Current Problems

Trouble Uploading files to SafeAssign

posted Oct 8, 2013, 11:03 AM by Matthew Weathers   [ updated Nov 11, 2013, 2:11 PM ]

Update: Nov 11, 2013 - Fixed! Blackboard wrote: "This is starting to become a more common issue as users upgrade their browsers. The problem is that browsers are starting to implement stronger mixed-content blockers into their browsers which is starting to limit access and/or create issues that they were not having before." In other words, newer browsers block content when you're looking at an HTTPS address that comes from an HTTP server, which was sometimes the case when submitting an assignment on SafeAssign. However, they've added a work-around to our server.

Starting in September 2013, we have been hearing about some students having trouble uploading files using the SafeAssignment feature on Blackboard. We're not sure what is causing that problem, but here is some more information and some suggestions to try.

Update: We thought the recent upgrade (October 27, 2013 to Blackboard 9.1, SP14) would fix this, but apparently it has not. We have no solution at this point.

How it's Supposed to Work

SafeAssignment links look like this, with a green check mark icon:

After clicking the "View/Complete" link, students click the "Browse" button on the next page to choose a file, then click the "Submit" button to send the file. At this point, students should see a page saying that the file uploaded successfully. However, some students are experiencing a long lag while uploading, and the page never appears saying that it uploaded.

Suggestions for Students

Even with this error, at least some of the time, the file has been uploaded successfully and the instructor can see the assignment as if nothing went wrong. Students can check to see if their file was uploaded by going to "My Grades" and looking for the green "Needs Grading" icon - this means the submission was successful. For non-SafeAssign assignments, students can also click that green icon and on the next page, they can see the name of the attached file:

Even if you can't click on the green icon, its presence there shows that something was submitted.

In addition, there are some standard practices for submitting a file on Blackboard. Here's what to do if your first attempt doesn't work:
  • Try a different browser. Switch to Firefox or Google Chrome - something different than you used before.
  • Make sure the file name does not include any special characters ("Essay#1 on Money$"=NO; "Essay1_Money.docx"=Good).
  • Try a different computer.
  • Wait a few minutes and try again.
Suggestions for Instructors

Sometimes no students can upload files because you've forgotten to make the link available, or because you copied the link from a different course and forgot to do this extra step. If only some students are having trouble uploading assignments, but others were successful in uploading a file, then there is nothing wrong with your link. (It's all or nothing - either you have set things up incorrectly and no students can upload a file, or you have set it up correctly and some student can upload, but others are having trouble for an unrelated reason.)

To avoid this specific problem, you could remove the SafeAssignment link and instead use a regular assignment link. See Creating Assignments. You can later download the assignment files and check them with the Safe Assign system using DirectSubmit. See Using Direct Submit.

Also, if a specific student says they were unable to upload a file, first check to see if you have access to the file (through Grade Center, see Grading Assignments) since the file may have uploaded successfully. If you don't see a submission from that student, as them to try resubmit using some of the suggestions on this page.

Google Chrome and Embedded Videos

posted Aug 24, 2012, 8:46 AM by Matthew Weathers   [ updated Aug 24, 2012, 9:26 AM ]

We've noticed a problem with the latest version of Google Chrome not displaying embedded videos on Blackboard. This affects Windows 7 only, not Mac.

Quick Solution: Use a different browser (we recommend Firefox)

More Details

Blackboard uses the secure HTTPS protocol, but our online videos are posted on a server that uses the normal HTTP protocol. The Chrome browser apparently notices the difference and used to ask whether you wanted to load that "unsecure" content (see Trouble Playing Videos, below). But with the latest update to Chrome, it appears as though Chrome just silently refuses to show that content.

For now, the easiest solution is just to use a different browser. And hopefully, this issue will be resolved either by an update to the Chrome browser or by Biola updating the server that holds all the videos to allow HTTPS connections.

