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Large Course Maintenance

Occasionally, FCLD runs a report identifying Blackboard courses of over 1GB in size.  Large courses can impact Blackboard performance over time. We then contact the instructors who have unusually large courses by email. You may have received an email from us. We would like to meet with you to help identify ways to decrease the size of your large course(s) in a way that will not impact your Blackboard teaching.  Some factors that increase the course size include: copying your course year after year or having a series of very large files within your course.  

Here is a list of ways that will help shrink the overall size of your Blackboard course.  

Multiple Imported Content Folders/Duplicate Files

When a course is exported and then imported into a new course, it will often create a series of imported content folders in your Files area, a hidden repository within your Blackboard course.

Course Files are found under the Control Panel within your Blackboard Course. Click the CRN number link to enter the course files area.

This can occur if/when:

  • Instructors copy or import courses year after year, creating multiple copy/import folders.
  • Instructors don't wait until the copy process is complete and click the import or copy button again when the browser appears to time out.
  • An error occurs and the copy process starts, but did not stop. Since content does not appear in the main menu, the instructor triggers another copy process; unbeknownst to the instructor, the files from both copies will appear in the Course Files section. 
  • Instructors replace PowerPoints or other documents in the content areas, but don't check or clean up the Course Files area.  Since most of us as a rule don't check our Course Files area, file copies can quickly pile up without our knowing it.

Any of these situations will cause an increase to the Course Files repository quickly, making the course very large and difficult to copy. Imported content folders and duplicate files can often be difficult to weed out, and have to be done very carefully so that course content is not broken. CAUTION: It is very important that instructors first create an export of their course and then use the 360 view to find out what files are/are not in use before removing them. If you accidently remove the wrong file from the course files area without checking to see if it's being used, the link could appear broken within the course.

Here's how:

To access the files section in your course, go to the Control Panel > Files > Click the CRN number.  From here, you can see your course files.

Duplicated Imported Content Folders
Files area shows how Imported Content folders have been duplicated multiple times

Click the down arrow to the right of the file name and then choose 360° to see if/where files are being used in the course before removal, as shown below.

Click the down arrow to the right of the file name and then choose 360° to see if/where files are being used in the course before removal.
Click the down arrow next to the file name to access the 360° View

The 360° View (see below), shows a checkmark next to files that are linked within the course. No checkmark next to a file name means that it is safe to remove.  By clicking on the 360° icon, you can see where the file is linked within a content area (e.g. Course Documents).

The 360° view will show you which files are linked and which are not. By clicking the icon, you can see where in the course the file is linked.

To delete a file, simply hover over the file name and click the down arrow that appears next to it and click Delete.

Again, we advise caution whenever you are deleting course files.  If you are in any way unsure, contact FCLD and we can help you clean up your course at (860) 768-4661 or fcld@hartford.edu.

Video and Audio Files

Videos and audio files that are uploaded directly into Blackboard have to be downloaded to be viewed; they are not streamed.  This poses three problems:

  • It impacts fair use, since the student has to download the file to his/her own computer to view it.
  • Uploaded files are very large and take a long time to download.
  • Large files uploaded directly into Blackboard greatly increase course size, making the course difficult to copy.

We encourage you to move large audio and video files onto Ensemble, which works as an in-house YouTube. You can house your video and audio files and stream them back to students within Blackboard.  Email ots@hartford.edu  to obtain a user account and view the guide, Getting Started with Ensemble.  For training on how to use Ensemble, contact us at fcld@hartford.edu, call (860) 768-4661 or join one of our regularly scheduled Ensemble Workshops.

Large PDF Files

Often, we don't consider how large PDF files can be.  When creating them, many people inadvertently scan at 300 DPI and full-color.  300 DPI is great if you plan to reprint the PDFs for reproduction, but creates a large file. Many times a 100-150 DPI and black/white scan is sufficient, as your students will predominately just be viewing them online in Blackboard.  Some pointers:

  • Scan PDFs using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) rather than regular image scans.  This digitizes the text and makes it readable by a screen reader, used by students with vision impairments.  Screen readers cannot read regular PDFs because they are essentially "images." Contact FCLD to learn how to OCR scan.  As an FYI, all scanners in the library are equipped to OCR scan.
  • Scan in black/white or greyscale to reduce file size.
  • Scan at 100-150 DPI, which is sufficient for viewing on devices/computers.

