Check For, and Fix! Broken Links in Your Course

What can you do to prevent students clicking on links for required readings in your course and discovering that materials they are responsible for are missing? Links in new courses break for various reasons. It could be that the course copy process itself has somehow broken some links, though this is rare. It’s more common (and understandable) that pages linked to in your course have either been taken down or simply changed location on a revised site.

It’s good practice to proactively go through your course right after it’s been copied over and click on each link to make sure that they all work. Even if your course has a lot of links, the simple act of clicking on all of the links should not take too long. The part of the process that may take longer, depending on what you find, is fixing each link that doesn’t lead where it’s intended to.

The next step is to find the addresses for the materials you want to use when you rebuild the links. Start with searching the site for the information you’re looking for; most ed sites will have a search function. If you find that the information you want to pass along is either revised enough to no longer be useful or missing from the site altogether, you may need to find an alternative if the information is vital for your students. (Hint: you might use Lesley’s Ask a Librarian service for assistance with this.)

Once you have the new link in hand, saved to a word document or opened in a separate tab in your browser, you’ll need to build a new link, and then delete the old one. I recommend deleting the old link after building the new one, because it’s easier to see where the new link should go and should make it easier to identify and make any revisions in the language in your text in order to accommodate the change.

Here’s how to create the new link using Blackboard’s text editor, adapted for this post from our knowledge base article at

Adding Links

When pasting links to websites such as YouTube and Vimeo, the videos are automatically embedded for inline playback. Simply paste the link in the content editor and Blackboard will automatically embed the video.image of the Blackboard content editor with an image added.

Other links, such as those to other websites, may display a preview of that page.image of the Blackboard content editor with preview of a linked page.

To ensure the links you create are accessible, your language should convey clear and accurate information about the link’s destination. For example, instead of adding a link to the text “Click here”, include the full title of the destination page, such as “Microsoft Office Support Resources.”

To create a link, click on the Insert/Edit Link button in the content editor (it’s the one in the second row that looks like two links in a chain.) You will be prompted to enter the URL (you may copy and paste the link from your browser or the word document mentioned above), the text to display (the descriptive word or phrase you want to use as your link), and select “Open link in… New window.”image of the Blackboard insert/edit link window.This last bit is important; Blackboard/MyLesley works better if you set the link to open in a new window. Clicking a link that is not created in this way will send you to an intermediate page warning you that you are about to leave your course site, which can be confusing. Using a new window will also help your students navigate back and forth between the content you are linking to and the course itself with a single click on a browser tab.

For more information about other aspects of working with the new text editor, view Using the myLesley Text/Content Editor on our support site.


Coming November 5th: New myLesley Text/Content Editor

On the evening of November 5th, Blackboard will release their new text/content editor! The new editor has been streamlined to make adding content into your course easier and the new design will work better on both mobile devices and larger screens. Blackboard has also improved their accessibility tools and introduced a few brand new features.

View the New Content Editor video for a sneak peak of the new content editor.

Better for All Devices

The editor is better suited for all devices—small screen or big—and editor tools will no longer open in new pop-up windows for a better mobile experience.

The toolbar will show as many tools as it can for the size of your screen before wrapping to the next line. Show and collapse the additional tools with the ellipsis icon.
ellipsis tool to show or hide more tools

Adding Content: The Power of Plus

Blackboard content editor with callout to Add Content buttonThere is now one easy menu for adding content from your computer or integrated tool. Click the Add Content button to upload content such as files or images or built-in tools such as Kaltura or Hoonuit (formerly found under Mashups).

Uploading multiple files? Instead of uploading them one at a time you can now upload multiple files at once.

Improved Accessibility

New Blackboard Accessibility Checker

The editor itself is more accessible to all users, and the new Accessibility Checker helps you make content more accessible as you’re adding it to your course. Combined with Blackboard Ally, you can ensure that your content is more accessible to all users.

Text Formatting, Bullets, List

Blackboard content editor with callout to formatting options

Options for formatting text, bullets, and lists are now presented in recognizable ways rather than just as text, more closely matching other editors, such as Google and Microsoft. For example, font choices will appear as those fonts and bullet options will display visually as those bullet types.

New Table Options

Blackboard content editor with callout to Table button and options

Creating a table has been simplified with a grid selector instead of a pop-up. When adding tables, column widths default to use percentages rather than fixed widths in order to ensure that they display nicely on different screen sizes.

Better Copy and Paste

Paste formatting options: choose to keep or remove formatting in the pasted content

Tired of wonky formatting when you copy and paste from Word, Google, etc.? Blackboard will now allow you to remove the extra HTML that gets in your way and still retain basic formatting.

Spellchecker Updates

New improved spellchecker suggests replacements for misspelled words

The Spellcheck tool has been improved for language and an updated and expanded dictionary. Click the tool to run spellcheck.

Simple Embed

Image of simple embed using the content editor

When pasting links to websites such as YouTube and Vimeo, the videos are automatically embedded for inline playback. Other sites including The New York Times, WordPress, SlideShare and Facebook will embed summary previews. However, you will still need to use HTML in order to embed VoiceThread content.

