Academic Technology @ Palomar College

Browsers and Blackboard

Safari iconLet me lead off by saying that this is entirely my own personal opinion. However, I’ve had a LOT of experience supporting users on a variety of web browsers using our Blackboard system here at Palomar, so I am basing that personal opinion on a good deal of both personal experiences and anecdotal evidence. What I’m talking about is the question I typically do my best to dodge: “What web browser should I use with Blackboard?”

Chrome iconFirst off, there is no “should.” If you have some strong reason for using one particular browser, go right ahead. None of the browsers are perfect when interacting with Blackboard; all have their own quirks. If you have found a browser that works well with the way you use Blackboard, certainly keep on with what works for you.

That being said, a lot will depend not just on what web browser, but also what operating system. (Of course things can’t be simple!) For example, the experience using Chrome on OS X is quite different than that of Chrome on Windows 7. My own experiences are with, on a Mac running OS X, Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, and Mozilla’s Firefox; on a PC running Windows 7 (and many earlier versions, but let’s not go there), Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox, and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. I won’t even bother to speak to version numbers – if you aren’t using “the latest version” of whatever browser, then you should be. (Sorry, but it’s just the truth. Using an out-of-date version of a browser is like an engraved invitation to have your information stolen and all your accounts hacked, these days.)

(See, this is truly an opinion piece. I can easily imagine the yells from my co-workers over what I’ve already said.)Firefox icon

I think the default behavior for a Mac user is to use Safari, just like the default behavior for a Windows user is to use Internet Explorer. Ironically, my suggestion for what browser to use, is “not those.” I think quite highly of both the Chrome and Firefox browsers, and I think it is a best practice to have both those browsers installed on your computer. That way, if you are happily using Firefox on your Mac, but then run into one of those quirks that causes pain in a Blackboard course, you can just hop over onto your install of Chrome and finish things up in that browser.

Make the time to use both, and get comfortable in both. It will be worth the effort, because so far I haven’t seen both Firefox and Chrome ever have problems with the same thing. Neither is perfect, but their flaws never quite seem to overlap, so being able to bounce between them makes for a good Blackboard-using experience. So, yes, Mac or PC, I am advocating having three browsers installed. On a Mac you’d have Safari (which comes pre-loaded), along with Chrome and Firefox; on a PC you’d have Internet Explorer (which comes pre-loaded), along with Chrome and Firefox. That way, when you hit a problem, it’s easy to switch over to another browser without having to go through the whole install process at what will inevitably be the worst possible time.Internet Explorer icon

So, for those of you looking for the short version of this story: What web browser should I use with Blackboard? Multiple browsers, Chrome and Firefox for preference.

That answer may stick in your craw, but if you do you’ll at least be able to keep working instead of being stuck when something goes awry between your browser and Blackboard.

3 Responses to “ “Browsers and Blackboard”

  1. Bill Jahnel says:

    One small follow-up issue: Some browsers, on older software, will not work with certain blackboard features it appears. For example, My Mac is on an older version of OS X (and I am soon going to get it upgraded) — as a result, it cannot run the current iterations of firefox, chrome, or even safari. With the browser versions I can use at school at the moment, the javascript to download roll sheets to excel (both in normal and grid view) breaks — it clicks but never downloads or executes teh javascript. So I went to a colleague whose computer is running an older version of Windows — and lo and behold, it’s older version of firefox did not allow the download either. however, Internet explorer allowed em to download the files.

    Cutting and pasting (if you want to avoid using the download function) can also have mixed results across browsers if you are attempting to maintain tabular data (again, such as rolls). On the older mac I have at Palomar, firefox doe snot always maintain the pasting of table data properly into Word, but On Windows 7, it can.

    So I guess the overall lesson is: If it first you don’t succeed, try another browser! (and yes, I know — I just finished backing up all my data so they can upgrade my mac so I can get a shiny new Lion!)

    • David Gray says:

      Absolutely true. Once you start dealing with computers that simply cannot run the latest versions of the browsers, even more problems start cropping up. I guess my only advice there is that if all else fails, we do have reasonably modern computers available to faculty here in our LL-111 Faculty Technology Center that could be used. Hopefully in the coming years we will still receive funding to keep that equipment within stone’s throw of “up to date.”

  2. Kalyna Lesyna says:

    Thanks for writing this, David. I have put a link to it in all of my classes. I think it will be very helpful information for my students, especially those in my online classes.

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