PowerPoint Image Size

Images that are uncompressed can bloat your PowerPoint presentations.  As such, it is important to compress the images and set them at a proper resolution.  

PowerPoint has a built in tool in Office 2010 and later versions that allows you to quickly compress all images within the document. First, go to the File tab > Options > Advanced > Untick the box “Do not compress images in file” and make sure “Set default target output to” is set to 96 ppi. Next, click on any image in the PowerPoint document, and from the Format tab, click the Compress Pictures button on the ribbon.

  • Uncheck the box "Apply only to this picture" (We want to compress all the images in the PowerPoint.)
  • Check "Delete croped areas of pictures."
  • Check "E-mail (96 ppi): minimize document size for sharing" (96 ppi is sufficient for viewing on a screen).

Compress Pictures Dialog Box, choose delete and 96 ppi, Apply only to this picture unticked, then click ok

If your PowerPoints come from a CD packaged with your textbook, you will still need to check their file size. You will also need to check with the textbook publisher to find out if there are any copyright restrictions on uploading their CD files into Blackboard. Many textbooks also offer their content on a website – consider linking to that instead.

Narrated PowerPoints

Narrated PowerPoints have very large file sizes because they include audio files.  We suggest instructors export these as a movie from PowerPoint, upload them to Ensemble, and then create a link within Blackboard to them. For training on Ensemble, contact us at fcld@hartford.edu, call (860) 768-4661 or join one of our regularly scheduled Ensemble Workshops.

To export a PowerPoint to a movie in PowerPoint 2010 and newer versions:

  1. Go to File > Export > Create a Video

  2. In the Video dialogue box, under the dropdown menu Presentation Quality, choose Low Quality.  This is sufficient for viewing in Blackboard and on mobile devices.

  3. Under the dropdown menu Don't use Recorded Timings and Narrations, choose instead Use Recorded Timings and Narrations.

  4. Click the Create Video button.

  5. Save the file to a directory on your computer and click OK and the file will convert.  You will see a progress bar at the bottom of your PowerPoint window, but no other notifications will appear when it's complete.

  6. When done, you can then Add the file in Ensemble and link to it in your Blackboard course.   Email ots@hartford.edu  to obtain a user account if you do not already have one and view the guide, Getting Started with Ensemble for more information.

Assignment Submissions (by students)

Student submitted assignments can often be large files; however, instructors have the ability to clean these up by downloading them to a local hard drive. Note that instructors should retain these documents for at least one year in case of grade disputes or for accreditation purposes. Here's how:

  1. Go into the Full Grade Center.  From here, you will need to go to each column that has assignments, click the down arrow next to the assignment, then click from the dropdown list Assignment File Download.  

  2. Select all your students and then choose either "Last attempt file" or "All attempt files," then click the Submit button.  It will give you a message that says "The assignments have been packaged.  Download assignments now (file size)."  

  3. Click the link to download to your computer, then choose OK. 

  4. Go back to the assignment in the Full Grade Center, click the drop down, and then choose Assignment File Cleanup. This will remove the students' submissions from Blackboard.

Image size/File format

In most cases, a .jpg, .png or .gif file format offers the best balance between file size and image quantity.  We recommend you avoid the use of .tif or .bmp file fomats.  If possible, use Photoshop or another image editor to reduce the overall size of the image down to 72 dpi for optimal viewing on screen.  Images do not need to be any larger than 1000px wide.  Be sure not to use raw camera files straight from your digital camera as these are quite large and will take some time to fully load for viewing (they might also be gigantic and require scrolling in Blackobard).

Summary

Large courses can impact Blackboard performance over time. Please look over your Blackboard courses and see if any of these tips might apply.  From past experience, one or a combination of the above will generally help.  As always, please feel free to contact us for assistance, to ask about which specific course(s) are over 1 GB, or to get help with any questions that you might have.  We can be reached at (860) 768-4661 or at fcld@hartford.edu.