Solving Student Issues with the Blackboard Discussion Board


Over the past year or so, students have reported issues they are having with the Blackboard Discussion Board. The vast majority of students have no problems, but the occasional student problem can be a persistent issue affecting the student, the instructor, the administrative assistants, and perhaps the entire class, if the class is expecting postings and responses from that person. After looking at this problem I have aggregated the four most common issues students have had with the Discussion Board and what the various fixes are. If your student is reporting that they are having problems with the Board, give them this URL and have them self diagnose their own problems  first. If, after reading this document and the accompanying websites, they are still having problems, refer them to one of the Blackboard support people in the School (Jeff Gordon, Jerry Murley, John Norfleet, Ryan McNew, or Trish Trangenstein). We certainly do not want students struggling with these issues for extended periods of time without getting support to solve their problem. It frustrates them,  can really tear up your entire class, and obligates you (and your administrative assistant) to spend a lot of time troubleshooting their issues.  As students encounter additional problems in the future, I will add them to this document.

Problem 1: General oddities with the discussion board (seeing some but not seeing all threads, buttons not working as expected etc.) Check your browser and make sure it is Firefox. If you are using IE (any version), Chrome, Safari (Apple or Windows), or Opera switch to Firefox. You will have to reinstall any helper apps such as Flash Player from within Firefox. See if this makes the problem go away. You should ALWAYS check to make sure your browser is Blackboard compatible.

Go here to get Firefox:

Problem 2: The screen  lines overwrite each other making them unreadable.  The Discussion Board utilizes a programming environment called Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This requires that a contemporary browser be used for the Discussion Board.  The best choices would be Firefox 4.x or Internet Explorer 8. Unfortunately the clinical workstations around the Medical Center are still using Internet Explorer 6 which does not fully support CSS. Because the clinical applications, such as Star Panel are only certified on version 6, NCS (the medical center computing office) has been very reluctant to update IE. There are two solutions to this problem. The student  should ask if Firefox 4.x can be added to their clinical machine as an additional browser. Some LAN managers may agree to that, others may not. Just as an aside, if Firefox is installed on the machine, helper apps such as Flash will have to be installed on the machine once again, this time under Firefox in order to work. The second solution is to just find another, non medical center, computer with the correct browser installed. NOTE: IE9, while very contemporary, has not, as of yet, been certified to work with Blackboard. There are a few new features in IE9 that may “break” other features in Blackboard. Web browsers also unsupported at this time include Safari, Chrome, and Opera.  Firefox is still the recommended and supported browser for all Blackboard features. If you are using a handheld device, there are versions of Firefox available for some (but not all) handhelds that will have to be downloaded from appropriate store. (See links above.)

Problem 3: The menu/buttons on the left have disappeared. Starting with Blackboard 9, users now have the ability to make the content window full width, covering the menu on the left of the Blackboard window. Upon logging off, that state, for that user in that class is established as persistent. This means that when the user logs back in that is how they will see the screen, with no buttons. If they have forgotten they did that they immediately wonder where did their buttons go? They will then only be able to view previously unread postings on the Discussion Board through the menu on the main front screen.  They will not be able to view read postings. The solution to this problem is observe and use the caret button. The website below shows the user how to do this.

Problem 4: Posting in the Wrong Place. This problem occurs if you, the instructor, are having students post inside groups you have created and they inadvertently post in the general course discussion board. You should not, as a general practice, have multiple places for students to post. Someone will almost always get confused and post on the wrong board. The solution is to disable access to the boards you don’t want students to post on, thus removing the choice as to where to post. The website below shows you, the instructor, how to disable access to the general class discussion board. On the other hand, students need to be aware of where they are to post.

Problem 5: No posts showing when entering a forum even though posts are there. The entire class enters a forum and sees all of the postings, but the student with the problem, upon clicking the forum they want to view, sees the line, “No items found.” The solution to this problem is to have the students reset the display attributes  in the forum. NOTE (and this is a point of confusion): The user can ONLY set the display attributes once inside a forum (it cannot be set outside a forum). HOWEVER, when that is set inside a specific forum that setting then applies to ALL forums in that class. It is NOT possible at this time to hide postings in one forum and have them show in another. Here is the website demonstrating how to do this: