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Guidelines for Using Multimedia in Bb

by John Dono and Ursula Hoffmann

Adding images, audio and video clips to a course sounds like a lot of fun. But it is also time consuming and often frustrating -- as the people attending the Bb workshops had a chance to observe.

Therefore, before you start

Evaluate relevance to the subject matter of the course;

the more effort it takes to develop and use the materials the more central it should be to the goals of the course.
  1. Link to external sites with relevant content.  In most cases this is the easiest and most effective solution.  The creators of the external site may have already created or obtained the material from other sources, digitized it if necessary, compressed it and saved it in a suitable web format, provided supplemental information and even provided versions for different connection speeds.  This solution also minimizes copyright issues.
  2. Link to your own small clip.

Multimedia file data take up a lot of space and, if large, take a lot of time to access.
For large files, such as lectures,
video, Powerpoint presentations with large images or mm clips, consider
distributing materials on CD or using standard technology in your classroom
putting them on your website providing that your server can handle streaming media.

Very small multimedia clips can easily be added to a Bb course document, BUT you should
provide controls (start/stop, replay, volume)
provide information on size, file formats, helper apps/plug-ins
provide information on and links to sources of required viewers, players etc.
provide materials in alternative formats (e.g. transcripts of audio, alternate text for graphics and video)
provide materials for different connection speeds.


test on several computers (not just your own, at home or in the office, but also in the lab you or your students will use)
test with common browsers and browser versions (IE, Netscape, Safari)
test on both Macintosh and Windows platform
inform students of software/hardware requirements prior to start of class
run a test of all multimedia materials with students early in the semester.

The Lehman ITR labs do not have audio -- the Open Area lets students use headphones for audio -- the Humanities Lab (C249) has speakers at the instructor station.

The three most common free browser plugins are Windows Media Player, Quicktime (for PCs and Macs), Real Player. They grab the various file formats of multimedia files in the order in which they are installed, i.e., Real Player if installed last, will grab the .wav format away from the previously installed plugins. On one's own computers (yours or those of your students if they work at home), one can control the associations.
In the Lehman labs, one cannot. So, problems will arise. (An example in the Humanities lab: a Bb file downloaded to a temporary directory open for downloading but Real Player could only open files in a different directory.)
If all of your students work at home, this is no problem.

Downloads of large files may time out if you or your students have a dial-on/modem/slow connection. (An example on a website: a Powerpoint Presentation containing very big image files times out, the computer dead-ends.)

The Blackboard server may be slow, especially at times of heavy use, so links to websites tend to work more efficiently when accessed directly, rather than from within Bb.


April 2005