A Solution for Chrome

It's possible to start up the Google Chrome browser in such a way that it does not perform that check. Thanks to the Digital Inspiration blog for posting a description of this solution:

That blog posts describes the issue in more detail, but in summary you can allow Chrome to run "insecure content" by following these instructions: Right-click the Google Chrome icon on your desktop, or find the Chrome icon in Windows Start Menu and right-click on it. From the right-click menu, choose Properties and in the window that appears, in the "Shortcut" tab, find the Target box, and add the text " --allow-running-insecure-content" (that's a space and two minus signs before the letter A, don't include the quotes) on the end after the chrome.exe. Then quit Chrome and start it up again with the icon you just edited.

Trouble Playing Videos

posted Jun 27, 2012, 11:58 AM by Matthew Weathers

When you go to a page on Blackboard that has online videos embedded, your browser might say something like this:

If you see that message, click "Load Anyway."

That "insecure content" message just means that the video content is on a server that doesn't require a password (like YouTube, or Biola's video server), but it's okay to click "Load Anyway." This message will be different for different browsers. (The image above is an example from Google Chrome.)

If you've already clicked "Don't Load," you may need to log out of Blackboard and quit the browser and try again. You could also try using a different browser than what you were using (like Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Safari).

Grade Center: errorParsingDataMsg

posted Jun 14, 2012, 10:55 AM by Matthew Weathers   [ updated Jun 14, 2012, 10:58 AM ]

There's an occasional problem with the Grade Center with an easy solution. The problem comes from Blackboard somehow labeling two grade columns with the same ID value. The error message depends on the browser, but may look like this:

Internet Explorer:
TypeError: 'this.scoreProvidersMap[...]' is null or not an object

TypeError: this.scoreProvidersMap[spu.handle] is undefined

Google Chrome:
TypeError: Cannot set property 'allowContentEdit' of undefined

The solution is easy. Using Firefox, follow these steps:
  • Go to Full Grade Center
  • Click blue "Manage" button and choose "Column Organization"
  • Move one column up or down
  • Click Submit.

Note: Clicking "Column Organization" won't work unless you are using Firefox. (In other browsers, you can right-click and copy the link in "Column Organization" and paste it into the address bar. But use Firefox, it's easier.)

That should fix the problem. Re-ordering forces Blackboard to re-number the column ID values, and that error should disappear.

"Missing Plug-In" error when trying to download PDFs on a Mac

posted Aug 22, 2011, 4:49 PM by Matthew Weathers   [ updated Sep 8, 2011, 2:58 PM ]

This problem affects Macintosh only:
Recent changes in Blackboard are causing an error when you attempt to open up a PDF within a "frame," which is what Blackboard uses. A work-around solution is to change your browser settings to download the document rather than display it, or to use the Chrome browser. The issue appears in most browsers, including Safari 5.1 and Firefox 4, 5, and 6.  Blackboard has acknowledged the issue and chalks it up to browser compatibility with a fix coming in the near future.

PDF documents no longer display within the Blackboard frame. They can be opened just like Microsoft Office documents, however, as long as the browser is set up to download the document first. There are two steps you may need to take, depending on whether you are the instructor or the student.

If you are the instructor, you can help students get around this problem by doing this:

  • Click the double drop-down (chevron) next to it and select Edit from the pop-up menu.
  • On the Edit File page, in section 1, look for "Open in New Window" and select Yes.
  • Click Submit.

If you are the student, you might be able get around the problem by changing your browser settings:

  • In Firefox, click on the menu called Firefox (next to your Apple menu).
  • Select Preferences.
  • In the window that opens, click on the icon called Applications.
  • Scroll down the list to find an entry called something like "Portable Document File" or "Adobe PDF document."
  • If the entry to the right of "Adobe PDF document" says anything other than "Use Adobe Reader (default)," please click on what is shown and choose "Adobe Reader" (if it is listed) or choose "Use Other".
  • If you choose "Use Other." you'll see a list of the applications installed on your computer. From that list, select (click on) either "Adobe Reader" or "Preview."
  • Click on Open.
  • Close Preferences and then test to see what happens when you attempt to read a PDF online. If the PDF downloads and opens, you're all set.
  • If the entry to the right of Adobe PDF document already says "Use Adobe Reader (default)" then your problem could be that you have an outdated version of Adobe Reader. You can download a free upgrade from Adobe by going to: Once you have installed the new version, try opening a PDF again to see if this solves the problem.
But if that doesn't work you may need to try using a different PDF reader:

Solution 1: The Google Chrome browser is currently unaffected by this issue and loads PDFs as expected.  Mac users with this problem may choose to install Chrome from for use with Blackboard as a temporary fix.   

