Dr Christopher Jobling

Senior Lecturer



In the feedback to one of my modules on Internet Technology, my students suggested that I create a glossary of all the technical terms and prototocols that are mentioned in the course. As you can imagine, for a topic as rich in jargon as the Internet, this will be a lot of work. I have made a start using the Blackboard glossary tool but I am quickly running up against its limitations. In order of annoyance (most annoying first) these are:

  1. No HTML formatting is allowed in the glossary definition field. It’s plain text only! (Maybe this is an admin setting because the editing field looks standard enough.) There’s only a spell checker, which is useful, but not compelling!
  2. You can’t create cross references. For example when talking about network applications, it would be nice to link to the glossary terms for example protocols.
  3. You can’t link to external sources which have more explanation, e.g. to Wikipedia, the IETF or WWW Consortium. 
  4. Students can’t contribute by editing existing glossary entries or creating new glossary terms of their own.
  5. You can’t have aliases or synonyms.
  6. Glossaries can’t be shared across Blackboard course sites (except by export and import).
  7. Upload and download is limited to Excel text-only format.

I have considered other alternatives.

  • For example, to tackle items 1 through 6 a Wiki might be a good way to go (and might actually have some pedagogic benefit) but I’d have to add the alphabetical navigation, gathering, and sorting of terms manually. 
  • The open source content management system Drupal has a feature that should make it easy to create a glossary (Drupal calls this feature a taxonomy) but that would require quite a lot more configuration work than the application seems to warrant. 
  • There may be other web applications that are designed for creating glossaries either as on-line subscription services or as installable PHP applications (but I couldn’t find any on Google). 

However, any of these alternative would require an external-to-Blackboard solution, and though I’m not averse to that, I’d prefer for this application at least to have a glossary that’s linked to the course menu. There’s no way in Blackboard (that I know of) that allows a link to an external site to be added to a course menu, so for now, I’m continuing with the glossary tool with a view to perhaps exporting it into some other solution later.I’d be interested in hearing from you if you’ve tackled this issue yourself and have any tips, experiences, work-arounds or other advice to share. 

January 14th, 2009

Posted In: blackboard

Tags: ,


  • Chris Hall says:

    Yes, the BB glossary is not the best 🙁

    However, a couple of things –

    How about the Learning Objects/Blackboard wiki?

    “there’s no way in Blackboard (that I know of) that allows a link to an external site to be added to a course menu” How about adding a new menu item as an ‘External Link” from the “Add” options?


  • Chris : “How about adding a new menu item as an ‘External Link” from the “Add” options?” how did I miss that one!

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