Manfred Kuechler (Hunter College)

First posted: Dec 1, 2000
Last update: Dec 31, 2000
 
Note that the procedures described in this document work for any MS Office 2000 document that is "saved as a web page" -- using the auto conversion to html format MS Office offers. They work for (complex) Powerpoint presentations, but they apply equally to simple MS Word documents with just an image/chart or two.

However, in addition to the two options described below, BB/CI may be able to handle simpler documents (just a few images) directly. Simply specify the main (text) document as "file to be linked" and BB/CI may prompt explicitly for the associates images files (and these may reside in the same or a different subfolder as the text docuemnt on the local computer). So, for these files you may not need to create a zip file or make any changes to the converted MS Office file (as described below). Unfortunately, the BB/CI manual is not specific on when this direct method will work and when "zipping" is necessary.

How to use Powerpoint presentations within Blackboard (CourseInfo) or ERes

Both PP 97 and PP 2000 allow to covert a basic presentation (no audio track, no video clips, no "animations") to html format very easily. Simply open an existing PP presentation (.ppt file) and then select "save as a web page" (2000) or "save as" (97) from the file menu. Pros and cons of an html conversion are discussed in a previous document.

However, what was one (ppt) file becomes a whole folder full of files (basically 3 files for each slide). Let's assume the original file was called Demotivational_posters.ppt. Then the automatic conversion creates a file Demotivational_posters.htm in the same folder as Demotivational_posters.ppt and a folder called Demotivational_posters_files. This folder contains all the different files produced during the conversion.

One of the drawbacks of BB is that it does not allow the user to fully control a subfolder structure among the files uploaded to a course page. Rather, all files associated with any single document to be placed on the course page (like a PP presentation) need to be packed into a "zip" file -- using third party software like WinZip (current version is 8.0, individual license $29). Then this zip file gets uploaded (make sure to select the "unpack" option when adding such a document to your BB course page and to select the main file as "entry point").

So, with any MS Office document (be it a PP presentation or a simple MS Word document with just an image or two) that you "save as web page" (auto convert to html) and want to put on a BB course web page, you have two choices:

Personally, I think that the first option is preferable (less work, less prone to user mistakes), but your zip software may not offer this feature. So, the second option is useful if you have to make do with older or less convenient zip software.
 

Option 1: Zipping with relative path information

1. Make sure that the "saved as a web page" MS Office document (PP presentation) is put into a new folder. This folder should have only two entries: the main document and a subfolder with all the associated files.

2. Open WinZip and create a new "archive" (zip file). Where (in which folder) you put this archive does not matter; just remember where you put it, because this will become the file to be uploaded to BB later. Once created, click the ADD button and browse to the subfolder where the main html document is located (here: the subfolder specified in the address field in the screen shot above).


Make sure that the box "Include subfolders" is checked, but that "Save full path info" is not checked. Click on the "Add with wild cards" button. The results should look something like this:

Only a few of 85 files (making up the html version of one PP presentation) are shown in the screen shot above. Note that all but one (the main) file has a "path" listed. Simply close WinZip. In this example, I chose to name the resulting archive file "dem_posters.zip". But, again, name and location of this zip file do not matter.

3. Now we are ready to upload the PP presentation to BB. I will use a screen shot based on BB/CourseInfo 4.0, but things work the same in BB 5.02. I assume that you are familiar with the basic process of adding documents to a BB course page and will focus on the specifics of uploading complex documents (zip files).

Make sure that the zip file you created appears in the field next to the "Browse" button, and select "Unpackage these file" from the "Special Action" drop-down menu. Choose the other options as you please, then click the "Submit" button further down (not shown in the screen shot).
Working with a PP presentation, this zip file may be quite large (the file used for this example is about 1.1Mb). So be patient, the upload may take a while (especially over a telephone modem connection). As BB does not provide any feedback on the status of the upload process and you may see only a message like "host online.cuny.edu contacted" in the status bar of your browser for quite some time you may wonder whether something is wrong with your connection. Again, be patient -- or, better yet, use third party software like DU Meter to keep track of your upload progress.

