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File Types in BB Vista

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HTML

Hyper Text Markup Language is the format used for creating web pages. Because a browser is the only program needed to read html, it is the most accessible option for students. It can be used to present regular text, and also include links allowing for navigation within and between files.

You can also convert files created in another program into html. This process is usually fast and straight forward, if the original program was written or edited with the eventual conversion in mind (if not, the conversion may remove or mess up the formatting).

PDF (portable document file) 

A PDF captures a perfect image of the text, and so is a good format to use if you are trying to preserve a complicated layout or if your students will primarily be interested in printing the document (rather than reading it on the screen). It is a unique type of cross-platform file format developed by Adobe and has many benefits, including the fact that it is navigational, ultra-printable and viewable, as well as smaller than other document formats.

Word documents and PowerPoint presentations display very effectively when converted into PDFs.  All faculty members have access to Adobe Acrobat, a program which creates PDF files (if the program is not on your BC computer, your TC will be able to download it).  For students to see the file they will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free plug-in, installed on their computers.

Microsoft Word and Other Word Processors

Word documents can be uploaded into Blackboard Vista just as they are, assuring that they will appear exactly as they were created.  Students will need the program on their own computers and most already have it.  If not or if their version is not able to read the presentation, Windows users can download a viewer for free.  Depending on their operating systems, users accessing these files may be prompted by their browsers to save the file to their computer for opening or the file may open directly. To protect your document so students cannot edit it in Blackboard Vista, save it under password protection. (Otherwise a document may open with a cursor positioned for typing. Any changes made cannot be saved, however, so protection is to prevent distraction rather than lasting damage).

  1. From the File menu select "Save As".
  2. PC: Pull down the "tools" button in the top right corner and select "security options" if available, or "general options."
    Mac:
     Click the Options button and look under File Sharing Options.
  3. In the "password to modify" field, type in a password. To avoid having to use this password yourself to do future editing, save a copy for yourself which isn't password protected.

Word documents can also be converted into HTML and PDFs, which makes them more accessible. Creating a PDF is generally straightforward;  so is saving to HTML if the original was typed using "web- friendly" practices (if not, the conversion to html may remove or mess up the formatting). The following links include easy suggestions for a successful conversion:

PowerPoint 

PowerPoint presentations can be uploaded into Blackboard Vista just as they are, assuring that they will appear exactly as they were created.  Students will need to have the program on their own computers. If not or if their version is not able to read the presentation, Windows users can download a free viewer. An additional disadvantage is that long presentations can take several minutes to download.  Depending on their operating system, users accessing these files may be prompted by their browser to save the file to their computer for opening or the file may open directly. PowerPoint presentations can also be converted into HTML and PDFs. This makes them more accessible although the process of saving PowerPoint files to html is somewhat complicated, especially for longer documents.

Image Files

The following formats present effectively in all browsers on Blackboard Vista, but make sure to use a format compatible with all platforms (or the ones your students will be using):

  • jpeg or .jpg (Joint Photographic Experts Group) 
    Best for photographs; supports 16 million colors but requires negotiating between file size and quality (adjustments can be made with an image editor).
  • .gif (graphics interchange format)
    Best for graphics with few colors (banners, graphics, etc.)
    Limited palette but maintains sharpness, allows transparency.

Files should be kept as small as quality will allow, since the larger they are the longer they will take to load in a browser. If you want to reduce the size of an image as it appears on the screen or adjust the graphic in any way, use an image editor such as Adobe Photoshop (just changing the attributes in html won't actually change the file size). Using an image editor, you can also open a file and then save it in a different format. Adobe Photoshop is available in the Interactive Multimedia Lab.

Audio and Video Clips

  • .mp3 (Moving Picture Experts Group, audio layer 3)
    A method of compressing sound signal to create a very small file, compatible with all platforms.
  • .wav
    Windows standard format for waveform sound files. Can also be run with QuickTime on Macs, but files tend to be large.
  • .mov or .movie
    File made by QuickTime, standard format for video, animation and sound on Macs. QuickTime files can also be run on PC with QuickTime Player, which is available as a free download. Recommended for displaying video in Blackboard Vista because of this ease of access. Files should be kept as small as quality will allow, since the larger they are the longer they will take to load in a browser.

Making Sure Files Meet Standards of Accessibility

US disability law is expanding to cover information technology through its Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards, and educational institutions will soon be expected to ensure that persons with visual, hearing and other physical impairments have equal access to web resources.

The article Electronic Accessibility: United States and International Perspectives offers a collection of guidelines for verifying accessibility as you are preparing material for your web site. Please refer to Boston College's suggestions on making content accessible.