed – read our guidance on downloading Turnitin submissions made before summer 2022.

Your Fellowship Records

Do you hold any category of HEA Fellowship (awarded by Advance HE)?

This may be Associate Fellow (AFHEA), Fellow (FHEA), Senior Fellow (SFHEA) or Principal Fellow (PFHEA).

If so, many congratulations! Your fellowship “demonstrates a personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education.” (Advance HE, Fellowship

As part of our annual data returns, we need to make sure that we have records of all categories of fellowship holders. You can do this yourself by updating your ABW record. If you gained fellowship in another institution, you should also update your records with Advance HE to reflect your current post at Aberystwyth University.

Update your ABW record

Make sure that your ABW correctly records the category you currently hold. Remember to update your record if you are awarded a new category of fellowship.

  1. Login to Aber Business World (Aber People) using your normal AU login details.
  • Make sure you are on the Your employment tab from the menu on the left.
Screenshot of ABW with Your employment highlighted

  • Go to Personnel Information in the Your Employment column.
Screenshot of ABW with Personnel information highlighted

  • Go to the HESA tab.
Screenshot of ABW with HESA tab highlighted

  • Once there, scroll down until you reach a series of fields labelled as Teaching Qualification.
Screenshot of ABW with Teaching Qualification boxes highlighted

  • Click on the downward arrow on one of the Teaching Qualification fields.

A dropdown list will open that includes several options that begin with Recognised by Advance HE as a….

Select the appropriate fellowship category.

Screenshot of ABW with fellowship category listing highlighted

  • Do not forget to click the Save button at the bottom of the screen.
Screenshot of ABW with Save button highlighted

My Advance HE

If you gained fellowship at another institution and have moved to AU, update your My Advance HE record to show your new Employer Relationship with Aberystwyth University.

  1. Login to My Advance HE with your Advance HE username and password. If you don’t know your password, you use the link on the login page to reset it
  2. Click on My Profile
  3. Click on Update Profile
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Create new employer relationship
  5. Add the details of your new job at Aberystwyth University
  6. You can also edit the details of any previous posts (eg to add an end date) by clicking on the downwards arrow next to that post and selecting Edit.
  7. Click on Submit

And of course, if you are interested in applying for another fellowship category, you can apply for AFHEA, FHEA and SFHEA through the ARCHE scheme.