We first tried the free, open-source BigBlueButton (BBB) videoconferencing software while helping Portland Fashion Institute move elements of their excellent classes online. They were already using Populi as a student management system, which also had a robust learning mangagement system (LMS) built in. For no extra cost, we were able to start moving the classes online into their LMS that was comparable to Canvas and other more expensive systems. An added bonus was that it had an integration with BBB. It has turned out to be our favorite program for online video conferences with other schools, too–and the price was certainly right!
The simple BigBlueButton interface is shown above, with participants and chat on the left, sharing tools at the bottom and right. Multiple users can stream audio and video from their computers at the same time, too, and even collaborate using the interactive whiteboard.
The video below will give you a good overview of how to use BBB as a moderator / presenter.
We’ve used many other great videoconferencing tools for distance learning, like Zoom, Adobe Connect, and Webex, but they can get expensive if multiple instructors need accounts, or a larger number of students or attendees will be participating in sessions. BBB has all the features of these other systems, such as multiple video and audio feeds, screen sharing, polling, and an interactive whiteboard and drawing tools, plus it’s perhaps the easiest to use. Perhaps best of all, it’s free (like WordPress and other open-source software), apart from the server hosting if you don’t have a dedicated server for it.
It is easy to integrate videocoferencing into your online courses. Many other popular LMSs like Canvas, Instructure, Schoology, Sakai, Jenzabar, and D2L have built-in BBB integration, too. There are also plug-ins available for Moodle and WordPress (that we are using on this site).
BigBlueButton is already integrated into many of the most popular learning management systems. And there are plug-ins for Moodle and WordPress.
An advantage of integrating your LMS with BBB instead of Zoom or another tool is that saved recordings are displayed as button links within the LMS. For example, with our Populi integration, the buttons display next to the concluded conferences in the Conferences area of the online courses. We also integrate with Zoom, so instructors have a choice of tools, but those recordings must first be saved to the instructor’s computer, then uploaded into the course, encoded by the LMS, and displayed somewhere in the course by the instructor. With BBB, it all happens without any work at all; the BBB recordings are simply saved on the server and presented as button links in a well-organized way that are easy for students to find. This is especially important if students are unable to join the videoconference and want to review it later.