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Using Publisher Content

Increasingly, academic textbook publishers are developing and offering web-based services to accompany their textbooks. It is becoming common practice for publisher sales representatives to entice individual faculty members with the features of their digital books and services.  

Publisher-provided content can be delivered in one or more of the following forms:

  • Course cartridge that is uploaded into a Blackboard course shell, incorporating content, graded activities, and exams directly within Blackboard.
  • Links in a Blackboard course shell to individual resources on a publisher’s site.
  • Links in a Blackboard course shell to full lesson content resources on a publisher’s site

Publisher-Hosted Content

In other cases, the entire course’s content (including quizzes and exams) is stored on the book publisher’s learning management system, not on SIUE’s Blackboard servers, which results in course-based data stored off-campus at a publisher site. Use of these services must be consistent with SIUE’s policies on student support, data retention and data security.

In many cases, you and your students could mistakenly assume that all publisher-produced activity is occurring on SIUE’s Blackboard servers when it is not.  Evaluation grades and student activity records are often stored on the book publisher’s servers.  If you, as an instructor, should receive any type of concern from a student regarding the taking of a test or access to course content on the publisher’s server, SIUE cannot provide you with records of the student’s activity on that publisher’s server. Also, no technical issues that may occur on the publisher’s servers can be resolved by SIUE support staff.

Building Blocks in Blackboard

Individual publishers and their learning management systems may provide a means to synchronize student data on their servers with your course on SIUE’s Blackboard server. These synchronizations, however, require that building blocks be installed and configured on SIUE’s Blackboard servers.  Introducing these building blocks into SIUE’s Blackboard production environment requires time and testing to ensure stability.  Please allow adequate time for ITS to investigate and implement these services and for you to actually test them.  Even with adequate time and testing, ITS has seen a number of instances where the publisher building blocks simply failed to work as promised by the publisher due to publisher design flaws.

If you are considering the adoption of a digital textbook with extended publisher’s services for use in SIUE’s Blackboard, contact ITS ( well in advance of adopting the textbook. ITS will assist in evaluating the publisher’s services and advise you of any support issues that could limit our ability to support you in using a publisher’s services. 

Publisher Test Banks

Increasingly, publishers are providing banks of test questions to accompany their textbooks.  Early on, those test banks were often distributed to faculty on a CD-ROM.  Increasingly, they are being distributed through publisher web sites.  Faculty interested in incorporating publisher test questions in their Blackboard course(s) should know that it is their responsibility to work with the publisher to obtain test questions in a format acceptable for uploading and use within Blackboard 9.1.  When using publisher test questions, faculty members are discouraged from:

  • copying test question text directly from the publisher website and pasting it into the Blackboard test canvas.  There are known issues with copying and pasting extraneous HTML from some of those sites. 
  • embedding media files from publisher web sites directly into test questions in the Blackboard test canvas.  There are known issues in some browsers with media players failing to display within test questions.  Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the instructor to verify that embedded media files will work across all browsers and to alert their students to any additional steps that may be needed to enable the media player to load.

SIUE licenses and supports a test creation tool called Respondus.  Faculty members are encouraged to search the Respondus Test Bank Network for their textbook and, if located, to request a key to access the test bank.  Using the Respondus desktop client, faculty can then create their actual tests in Respondus and publish them directly into Blackboard.  
Note: Respondus is only available for use with a Windows operating system.


While SIUE Information Technology Services can assist faculty with the implementation of these services, publisher content is considered to be third-party software that is not actually “supported” by ITS.  The role of ITS with regard to support of publisher content ends with the uploading of a course cartridge or the installation of a building block.  Any issues encountered beyond that point become the responsibility of the faculty member, in conjunction with his or her publisher sales and/or service representative, to resolve. 

Please note that there are known issues with mixed content (http and https), generally associated with links within Blackboard to publisher content, being blocked in recent versions of Firefox and Chrome.  ITS has seen instances of audio players not displaying in tests with questions linked to a publisher test bank, as well as instances where publisher content embedded through a publisher course cartridge would not display.  Please visit our Blackboard Known Issues page for more information and suggested workarounds.

Faculty are asked to include information within their syllabi as well as within their Blackboard course(s) advising students that publisher content is being incorporated into the course that all questions and concerns related to that publisher content should be directed to the instructor, not to ITS.


ITS wishes to acknowledge the Center for Distance Education at the University of Texas at Arlington for permission to emulate their policy.


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