Support #9275

soft chalk page?

Added by Marilyn Weber almost 4 years ago. Updated almost 4 years ago.

Priority name:
Category name:
Target version:
Start date:
Due date:
% Done:


Estimated time:


User Nataliya Khomyak writes:

"I was trying to upload a soft chalk page, for an interactive video book, however I was not able to upload a zip file to sites, and I can't seem to find a content area where I would be able to store it and reference back from the sites.
Any suggestions would be welcome. "

I've asked her for the URL. Anything else I should ask? Thanks! (1.34 MB) Marilyn Weber, 2018-02-26 02:47 PM
sc7.JPG (97.6 KB) sc7.JPG Marilyn Weber, 2018-02-26 05:36 PM
sc6.JPG (72.5 KB) sc6.JPG Marilyn Weber, 2018-02-26 05:36 PM
sc5.JPG (105 KB) sc5.JPG Marilyn Weber, 2018-02-26 05:36 PM
sc4.JPG (60.5 KB) sc4.JPG Marilyn Weber, 2018-02-26 05:36 PM
sc2.JPG (71.2 KB) sc2.JPG Marilyn Weber, 2018-02-26 05:36 PM
sc3.JPG (115 KB) sc3.JPG Marilyn Weber, 2018-02-26 05:36 PM
sc1.JPG (106 KB) sc1.JPG Marilyn Weber, 2018-02-26 05:36 PM


#1 Updated by Marilyn Weber almost 4 years ago

She has provided some more information:

"This is an example page of what I am trying to accomplish:

I don't have enough cloud allowance to store all of the pages for a video book with the softchalk website.

I am trying to do this as part of OER initiative and trying to improve student success rates. It works with my students using Blackboard, but I can’t really share it out of the environment.

I use these on blackboard all the time, by uploading a zipped package to content area, and use index to direct students to each page.

Here is a link to the blog where I was trying to set it up:

It doesn't really have a content area where you can upload files to (only media), I would need to have a separate folder for each page. Also, it prevents me from uploading zipped folder to the media section, I was playing around to see if I could do it that way.

I am new to CUNY commons, so I could be missing something that would work for this project. I am attaching a zip folder with a lesson page, which you can use to experiment an see if this set up can be done on CUNY commons and potentially shared with all students."

#2 Updated by Boone Gorges almost 4 years ago

  • Status changed from New to Reporter Feedback

Thanks for the additonal details, Marilyn.

By default, we block .zip file uploads, for security reasons. So that's the explanation for the first part of the issue here.

It sounds to me like the reporter is asking for something more than just allowing .zip uploads, though. If I understand the report correctly, the request is for a feature that will take a .zip upload, parse it into its constituent files, and then have some sort of "folder" view for users to access files from the .zip. Is that correct? For testing, it would be very helpful to have both a sample .zip file (she says in the text of her mail that she provided the zip, but I don't see it here) as well as a screenshot of the student's and admin's view of Soft Chalk files that have been uploaded to Blackboard.

We can't guarantee that we can match the exact functionality provided by Blackboard here, but at least the above would give me a better sense of what's intended here. I might then be able to suggest some strategies.

#3 Updated by Marilyn Weber almost 4 years ago

I'll get more information. For now, here's the zip file

#4 Updated by Boone Gorges almost 4 years ago

Oh gosh, I see now - the zip contains a self-contained web site.

In addition to seeing how Blackboard fits this into its interface, it would be helpful to know a bit more about how the zip is generated. I assume that Soft Chalk walks the instructor through a process that ends in the downloading of a zip file? Or does the instructor have to do something special to turn the generated website into a zip file? I'm wondering how standardized it is.

#5 Updated by Marilyn Weber almost 4 years ago

She replies:

"Here I am attaching seven screenshots of how upload it manually to Blackboard, now there is option to upload it to LMS directly and connect it to grade center, but it’s not for sharing, so I’m not going to show that. Last screenshot is of the Softchalk options upon packaging. It’s all done with the same zip I’ve attached.