After the upload is complete, you will be presented with another window labeled "Content Options". Make sure that you click the main html file as the "entry point" (see screen shot below), then click Submit.

And here is how the document will be presented to your students:


 
 

Option 2: Changing relative path information in main html document

If you don't have zipping software that allows to include relative paths -- or you simply cannot get it done, here is an alternative. For this, the file Demotivational_posters.htm must be edited slightly -- by changing the relative links in the underlying source code. Fortunately, this sounds much more complicated than it is.

1. Simply open Demotivational_posters.htm in any text editor that has a "replace" function; I like UltraEdit, but there are many others. Make sure that you treat this file as strictly a (weird looking) "text" file. Using anything else but a simple text editor (like MS Word, WordPerfect, or Netscape Composer) is likely to screw things up as these programs try to be too helpful.
Then, replace the string "Demotivational_posters_files/" by nothing. Of course, you need to modify this according to what the name of your original file is. This changes all the relative links, so that now all associated files are expected to be in the same folder as Demotivational_posters.htm. Note, you have to change one file only, not the zillions of files produced in the conversion. Here are two screen shot showing the first part of the main html file before and after the editing:


 

2. Now, move Demotivational_posters.htm into the folder Demotivational_posters_files where all the other files are and use a zip program (like WinZip) to package them all together. The resulting zip file should like this:

3. The upload process to BB is exactly the same as before.
 

Final note on BB/CourseInfo

If you want to see an example, visit the BB site at Hunter, and check either to my two fall courses (Soc240 or Soc309) -- guests have preview access. The PP presentation is under course documents. The link may go bad as this is a "test page" only, but may fall victim to some spring cleaning.

Also, the PP conversion in itself (independent from BB) produces a framed version where less than half of the screen is given to the actual slides and the sidebar is disproportionate large. One could fiddle with the source code of Demotivational_posters.htm -- but given that the code is not simple this may be more than most people are willing and able to do.
 

ERes 3.1

As ERes allows the instructor more control over the uploaded files and their placement, no special preparations are necessary. However, placing associated files in a subfolder on the server requires the use of an independent ftp program to create such subfolders and to upload the associated files into this location. Every course on ERes has a special reserved subdirectory (folder) to which the instructor can upload files via "guest ftp" (which requires a specific user name [eresuser] and a specific "upload" password). The address has the following structure
ftp://eresuser@maxweber.hunter.cuny.edu/pub/eres/TST111_KUE/
where the last part (TST111_KUE/) is determined by course number and instructor name. I demonstrate the process using QVT FTP (for which CUNY has a site license).

Note that I made a mistake in creating the subfolder (which I had to correct later): I used a hyphen [-] rather than an underline [_] in the "mkdir" [make directory] command in the box at the bottom of the screen shot. As this mistake is easy to make, I decided to document it rather than showing a perfect process. So, type the name right (it must match exactly what you have on your local computer), then click "Go". The next screen shot shows the newly created subfolder on the "remote system" (the server). Double check that exactly the same folder name appears in the two top boxes.

Also, notice that the main file (Demotivational_posters.htm) has been uploaded to the "root" directory for this course. The next screen simply shows that the files have been uploaded to the new subfolder on the server. If your ftp program gives you a choice, make sure to upload all image files (.gif, .jpg) as "binary" rather than as "text" or "ASCII" files.

After the upload is completed, use the "page function" screens within ERes to put the presentation on the course start page using the main document (Demotivational_posters.htm) only. This is like adding any other document to your ERes page.

Take a look at the uploaded PP presentation within the TST111 course page on ERes.

Caveat:
While you can create subfolders and upload files to it, you will not be able to delete or overwrite such files. The built-in ERes routine to modify or delete files works for files in the course "root" directory only. To correct an error like the one I made (renaming the newly created subfolder to match the name used in the source code of the main document) you need "shell access" (a real account) on the maxweber server. For security reasons, only very few people are given shell accounts. Most people will have to ask the ERes manager for help, or simply create another subfolder.