Why does an uploaded assignment look different in Blackboard?

Occasionally, a student or faculty member will reach out to Blackboard Support to ask why an assignment uploaded to Blackboard will appear stylistically different than the original document which was uploaded. As an example, here is a side-by-side comparison of an original Word document and how it appears after being uploaded to Blackboard.

Comparison of Word and Blackboard

Word versus Blackboard

In most cases, the differences can be very subtle. However, the more stylized the document is, the greater and more noticeable the differences can be. In this example, the greatest differences are the font of the title (“My Document”) which in Word was Yu Gothic UI Semibold and the header font (“Why doesn’t my document…”) which in Word was Showcard Gothic. There are also differences in shadow/reflection/3D effects which were applied to those areas.

Closeup view of differences

Closeup view of differences

Why is it different?

The preview viewer for Box that is in Blackboard does not have all the features, capabilities and fonts for rendering documents that a full-blown Microsoft Word installation has. When a document is uploaded to Blackboard, Box is converting the original document to HTML so it can display in the browser as a web page.

When that rendering engine in Box sees formatting that it can’t duplicate, it picks fonts/colors/styles/sizes/kerning/spacing that it thinks are close to the intended markup of the original. In our example, a typical browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc.) does not have all the fonts available to Word such as Showcard Gothic or Yu Gothic UI Semibold. Instead, in the conversion process Box is selecting a similar font from the serif or sans-serif family to substitute for the original in its previewer.

How can I make it not be different?

The short answer to this is that you can’t. A student can take some action to lessen the impact of the conversion by keeping their style choices relatively simple and common which should render more true to the original. But the converted document in the previewer may still have differences while the original remains unaltered and available for viewing if downloaded.

It is important to note that the preview in Blackboard is meant to be just that, a preview. For assignments where the style of a document is being critically graded, it is recommended that the instructor download the document to view in a word processing application where the student’s subtle style choices can be seen exactly as intended. However, in most assignments, the instructor is focusing on the content that the student created. As long as the layout is pleasant, the instructor is unlikely to put much weight into very subtle style choices.

If you are unclear about the importance of styling in an assignment and what influence it may have on a grade, please reach out to your instructor for clarification of what they are looking for.