Flash video player in Blackboard

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Howto: embed a flash video file (FLV) in Blackboard.
Create a YouTube like video player in your Blackboard course in 10 steps.
This howto was written for JW_FLV_Media_Player 3-14.
Download this Howto as a pdf file.

1. Download the JW_FLV_Media_Player from http://www.jeroenwijering.com/?item=JW_FLV_Media_Player .

2. Unzip the downloaded zip file somewhere on your computer. Remember where you put the files.

3. In your Blackboard course create a Folder somewhere in a Content area. In this example I created the folder ‘JW Mediaplayer’ in the content area Documents&Sheets. Of course you can use any name you like.

4. Upload the file ‘mediaplayer.swf’ to the folder ‘JW Mediaplayer’: create a new Item, give it a name and choose attach local file. Click ‘Browse’ to select the file to attach. In this case ‘mediaplayer.swf’ (you can find it where you unzipped the JW_FLV_Media_Player file (step 1.). Make sure you select Special Action: create a link to this file. The file ‘mediaplayer.swf’ is the actual media player application.

Click to enlarge picture htflvbb_pic1.jpg.

5. Upload the video file you want to embed to the folder ‘JW Mediaplayer’: create a new Item, give it a name and choose attach local file. In this example I uploaded the video file ‘video.flv’. Again, make sure you select Special Action: create a link to this file.

6. Upload the picture you want to show in the player before the movie clip starts to play to the folder ‘JW Mediaplayer’: create a new Item, give it a name and choose attach local file. In this example I uploaded the picture ‘video.jpg’. Again, make sure you select Special Action: create a link to this file.

7. Open a new tab/windows in your browser. Open the setup wizard at http://www.jeroenwijering.com/?page=wizard to create the html code required to embed the movie player.

8. In the setup wizard fill in the appropriate values under ‘Tweak the available flashvars’. For ‘source’, ‘file’ and ‘image’ these are the hyperlinks to the items you uploaded in step 4-6. You can find the hyperlink by clicking the right mouse button on any of these items in the folder ‘JW Mediaplayer’ in your Blackboard course and choose ‘Copy Link Location’ (Firefox) or ‘Copy Shortcut’ (Internet Explorer). Now go to the setup wizard an enter the value by clicking into the related form field and type ctrl-v (paste) or right click and select paste. Height and width refer you the dimensions of the video file.

Click to enlarge picture htflvbb_pic3.jpg.

9. After entering all the values click ‘Update preview&code’.

Click to enlarge picture htflvbb_pic4.jpg.

10. Copy the rendered code from the setup wizard and paste it in a new Item you create in the folder ‘JW Mediaplayer’. Make sure you set the Content Information type to ‘HTML’ In this example I set the item name to ‘Test movie clip (embedded)’.

Click to enlarge picture htflvbb_pic2.jpg

Done. Play your movie!


Store the media player application ‘mediaplayer.swf’ in a location outside Blackboard. It is not necessary to store the player inside Blackboard. You can put it anywhere on-line. This is especially useful if you have several embedded player in your Blackboard course(s). You can link to just one mediaplayer.swf outside Blackboard instead of having to upload a mediaplayer.swf file for each embedded player you use. Just make sure to change the ‘source’ value in the setup-wizard and update the code. Also verify that your students actually have access to the location where you stored the player. This is also true for the video file and the the picture. If you like you can also store it outside Blackboard.

Experiment with the different player settings in the setup wizard.

Workshop basis beginselen Moodle

Vorige week heb ik een workshop “Basis beginselen Moodle” gegeven. Moodle is een open source digitale leeromgeving die wereldwijd op zeer veel onderwijsinstellingen gebruikt wordt. Ik gaf de workshop in het kader van een project van het Center for International Legal Cooperation. Voor dit project doe ik advieswerk als e-learning consultant. Ik gaf de workshop aan drie universitair docenten rechten uit Rwanda. In twee dagdelen behandelde ik de volgende onderwerpen:

  • Introduction to a virtual learning environment
  • Why Moodle?
  • Login and navigation
  • Update your personal profile
  • Moodle features overview
  • Course layout (sections)
  • Side block features
  • Resources and activities concepts
  • Creating a new course
  • Course settings
  • Uploading files
  • Creating assignments
  • The grade book
  • Rapid course development
  • Adding resources

De workshop had een ‘hands-on’ karakter en was erop gericht de cursisten al lerend aan het inrichten van een Moodle course voor hun eigen vak te laten werken. Dat is gelukt: na afloop namen alle cursisten de door hun zelf gebouwde Moodle course mee op hun memory stick.

Hands on with the Tesseract OCR engine

Tesseract is an open source optical character recognition (OCR) engine that was developed at HP Labs between 1985 and 1995 and now at Google. According Google it is one of the most accurate open source OCR engines available.

Last week a colleague asked me if I could help him bring back to his word processor an old syllabus with more then 200 pages written in Dutch. The original digital texts of this syllabus were lost. What was left was a printed version and a pdf raster image file that was saved at the printing office. The existence of the pdf file was major time saver. Now I only had to convert the pdf file to images and feed them to an ocr engine. I started with GOCR. Version 0.40 was already installed on my workstation. But I wasn’t happy with the results. To much errors. So I decided to test Tesseract V2.01. The output was clearly more accurate than GOCR. Very acceptable. Click ‘continue reading’ for a detailled comparison and my ocr workflow

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Peer-review als voorbereiding op het werkgroeponderwijs

Veel docenten zullen helaas het beeld herkennen van de student die onvoldoende voorbereid het werkgroeponderwijs komt volgen. Dat is jammer want het leukste en beste onderwijs wordt gegeven in een groep met goed voorbereide studenten.

Om iets aan dit probleem te doen heeft docent Armin Cuyvers bij het vak Internationaal en Europees Recht dit jaar een nieuw model bedacht. De opzet was als volgt.

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Timeline representation of a videofile

One of the challenges when building a digital video collection is how to make an effective retrieval system. Obviously for the best results you will have to take an effort to apply metadata to each video and to store it in a database or xml file. On the frontend side of the database a visual timeline representation of a video can help users to quickly evaluate their search results. See the example below. This timeline was created with the SlickSlice script. With this script you can index any videofile that can be played with the excellent MPlayer.


About the little movie in this timeline: it shows how an ipod can be used as a plasma screen for a scale model. Video taken at Maze de Boer’s atelier at de Rijksakademie.

Blackboard Inc.: Linux is not supported

It must have been early in the year 2001 that I wiped Microsoft Windows from my PC. For good. Since that time there has been only Linux on any of my PC’s. I am a happy Linux user. I simply love it.

This summer my university upgraded to Blackboard release 7.2. Suddenly I could no longer submit any assignments because everytime I do so, Blackboard pops up a window saying “Please enter a valid filename.”. Obviously some javascript checking the form content. Very annoying. Not only for me, but for every student or teacher that prefers Linux.
I addressed this issue through our official Blackboard Inc. support channel. I quote the answer I got from them.: “As for the Linux problem, per the Release Notes, Linux is not a supported end user configuration.”. For me this is simply unbelievable.
Luckily open minded people found a solution to work around Blackboard’s unwillingness to fix this issue. You have to make a folder in your home directory called “BB:”. From there you can upload without a problem. Another suggested solution is to make your Firefox browser appear as a Mac OS X running Safari. For this you have to install the Firefox user agent switcher. Change user agent to type “Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/125.2 (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/85.8” (without quotes). This should work although I didn’t test it.

Reference (ironically on a Blackboard discussion site): Ask Dr. C