General

Course Navigation Menu Collapses Unexpectedly

HuskyCT users may notice the course navigation menu is collapsing unexpectedly on some devices and browsers.  A recent software update, intended to address responsive design goals, has resulted in this unintended side-effect.

The described behavior exists under the following conditions:

  • Display resolution is 1024 x 768 (or lower)
  • Web browser window has been minimized to 1024 pixels wide (or less)
  • Mobile browser (including iPad, Smartphone and Tablet)

In the below illustration, the course navigation menu is fully collapsed.  Its contents reduced to a thin vertical line, making it nearly impossible to effectively navigate the course.

course-nav-collapsed

Despite a lack of visual clues, the course navigation menu can be expanded again by hovering your mouse over the collapsed menu (far right edge of the browser window).  The vertical bar’s color will change and a small tab containing a single arrow icon will be visible (illustrated below).  Clicking on the arrow tab will temporarily expand the navigation menu.

course-nav-expand-option

Clicking on a content area from the navigation menu (e.g. Announcements, Course Content, etc.), will result in the menu collapsing again 🙁

We’ve confirmed with Blackboard support that this new responsive feature cannot be disabled.  However, support has acknowledged it as a software defect and we expect they will provide a solution in one of our upcoming updates.

Alas, for most, all is not lost… 

On mobile devices, users can transition to one of HuskyCT’s mobile apps (available here for iOS, Android or Windows).  Mobile browsers have been somewhat effective in the past, however Blackboard has indicated they’re not officially supported.

Assuming the display support it, users on non-mobile devices can try increasing their screen resolution to a value greater than 1024 x 768.  If desktop and application rendering becomes difficult to read, try increasing the browser zoom and/or display icon/font sizes.

We’ll update this post when the issue has been fully resolved by the vendor.

Uploading Your Profile Picture

Students and instructors now have access to upload a profile picture in HuskyCT.

Profile pictures are displayed as thumbnail images throughout HuskyCT, including:

  • My Courses
  • Notifications Dashboard
  • Discussions, Blogs and Journals
  • Grade Center
  • BbStudent Mobile App

Uploading a profile photo is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. To get started, click the down-arrow next to your name, located in the upper right corner of the browser window.  This will open the global navigation menu.
  2. Next, navigate to Settings -> Personal Information -> Personalize My Settings
  3. Under the section Avatar Image, click “Use custom avatar image” and select a file on your local device using the “Browse My Computer” button.  Don’t forget to click Submit and save your changes 🙂

NOTE: The recommended size for a profile photo is 150 pixels by 150 pixels (larger images will be clipped).  HuskyCT will support images in .jpg or .png format.

Dismissing Notifications

A known issue in HuskyCT may prevent some users from dismissing course notifications in the “What’s New” module on the “My Courses” tab.

notification error message

If you receive an error similar to above when attempting to dismiss notifications, it will be necessary for you to manage notifications using the Global Navigation menu.

The Global Navigation Menu is located at the top right corner of your browser window, where your name is displayed.

global navigation menu

Clicking on the down arrow (to the right of your name) will open the full menu.

global navigation menu full

Next, click on the alarm clock icon to access your updated notifications.

On the “Updates” screen, your list of available notifications will be listed.  From here, you can choose to individually open and/or dismiss pending notifications.

We’ll update this post when HuskyCT has been upgraded to a release that supports dismissing notifications from the “What’s New” module on the “My Courses” tab.

Common Video Playback Issues and Solutions

Modern computers simultaneously download, decode and stream media. This process requires capable hardware, updated/compatible software and a strong internet connection.

In this post, we’ll review some common video playback issues experienced by HuskyCT users and how to resolve them.  The most likely culprits are often your browser/device settings or network connection.

Before we dive into specific issues and resolutions, let’s take a look at a few quick-fix solutions when time is of the essence (when is not, right?)

Try these quick fix solutions!