So this link below takes you to the interactive page:

This is what students & teachers see:

If done this way, students get instant feedback on their attempts, but it doesn’t record scores. However, for a free online resource it should be enough, there is also a way for them to print a certificate of completion if hosted outside of blackboard.

These are the options I can use when packaging to a local computer for exporting, I upload a zip, Blackboard automatically extracts it, I wouldn’t know what ‘Common Cartridge’ does since I haven’t used it."

#6 Updated by Boone Gorges almost 4 years ago

This is very, very helpful. Please pass along my thanks to Nataliya for helping me to understand the issue better.

To summarize what I've gleaned from the materials provided here:

1. Soft Chalk is an application that provides a GUI for creating interactive resources (lessons, quizzes, etc). The final product is essentially a website: one or more HTML pages, with associated static assets (CSS, images, and JavaScript). The webpages are essentially standalone and static, in the sense that they have full HTML headers/footers, they don't rely on any specific server software, etc.

2. Soft Chalk then allows various kinds of export for these sites. The basic Zip export that Nataliya has provided is just a zip of the site's file structure. Screenshot sc7.JPG shows that Soft Chalk also offers a Common Cartridge export format. I don't know much about Common Cartridge, but it looks like the important bit for our purposes is that it provides a "manifest" (in the form of an XML document) that describes the embedded resources, and so acts as a sort of map for importing or reconstructing them in the target application. See Here's an example script that does a very basic parsing of a Common Cartridge manifest and then creates WP posts out of it:

3. Blackboard allows the import of arbitrary Zip files containing self-contained websites, and then allows you to link from the Blackboard interface ("Content Link"; see sc4.JPG) to the uploaded content. I assume that Blackboard is then displaying the content in an iframe that appears in the content area of a Blackboard page.

I should say up front that it's probably not going to be possible for the Commons to provide a general tool like what Blackboard allows. There are some serious security concerns with allowing the upload and execution of arbitrary files, especially JavaScript files. I assume that Blackboard has tools in place that protect end users from this kind of problem ("assume"), but we don't have the resources to do this on the Commons.

If the use of Common Cartridge or some other common standard for course content wound up being a consistent feature request from our users, I think we might be able to consider looking into implementing at least partial support for it. But my research suggests that we'd largely be building this from scratch; I can't find any ready-to-use WordPress or even PHP libraries for parsing Common Cartridge content in a general way.

In the short term, I see three ways forward for supporting projects like Nataliya's on the Commons:
a. If the Soft Chalk items that she's creating are "evergreen" content - that is, they're created once and are likely to stay the same, and be reused throughout multiple terms and perhaps even by different instructors - and if there's a very small number of them, then we might consider hosting them but handling them as part of the codebase rather than as user-submitted content. We have some precedent for this: there are a few JITP articles that have static websites associated with them; we store these on the Commons, and then provide a shortcode that can be used to embed them within an iframe in WordPress. However, if this is an ongoing project, where Nataliya (and others?) would be producing/uploading new content on a regular basis, it'd be too much for our team to handle.
b. I'm unsure whether the Soft Chalk license that Nataliya is using supports this, but if it's possible to keep the lessons on the "Soft Chalk Cloud", then they could easily be linked to from the Commons via a simple URL. See eg the "Upload a Softchalk Activity into the Cloud" section of this PDF:
c. The Soft Chalk projects could be hosted elsewhere - maybe on the user's personal webspace at the campus - and the linked to from the Commons site.

Sorry this is so complicated - what Blackboard + Soft Chalk are doing here is kinda bonkers, and there's only so much we can do to replicate the functionality. :-D

#7 Updated by Matt Gold almost 4 years ago

thanks so much for working through all of this so carefully, Boone

#8 Updated by Matt Gold almost 4 years ago

  • Assignee set to Boone Gorges

#9 Updated by Marilyn Weber almost 4 years ago

It's been almost a month since we heard from Nataliya (and I nudged) so I think this can be closed.

#10 Updated by Boone Gorges almost 4 years ago

  • Status changed from Reporter Feedback to Rejected

Sounds good, Marilyn. Let's make a mental note of this ticket for future reference, should a similar request come in.

Also available in: Atom PDF