Skip to main content
Blackboard Help

Best Practice: Limit Course Size

Administrators can monitor course sizes and take action to prevent unnecessary and large files from taking up space in the system. Instructors can also take steps to limit the size of their own courses.

Disk Usage Report

Review the Disk Usage report and look for large values and sudden jumps in total course size. The Disk Usage tool is accessed in the Administrator Panel under Tools and Utilities > System Reporting. It can help you determine what the average course size is at your institution and help you spot unusually large courses or patterns in course size.

The Disk Usage page shows how much disk space each course and organization is using. The data that populates this report is refreshed once a day and only for those courses and organizations that show user activity in the past 30 days. Courses or organizations just created, or with no user activity, may not appear until a future refresh.The report shows the size of disk space used in the following:

  • Course Files: Data stored in course files.
  • Protected Files: Files that are used in assignments, tests, and student submissions. Protected Storage guards student privacy by providing a non-searchable, non-discoverable space for the storage of student submitted materials. In contrast, Course Files are tied to the content system and materials in Course Files are searchable and discoverable by users based on their system or course role.
  • Legacy Filesystem Files: Storage for all files that were used in the course prior to upgrading to Release 9.1. Files are not moved during upgrade for in-place courses. Courses that are restored, imported or copied after upgrading to Release 9.1 no longer use this type of storage, even if the original source course did so.

You can search for specific data based on course information, course size, and inactive courses.

Managing Course Size and Disk Space

Regular Cleanup — be disciplined about course reuse policies and reviewing courses on a periodic basis, such as between terms, to determine whether a course should be archived and removed from the system. Don't keep courses on your system that aren't being actively taught – archive them and store them to tape, network storage, or remote storage that is offline from your Learn instance and retain per your institution's requirements. Courses can be retrieved and restored as needed.

Content Collection — use institution folders or other shared spaces in the Content Collection for files that need to be deployed across many courses, such as student policies and department guidelines. While the content collection engine has algorithms to detect exact duplicates of files to prevent extra storage costs from being incurred, it's still a best practice to link to one copy of the file across multiple courses.

Course and File Size Limits — See How to Set Default Course Size Limits to specify the maximum course disk size for all courses. See Setting Individual Course Quotas to set quotas for single courses. You can also Set the Course Files Package Size for content included in course packages during archive, import, and copy. 

File Uploads in Courses

Files uploaded within courses are stored in Course Files and are calculated into the course's total size. To learn more, see Course Files and Setting Course Files Package Size.

How Duplicated Content Is Handled

When copying a course, there are two options for handling the files in the course: to copy the files as links or copy the files as files. Copying the files as links means that both the source course and the copy "point" to the same file - changes made to the file impact both courses. Copying the files as files means that the source course and the copy have different pointers, and changes made to the file in one course will not impact the file in the other course.

However, there is a nuance to this second case. If the file in the copied course is an exact match to the file in the source course, then the content engine which manages the files will optimize the server disk storage on save, so that only one set of bytes is being stored even though each course could manage the file differently without impacting each other. While this saves disk storage at the back end, it also means that cleanup operations on courses might have less immediate benefit. In other words, deleting a course does not necessarily result in significant server space being reclaimed, depending on the level of duplication.

For example, if an institution has 5 copies of a specific course for different sections, and each copy of the course has 200 MB of data but it tends to include the same uploaded documents. Instead of using 5 x 200 MB = 1 GB of space, the total usage will be close to 200 MB as each file is only stored once even though it appears to be separate files from the user's perspective. Deleting 4 of the 5 copies of the course will still result in 200MB of server storage space being used.

As a result of this, the disk space is reclaimed only when the final copy of the course is deleted. Note that the Disk Usage tool does not take into account the de-duplication feature; it lists the usage of each course as if those files stood alone.

Disk Usage for courses does not take into account the usage within the Oracle or SQL Server database, but deleting courses will free up space in the database that can be used for future data.

Recommendations for Instructors

Enable instructors at your institution to be mindful of the size of the courses they create. Give them the following recommendations, as well as others that fit your institution's policies.

Video — link to videos rather than uploading video files to a course. Instead, upload your videos to YouTube, Vimeo, or a separate media server on campus and then link to them within a course. Be mindful of intellectual property rules. For example, it might not be legal to host a video from National Geographic on Vimeo, even if you licensed it to use in a course.

Use Mashups — upload slide decks to SlideShare, video to YouTube, or images to Flickr. You can  easily embed these elements in your course with the Blackboard Learn Mashups tool. To learn more, see How to Create Mashups.

Course Files or Content Collection — look for large file sizes and unused files and folders that you can delete.

Reduce File Sizes — before uploading, reduce file sizes for:

  • Microsoft Office Files - Use the tools available in Microsoft Office to reduce file size for Powerpoint and Word files. The Reduce File Size option is located in the File menu. You can also save files as PDFs before uploading, which often makes smaller, read-only versions of the files.
  • Images - Use a graphics program to resize images for screen viewing before uploading. You can also use an online service such as or
  • Audio - Use software to resample or trim audio files to reduce their size.