Video in Blackboard: To Upload or Not To Upload

artwork: sean gakuseisean

This Friday I will be conducting a workshop on PowerPoint to video, using the video tools built-in to PowerPoint to create a narrated video from a presentation.  If we stick strictly with PowerPoint, the video that will be produced will be in the WMV format (for PowerPoint 2010—the default format for PowerPoint 2013 is MP4).  Let’s assume that you want students to view the video in your Blackboard course.  While Blackboard claims to support the WMV (Windows Media Video) format, in practice there are so many problems with playing WMV files in Blackboard courses (due primarily to the unfortunate way the Windows Media Player operates in a web-invoked environment) that it is not a practical format to use within Blackboard.  The question becomes, how and where do you upload it so that students will have access to it?  Here are the practical answers to this question at our institution.


The most reliable viewing experience for your students will be achieved by uploading the WMV file to YouTube.  YouTube will automatically re-encode the video in web-friendly formats and bandwidth targets.  All you need to be concerned with, if you take this approach, is supplying the highest definition video possible with the least original compression.  Therefore, when making your video in PowerPoint, be sure to pick the highest possible resolution.  With PowerPoint 2010  and 2013 this is 960 x 720, as Microsoft says optimistically, “For viewing on a computer monitor, projector, or high definition display”.  In actual fact it is a good deal less than high resolution, but with mainly static slides it is pretty good.  Note that this is also a 4:3 aspect ratio picture, even though in PowerPoint 2013 now by default displays slides in a 16:9 aspect ratio.  This means that you are going to have some letterbox bars above and below your video, but that’s as may be.  (Someday the various teams at Microsoft may begin speaking to each other).

As I say, this is by far the easiest solution.  The resulting video, which can be inserted in video using the YouTube Mashup tool, or simply embedded using the iframe embed code straight from the YouTube site, will play regardless of the OS and browser platform the student is using, and there will be no complications with needing to load special plugins on the part of the student.  It will just work.

Nevertheless, for reasons that remain obscure to me, many faculty members do not want their work to appear on YouTube.  So where should they upload the video?

It is a tossup between uploading directly to Blackboard, or uploading to web space at Palomar College (faculty members can have as much as they want).  The determining factor is the size of your video, and consequently the size of your Blackboard course.  Some videos can be very, very large files.  While there is no limit to the cumulative size a Blackboard course can be, Blackboard does have a 2.5 GB file size limit on archives.  An archive (backup) file larger than 2.5 GB cannot be restored to Blackboard.  Since we strongly recommend that all courses be archived, as you go, with multiple archives, but at least one when you finish teaching the course.  That way, if you do not teach the course for over a year, you will have a source from which to restore its contents in future years.  You will also have a record of all student work in that course in case it is challenged.

Now, a single video from a PowerPoint presentation is not likely to take you over the 2.5 GB limit, or anywhere close to it (though I have seen some enormous (!) presentations, a bunch of them might.  If this is a concern, then your best strategy would be to upload the videos to your Palomar (or some other) web space, and simply link to them in Blackboard by creating a web link (see below).  If it is not a concern, then simply upload the file to Blackboard (see also below).  In either case, however, if your source file is in the WMV format (and it will be unless you are using PowerPoint 2013) we recommend you first convert it to MP4 format to eliminate the problems inherent with using the Windows Media player.

MP4 Conversion

To convert a WMV file to an MP4 file, using the web (near) web standard H.264 codec, we recommend a free free utility called Any Video Converter.  There are both PC and Mac versions.   The tool is really easy to work with.  Just identify the input file:, and perform the conversion.

 Add Video

Select the output parameters, first type of file:

Customized MP4 Movie

then resolution:

Video Size

Now click the Convert button.  Your video file(s) will be converted.

Web Space

If you decide you do not want your video at YouTube, and you do not want to inflate your Blackboard course size, your best alternative is to upload the mp4 video to your Palomar (or other host) web space.  How?  With either a dedicated FTP program (we recommend Filezilla, for either PC or Mac), or with a District of self licensed copy of a web authoring program like Expression Web 4 from Microsoft or Dreamweaver from Adobe.  Simple file uploads can best be achieved by uploading using Filezilla.

If you do not already have web space, or are not sure if you have it or not, please contact our helpdesk.  They can set it up for you if you do not already have it.  Since we support secure ftp uploads, be sure to use the SFTP:// protocol with Filezilla.

Once your file is uploaded to your Palomar (or other host) web space, use the Web Link content type in Blackboard to create a link to it:

Web Link Tool

After clicking Web Link, give your link a name, and then paste (recommended) or type in the URL to the video.  Like this:

Web Link

If your video resides on the Palomar College www2 web server (as it almost certainly will) be sure to use the https:// protocol.  Now click Submit.  Your link in Blackboard will look like this:

Web Link Appearance

When your students click this link, it will invoke whatever player the student has associated with the mp4 file type, most likely the QuickTime player, and play the video.

 Upload to Blackboard

If you decide that file size is not an issue, and you want your video embedded directly into Blackboard, then do this:

Open (or create) the Blackboard content area where you wish the video to be.

Hover over the drop-down next to Build Content with your mouse cursor.

Video Selection

Fill out the resulting form with a name for the Video, then browse your computer to find the video:

Find Video

Complete the Video Options section, being sure NOT to select Autostart or Loop.  If you want to size the video to some dimension other than the one it is in, you can do that in this section too, but never make it bigger than it’s original size.

Video Options

Now fill out Standard Options (i.e., whether students can at this time see the video or if you wish to restrict it to a date/time range):

Standard Options

Now click Submit and you are done.  You will see a video player embedded in Blackboard with the first frame of the video displayed, along with video player controls.


Those are your choices.  To recap, we recommend YouTube first because it is easiest and will result in a trouble-free experience most of the time.  If you object to YouTube, convert files to mp4 and either upload it to a web host, and then create a web link to it in Blackboard, or embed it directly in Blackboard.  I hope this demystifies part of the process of creating videos from PowerPoint and then making them available to students.

[Note: icon artwork used in this post ©sean gakuseisean]