Importing a Weblog into Blackboard?
August 6, 2006 7:19 PM   Subscribe

Hacking Blackboard: Can I make a Blogger weblog appear as the "Announcements" section of a Blackboard web site?

I teach online and Blackboard (may it rot in hell) is the platform we use at my school. I have made my peace with BB by and large, but I despise the Announcements section. I want to use the announcements as a course blog, with images and comments. Is there a way I can import a Blogger site into announcements, so the blog displays instead, with the regular BB course buttons running down the left side?
posted by LarryC to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
In the Announcement information section, within the Message section, click on the HTML radio button and paste in something like:

<iframe src="http://www.cnn.com/" width="100%"></iframe>

replacing src="http://www.cnn.com/" with the link to your blog. Other attributes to <iframe> are available here.

There are ways to do this which use CSS but you'd have to write more code, and <iframe> works across more modern browsers with less work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:32 PM on August 6, 2006


And, yes, Blackboard sucks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:33 PM on August 6, 2006


Yeah Blazecock has it. We use blackboard too... and I believe it supports the IFRAME tag.
posted by fvox13 at 8:03 PM on August 6, 2006


Unrelated anecdote:

As a student of a horrible VBasic teacher in a CS class that was completely miserable, I decided to offer tutoring. Our professor quickly banned the practice of soliciting my for-pay services directly on the BB message board.

And he had deactivated the other "communicate" options, like emailing the class.

So I jumped into my Econ class on BB, grabbed the URL, changed the course_id variable and carefully deselected both my prof. and the TAs before I made the email blast.

6 students a week @ $25/student, teaching all 6 at the same time. Good times.

I then launched a sound-off page, here, for students to express their distaste for this sadly tenured professor.
posted by disillusioned at 8:09 PM on August 6, 2006


I believe it supports the IFRAME tag.

I don't know what version of Blackboard you're running, LarryC, but I tested it on this end with a "dummy" course in Blackboard Academic Suite™ (6.3.1.593) and the tag worked.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:10 PM on August 6, 2006


Thanks, friends. It kind of works, I get the CNN site displayed in a long narrow box on the announcement page with scroll bars fore and aft. Is there a way I can define the box to be longer up and down the page?
posted by LarryC at 9:37 PM on August 6, 2006


OK, I've got it, I defined height at 950 and it stretches nicely down the page. I wish it could display only the posts in blog, not the sidebars or header--can I do that?

(For a guy who earns a living teaching on the web, it is shameful how little I know.)
posted by LarryC at 9:53 PM on August 6, 2006


I wish it could display only the posts in blog, not the sidebars or header--can I do that?

Where's your blog?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:57 PM on August 6, 2006


Here: http://hist110.blogspot.com/
posted by LarryC at 11:12 PM on August 6, 2006


Looks like Blogspot is smooshing all the code together into one file. I don't think so, unfortunately. Or at least not without writing another website which scrapes chunks of Blogspot code you want into something you can embed into an iframe, instead of the whole blog.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:25 PM on August 6, 2006


Got to get your hands dirty in Blogger for that—get into your template, and strip out all of the code for the header, sidebar, et cetera. This will, of course, make the blog look pretty awful for regular non-Blackboard reading.

Here are some guidelines for stripping your template. They are based on a general knowledge of how Blogger does its dirty deeds, an inspection of your blog's page source, and extrapolation from my own Blogger template (not the same layout). I haven't actually seen the Blogger template you're using with my own eyes, which limits the amount of handholding I can provide. In an effort to exclude bad advice from what follows, I have very likely omitted some good advice as well.

Log into Blogger; select the blog from the Dashboard, and click the Template tag to get into the template code. Before you do anything else, copy and paste the current template into a backup file. You'll be glad to see your old layout again after I help you screw it up.

Done that? OK, have a look at the section that begins with <div id="content">. Somewhere in here lives the code you want to save, the code that is put in once per post, between tags that read <Blogger> and </Blogger>. It includes <$BlogItemBody$> and a bunch of other stuff that's used in constructing your byline (author name, permalink location, date stamp). Assuming the format of your entries makes you happy, you have no reason to mess with this stuff. There's a pair of <div class="post"> </div> tags around it; you'll want to keep them too, because that class attribute refers to style code up top to tell a browser how to render your posts. Actually, I suspect you should keep the whole <div id="main"> since that's apparently going to have your comments in it. Partially because I've never used Blogger comments, and partially because you've only got one post, I am uncertain exactly what this business is with the "main" and "main2" divs, so this is the part where you get to experiment: Save a version, shave off another pair of tags, load it into Blogger, view it, check for dramatically increased sucking, lather, rinse, repeat.

Later in your template—looks like its in the sidebar—there's an <img> tag that creates the "Powered by Blogger" button, which it would be only decent to keep around. Cut it out of the sidebar and paste it into the bottom of your posts column. I can't tell, just from your page source, exactly where that is, but you might start by just throwing it below the end of <div id="main">. Later you can move it up until it displays successfully.

Anything else between the <body> </body> tags is fair game for deletion. Looks like that's the <div id="sidebar"> which includes <$BlogDescription$> and a bunch of other stuff, and which is responsible for building your sidebar. That div can go. There is a <div id="header"> around your blog's title (which is substituted into the template as, guess what, <$BlogTitle$>)—keep it, edit it, or ditch it, as you prefer.

This is all quick-and-dirty, of course. There's a whole bunch of style code in the <head> section that has just become redundant, but it's doing no harm. You can clean it out later. It looks like the template author has left some helpful comments to help you see what you can excise. While you're up there in the style code, redo the comments that give the author's name to say "based on Minima by Douglas Bowman; massagedmassacred by LarryC".

Good luck! I'll stop by your blog in a couple days to admire the sleek new look.
posted by eritain at 1:23 AM on August 7, 2006


how about publishing your blog as an RSS feed and then pulling the feed into the BB site with javascript? You can find assorted code to do this here.
posted by elle.jeezy at 4:38 AM on August 7, 2006


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