Thursday, August 8, 2013

The LMS, IE, and Quirks Mode

For the more advanced user of WebCT Vista, Blackboard Learn 9, Angel, etc., who uses web technologies to design rich, visually striking, interactive learning content, there is a perpetual thorn in the side: quirks mode. What is quirks mode? In short, any time the doctype code on an html page header is not done properly (and the first thing the browser sees), most web browsers go into quirks mode to try to compensate for a web page that seems broken. Usually the web browser renders the page as an older version of that browser.

The problem? Even if your html pages are spot-on perfect and standards compliant, WebCT, Blackboard, etc., add a bunch of html and JavaScript to the top of your pages when they serve them up. This makes the browser think the pages are broken, and it goes into quirks mode to try to compensate.

If you use html to create course content to upload into your online course, you’ve probably seen some of the problems caused by this, even if you didn’t know the cause. Most of the problems are caused in Internet Explorer, which renders as IE 5.5 or 6. So any html page you create to upload into an LMS system must be designed to work in IE5.5 or 6, or it will break for your students, even if they are on IE 8 or 10.

For more information on what breaks in different browsers I quirks mode, have a look at’s excellent guide. It could lead you to the cause of the persistent, mysterious, illogical html problem you’ve been having in your online course:

1 comment:

  1. A relatively painful solution is to open your courses in a new window, keeping the original one alive as a sort of "middle man" between learning object and LMS for communication. It's not pretty but it allows content to be rendered correctly with your own doctype while staying within the scope of the LMS. Add a couple of protection to ensure no one can mistakenly close the in-between window et voilà!

    Of course the best solution is getting your LMS up to date if it's possible.