  1. Try a different browser.  Many times the culprit is a setting or cache issue in your preferred web browser.  While this fix doesn’t resolve the issue in your primary browser, it might solve the more immediate issue – finishing your assignment!
  2. Clear your browser cache, close and restart the browser.  Most video playback issues are resolved by refreshing your browser cache.  Step by step instructions for clearing your browser cache can be found at http://www.refreshyourcache.com/en/home/
  3. Restart your computer.  This is the “Hail Mary” of solutions!  If the underlying issue is caused by a runaway or malfunctioning system process, memory or other system issue, a restart can be surprisingly effective.
  4. Verify your browser security hasn’t blocked the video due to “mixed content” (does not apply to Safari).  This blog post has hints and solutions for identifying and resolving “mixed content” blocking!

If none of the above solutions work, check with classmates to see if they experiencing similar playback issues.  If they are, notify your instructor and provide detailed feedback.  Alternatively, you can seek assistance from the UITS Help Center.

Common issues and solutions

Issue:

Poor video quality (e.g. choppy video, frequent buffering, etc.)

Solutions:

  1. Check the quality of your internet connection at http://www.speedtest.net/.  If the test indicates a download speed less than 1-2 MB/sec, connect your device to a faster network.  If you’re connected to a UConn network, contact the UITS Help Center for assistance.
  2. Disable hardware acceleration (only applies to Flash)
    1. Right-click on the flash video
    2. Choose “Settings” from the menu
    3. Select the first tab (along the bottom) and uncheck the box “Enable hardware acceleration”

Issue:

Video stops during playback

Solutions:

  1. Clear your browser cache, close and restart the browser
    http://www.refreshyourcache.com/en/home/
  2. Try an alternate browser
  3. Restart your computer

Issue:

A plugin is needed to display this content

Flash player not found

Solution:

  1. Download Java on your device at https://java.com/en/download/
  2. If necessary, click on the downloaded file to install Java
  3. On the download page, click the button to verify Java has been successfully installed
  4. Restart your web browser
  5. Go to the page where the video appears and click the link to activate Java (if not already active)

Issue:

Flash video is not playing

Solution:

  1. Download and install Adobe Flash Player at https://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/
    *** Be sure to uncheck “optional offers” prior to clicking download ***

Issue:

Embedded video is missing

Solution:

  1. Allow mixed content in your browser.  For instructions, see our recent blog post about mixed content!

Issue:

Not Found – The specified resource was not found, or you do not have permission to access it.

not-found

Solution:

  1. Contact your instructor for guidance.  The video may have been removed, or permissions are set incorrectly in the content collection folder.

Please contact the Help Center if you’re experiencing a different video playback issue, or the suggested solutions are not resolving the problem.

Other Resources

YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/checklist/3480866?hl=en

Chrome: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/6138475?hl=en

Firefox: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/fix-common-audio-and-video-issues

Safari:

Respondus Introduces “Help Center” for LockDown Browser

Respondus, Inc. recently introduced a new “Help Center” feature for LockDown Browser.  The tool is integrated with the LockDown Browser.  Its features are comprehensive, easy to use and well documented.

Students can find the “Help Center” tool in the browser toolbar, after logging in to HuskyCT (see screenshot).

LDB-help-center-toolbar

Let’s take a look at two important features included in Help Center.

  • Run System Check
  • Access Student Knowledgebase

The “Run System Check” feature allows students to quickly test their local environment for compatibility with LockDown Browser.  The tool runs a series of tests, including, but not limited to bandwidth, latency and open ports.

After the test completes, summary results will be displayed at the top of page (see screenshot).

helpcenter-tests

If the device passed a particular test, it will be noted with a green check mark (as shown above).  Failures are reported with a red x symbol.

Diagnostic information related to the test is displayed in the bottom section of the page.

Students have several options after the test completes – Return to Course, Email Results, Knowledge Base.  If all tests are passed, simply click on the “Return to Course” button.

LDB-help-center-options

If any tests failed, students can search the new LockDown Browser knowledge base for potential solutions.  This view of the knowledge base is only accessible from within the Help Center tool.  An alternate knowledge base can be found on the Respondus website and is accessible from a standard web browser.