Easier HTML Editing

sample source code using HTML Editor

When authoring or editing HTML, it’ll be easier to find what you’re looking for with line numbers and tag colors.

Display Computer Code

Blackboard content editor with callout to Insert Code button

Authors can now share formatted computer code snippets. This is very useful for computer science classes.





Blackboard Ally: The File Transformer and new BeeLine Reader format

Blackboard Ally has released some new tools to help faculty and students better access digital content.

File Transformer

As schools have made the sudden transition to online learning, Ally has released the new File Transformer. The File transformer website will be available for a limited time during the COVID-19 crisis and will allow you to quickly convert files to alternate formats outside of myLesley.

Faculty and students can upload a file and download it into an alternative format designed to better fit your needs, devices, and learning preferences.

  • OCRed PDF: Makes scanned documents searchable, more readable, and accessible to users on a screen reader
  • Tagged PDF: Improves use with assistive technology
  • Audio: MP3 version for listening on a computer or mobile device
  • HTML: Mobile-friendly version for reading in browsers or mobile devices
  • Electronic Braille: BRF version for tactile reading on electronic braille displays, other braille reading devices, or within braille software
  • ePUB: For reading and annotating on mobile devices or e-book readers 
  • BeeLine Reader: Enhanced version for faster and more focused on-screen reading

Go to the File Transformer website to get started.

Introducing BeeLine Reader

BeeLine Reader is designed to make reading on a screen easier and faster. Instead of using plain black text, BeeLine Reader displays text using a subtle color gradient, helping to pull your eye through your reading. It not only increases reading speed, but also enhances focus, benefiting students with dyslexia, ADHD, low vision, and anybody who may have difficulty with visual tracking or focus.

Video: The Beeline Reader Alternative Format shows you how easy it is to download course files in the BeeLine Reader format.

Common Accessibility Issues: Untagged PDFs

What are some of the most common accessibility issues? What makes them problematic? And how can you fix them? In this series of blog posts we will address the most common accessibility issues that we have seen on campus and provide instructions and guidance for fixing them.

What are tagged PDFs?

A tagged PDF provides a hidden structured, textual representation of the PDF content. Tagging allows screen readers to understand your file’s reading order, where headings fall, and which objects in the document are tables, images, footnotes, etc.

What makes untagged PDFs problematic?

When a PDF is untagged it is difficult for those using assistive technology to understand the content.

How do I tag my PDF?

In order to ensure that your PDF is tagged properly, it is helpful to build your file in an accessible format before converting to PDF.

If you are creating PDFs from Microsoft Office applications (ex Word, PowerPoint):

  • Use the most recent version of Microsoft Office. Older versions of Word or PowerPoint will not create a tagged PDF. Need the latest versions? Go to Downloading Microsoft Office 365 for information.
  • Before converting your file to PDF, run the Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker. It may not catch everything, but it will pick up glaring issues and walk you through fixing them.
  • Do not print to PDF. Printing to PDF will not create an accessible, tagged PDF. Instead, save your file as a tagged PDF and ensure that it is formatted for accessibility. Go to Create Accessible PDFs for more information.

If you are building your PDF directly in Adobe Acrobat be sure to check out Adobe’s accessibility resources:

Need Assistance?

If you need assistance making your content accessible, reach out to You may also check out the following resources:

Common Accessibility Issues: Scanned PDFs

What are some of the most common accessibility issues? What makes them problematic? And how can you fix them? In this series of blog posts we will address the most common accessibility issues that we have seen on campus and provide instructions and guidance for fixing them.

What is a Scanned PDF?

A common method for digitizing content is to place a paper copy (or book) onto a scanner and save the resulting file as a PDF. Unfortunately, the resulting document only contains images of the text, not the text itself.

image of scanned PDF
image of a scanned PDF

What makes scanned PDFs problematic?

Because these documents contain images of the text and not the text itself, scanned PDFs are inaccessible to anyone using assistive technology, such as a screen reader.

The text in scanned PDFs often looks off-center and can be blurry or difficult to read, slowing down reading and lowering comprehension. Images alongside the text can appear too dark or too grainy to see clearly. Additionally, students cannot search, highlight, or annotate the document for their notes.

How do I fix it?

If possible, find a digital copy of the original document. If you find a digital version online, link to it. Do not download the document and upload it into your course, as this may violate copyright.

If you cannot find a digital copy, contact a librarian. A librarian can help you determine fair use and copyright or help you search for an alternate accessible resource. Email for assistance.

If you are the owner of the document, or have permissions from the author or publisher to modify it, be sure to use an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) scanner or software to convert the scanned document to text. If you scan or convert your text you will still need to read through the document and update as necessary. For more information see Scan a Paper Document to PDF (Acrobat Pro).

If you need to make a PDF accessible to a student with a documented accommodation, email for assistance.

Need Assistance?

If you need assistance making your content accessible, reach out to You may also check out the following resources: