Alternative Formats

Have you ever found content in your course that was difficult to read, or you wish came in a different format? A software called Blackboard Ally creates alternative formats of your course content that you can download directly from your course. 

Ally creates these alternative formats:

  • OCR PDF (for scanned documents)
  • Tagged PDF (currently for Word, Powerpoint and OpenOffice/LibreOffice files)
  • Semantic HTML
  • Audio
  • ePub
  • Electronic Braille
  • Translated Version
  • BeeLine Reader

Alternative formats aren't just for a select group of students. Alternative formats benefit everyone. For example, maybe you have a lot of course material to read and get eye strain, or maybe you are an auditory learner. Download the MP3 audio file instead. These formats are made available with the original file. 

  1. Click the Ally icon to see the alternative formats available.
  2. Select a format and click download.
Alternative formats dropdown next to item
Dowload alternative formats menu screenshot

By downloading an alternative format, you agree with Blackboard's terms of service. Note that processing time varies depending on file size and download version.

You might not see every alternative format in your list of choices to download. The formats generated depend on the original content type.


Not only do audio files benefit students with vision impairments, but also those with auditory learning preferences. If you prefer to listen instead of read, or want to listen to content while reading, downloading the MP3 version for listening may be a good option for you.

Electronic Braille

The electronic braille alternative creates a BRF file that can be read on a refreshable Braille display (RBD) or within a Braille software like Duxbury. RBDs can be a standalone device or the type that connects to a mobile device or laptop. 


The ePub alternative creates a digital publishing file for mobile devices that automatically adapts to the device it is viewed on with the use of ePub applications, such as iBooks for iOS, Voice Aloud for Android, or NaturalReader for Apple or Windows. ePub allows you to adjust font size, highlight content, take notes, and use text-to-speech.

Semantic HTML

This alternative uses using HTML language and formatting to add tags and elements to a page to aid screen reader users with content structure . Semantic HTML also supports the use of text-to-speech, highlighting and note-taking, and screen adjustments.


OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. The OCR PDF is created when the original file is a PDF of an image. OCR technology analyzes the file and converts the image to searchable text to support screen reader users.

Tagged PDF

A tagged PDF alternative uses tags and elements to add meaning to a page to aid screen reader users with content structure in document format.

Translated Version

This alternative format provides a machine-translated version of the original content in 50 different languages for PDF, Word, Powerpoint, and HTML documents.

BeeLine Reader

BeeLine Reader displays text using a subtle color gradient to make reading on the screen easier and faster. The reader offers five different gradient options for easier visual tracking and focus. Pictured below are Bright and Night options:

Image gradient options example

Alternative formats are computer generated and therefore may not fully reflect the content of the original attachment.

Disabled Alternative Formats

Instructors and administrators can turn off the alternative formats for an individual content item within a course. If this is done and you select Alternative formats, you'll see a message saying the alternative formats are disabled.

Prompt for disabled alternative formats