Solution 2:  You can install a different PDF Plug-in (other than the Mac OSX default and the Adobe PDF plug in)  that seems to work with most browsers.  You can obtain this plugin from this site:  Install the plugin on your computer and test with PDFs in Blackboard.  

YouTube Embedding Broken

posted Jan 28, 2011, 11:30 AM by Matthew Weathers

According to another Blackboard customer at another school: "Blackboard is apperently working on the issue and may need a patch or updated version of building block may be needed. It is said to be a high priority since there was a change with the ATI and it applys to all versions of Bb cause of the change google made. FYI."

It's happening for all schools on all versions of Blackboard. Which means it's high priority, and will probably get fixed soon. For now, just copy a link to the YouTube video and make a link. It won't look quite as nice as an embedded video, but it will work.

Instructors' Discussion Board Post Attachments Broken

posted Nov 16, 2010, 4:04 PM by Matthew Weathers

There's an error in the Blackboard system. If an instructor attaches a file to a Discussion Post, the instructor can view the attachment okay, but students can't.

Fortunately, there's a fairly easy work-around: instead of attaching files to your posts with the "Browse My Computer" button, link the files into your post by clicking the attach file icon on the bottom-left of the editing buttons:


For some reason, doing it that way avoids the error. Blackboard knows about this issue and has labeled it AS-147444, and it is scheduled to be fixed in version 9.1, Service Pack 3 (SP3), which is scheduled for release sometime in November 2011.

SafeAssign Grade Link is Broken

posted Sep 11, 2010, 11:23 AM by Matthew Weathers

There is a known bug in Blackboard that prevents students from getting feedback on assignments they submitted through a SafeAssign Assignment from the "My Grades" view. Students can see their grade (or the little green symbol meaning it's not graded yet), but when they click on the grade or the symbol, they get a HTTP Status 500 error:

Workaround: tell students they can get your feedback by clicking on the original assignment, then on the "View/Complete" link for that assignment. Here's a suggested announcement:

To view your grade and my feedback on your assignments, click on "Assignments" then click on the "View/Complete" link for that assignment -a little green exclamation mark symbol means it's not yet graded. (If you click on "My Grades" you will be able to see the grade you received and if you click on that grade link, it's supposed to show you that same feedback, but there's a Blackboard bug that gives you an error.)

This only affects assignments that use SafeAssign Assignments - students can still see their grade, but if instructors have attached a document in response, students can't see that document through the "My Grades" link, but only through the "View/Complete" link. Here's a link to discussion about this error on Blackboard's site:

Link to Blackboard's List of "Known Issues"

posted Aug 2, 2010, 2:22 PM by Matthew Weathers

To see a list of problems in the Blackboard system, see the official "Known Issues" list here:

Images Disappear When Editing Old Content Items

posted Jun 29, 2010, 12:20 PM by Matthew Weathers

There is a major bug in Blackboard that causes the loss of images in Content Items when you edit the Content Item. But it only happens when you edit old Content Items that were created before June 1, 2010. Anything created after June 1, 2010 will be fine.

When might this happen? If you have a Content Item with an image embedded along with the text, and if that item was created before June 1, 2010, then the image will disappear when you edit that item. This might happen if you were editing old Spring 2010 classes. Or if you copied content from Spring 2010 to a Fall 2010 class then edited it.

Solution: The only solution is to re-insert the image when you edit that Content Item. If you don't have the picture on your computer, save it from Blackboard before editing that Content Item. Do this by right-clicking on the picture then choosing "Save Image as..."

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