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Instructional Technology

February 18, 2010

Blackboard Problems and Word
Filed under: Uncategorized — Lynn Cooke @ 2:30 pm

We are experiencing increasingly frequent problems with the display of text in Blackboard when users copy text from Word into Blackboard text boxes. This problem is especially common when text is copied from Word 2007 or Word 2008. In addition, display problems are more common with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser than the Firefox browser.

When Microsoft released the most recent versions of Word they change the file format. Word Documents are now xml files. Xml is a language of the web. Unfortunately, some of the ways that Microsoft is using xml are not consistent with the standards for web use. So, when you copy that code into a web form (a Blackboard text box, for example) you get unexpected results. The web browser interprets the code in accordance with the web standards and displays it. If the code is not compliant with the standards, the browser tries to interpret it or it might ignore the code. Internet Explorer seems to try to interpret the code, Firefox seems to ignore the non-compliant code.

In the past we’ve recommended that users compose lengthy posts, whether discussion board or in other areas, using Word and then copying and pasting into the text box. Before Microsoft’s format change, that process worked OK. The procedure of using Word, which most users were comfortable using, provided a safety net in the case of a failure in the user’s connection to Blackboard. A copy of the post was safely stored on the user’s computer and they could easily copy and paste again, rather than having to regenerate a long or complicated post.

What to do now? There are a few things that can be done to preserve long/complicated posts in the event of a dropped connection. First, compose in the Blackboard text editor using the Blackboard text editor tools to format the text. Next, before submitting, copy and paste the text into a word processing tool. You can use Word for this but, NotePad (windows) or TextEdit (mac) work better if you have to copy and paste back into Blackboard. Finally, save the file from the word processing program in PLAIN TEXT format (txt) and close it if you are using Word. If you need to copy and paste the text back into Blackboard, you can open the file and will have only text and no extraneous code that can cause problems. Copying the plain text back means that you have to reformat the text in Blackboard, but it will display correctly.

An example:

I posted the following text from Word 2007 into a text box in Blackboard:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse vestibulum arcu in nisl malesuada blandit. Aliquam feugiat ornare massa non convallis. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Proin sagittis metus nec ante convallis posuere. Cras nec sapien eros, luctus porttitor enim. Nunc sagittis, orci sit amet porttitor accumsan, odio metus lacinia odio, rhoncus luctus augue mi sed odio. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Morbi lacinia orci sit amet lacus aliquet quis porttitor turpis tristique. Duis vehicula mauris sit amet sem adipiscing imperdiet. Suspendisse nulla lorem, vulputate sed consequat at, pellentesque laoreet nibh. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Duis suscipit neque eget neque dignissim in facilisis nulla dapibus. Sed placerat mi eget metus suscipit non accumsan velit mollis. Donec eget aliquam dolor. Vivamus vestibulum ante nec dolor tincidunt vitae euismod arcu ultricies. Ut sollicitudin hendrerit sagittis. Nullam quis ligula est.

Cras nec orci quam, et vestibulum nunc. Quisque malesuada diam vel nulla dignissim id pellentesque justo congue. Aenean vitae leo mauris. Vivamus diam odio, lacinia sit amet porta sit amet, ullamcorper eu elit. Mauris nec orci vitae nisl rutrum volutpat. Cras quis lacinia tellus. Aliquam erat volutpat. Donec mattis, libero id consectetur viverra, ligula arcu dapibus lacus, eget pharetra tortor tellus quis lacus. Suspendisse potenti. Maecenas sit amet quam nulla, non ullamcorper dui. Curabitur in dolor arcu, vitae cursus enim.

This text file contains what actually was pasted into Blackboard. Note the additional code. There is a lot of code beyond that needed to display the formatted text on the webpage.