Some issues may require assistance from the UITS Help Center or HuskyCT team.  To expedite a technical review, students can email system check results to their mailbox, then forward to helpcenter@uconn.edu.  Doing so, will automatically generate a service request and associate it to the student’s NetID.

While there is an option to copy a secondary email address when sending results, this is discouraged, as the ticket would not be associated with the student’s NetID.  

If you’re enrolled in a HuskyCT course this semester and the instructor plans to use LockDown Browser, we highly recommend running the system check tool in advance of your first exam.  Be sure to also check out our HuskyCT Test Taking Tips!

Phishing Email Alert

No-Phishing-Image

Over the last several days, a phishing email has been sent to members of the university community and  contains a link that appears, on cursory review, to reference Blackboard or specific university locations.  Closer inspection reveals that these links are to alternate external locations.  This email is not being sent from system administrators and is an attempt to gather information about you.  Please do not click on any links in the email.  Phishing emails can also be forwarded to reportphishing@uconn.edu

Learn how to protect yourself from a phishing attack by visiting the UConn Security website:  Always Be On Alert for Phishing Attacks

 

Image attribution: https://flic.kr/p/aQAEqD

Mixed Content in HuskyCT

HuskyCT and SSL

The HuskyCT application is deigned to run securely, utilizing SSL to encrypt data transmitted between your browser and the server(s).  A properly secured page uses the HTTPS protocol exclusively to reference external content (e.g. images, audio and video).

secure-lms-url

What is mixed content?

Since HuskyCT allows users to publish content, there will always be a potential for insecure items to be added.  Most often, this occurs when embedded images, audio or video are linked to the course from non-SSL pages.  When this occurs, the page is considered as having “mixed content“.  That is, content which is both secure and insecure.

Most modern browsers have built-in features which evaluate a pages level of security.  When it meets their standard, the browser displays a padlock in the address bar (as shown above).  Otherwise, the browser may issue a mixed content warning.  This warning is sometimes passive and not easily noticeable to the learner (see screenshots below).  Additionally, some browsers may prevent the insecure content items from displaying on the page.

Firefox, Chrome, Microsoft Edge and IE all block insecure content by default.  Safari is the only major browser which does not automatically block insecure content.

How does mixed content impact learner experience?

Depending on the context, it may be obvious to the learner that content has been blocked.

Example 1

Title: Week 1

Description: “This weeks lesson includes a video (below).  All students are required to watch the video in its entirety.  A short quiz will follow.”

mixed-content-no-video

In this example, the learner clearly expects a video clip on the page.  Unfortunately, our course builder embedded the video and mistakenly used “http://” rather than “https://” (setting is only visible to the course builder).  As a result, our browser has automatically blocked the video.

Of course, blocked content won’t always be this obvious…

Example 2

Title: Week 2

Description: (blank)

missing-video-example-2

Once again, our course builder embedded a video using a link to insecure resources.  The content has been blocked by the browser, yet the learner has no indication a video should be expected.  For this reason, we highly recommend course builder’s always include a textual description for any embedded content in their course.

How do I stop my browser from blocking mixed content?

Once our learner is aware content has been blocked, there are steps they can take to force their browser to display the hidden content.

Chrome

  • To temporarily display mixed content, click the shield icon located in the address bar (pictured below).  When prompted, choose to allow loading of non-secure items.

blocked-content-chrome

Firefox

  • To temporarily display mixed content, click the caution icon located in the address bar (pictured below).  When prompted, choose to allow loading of non-secure items.

blocked-content-ff

IE (10+)

  • To temporarily display mixed content, click the “Show all content” button, which is located at the bottom of the browser window (pictured below).

mixed-content-ie10-11

Microsoft Edge

  • To temporarily display mixed content, click the shield icon located in the address bar (pictured below). When prompted, choose to allow loading of non-secure items.

blocked-content-edge

To fully resolve the issue for all learners, course builder’s are strongly encouraged to update insecure URLs to use the HTTPS protocol.