BigBlueButton 1.1-beta

    Welcome to BigBlueButton 1.1-beta, the latest release for BigBlueButton, an open source web conferencing system for online leanring.

    This document covers the new capabilities in BigBlueButton 1.1-beta:

    • Closed Captioning (see 2517
    • Breakout Rooms (see 1934)
    • Faster Desktop Sharing (see 3520)

    As with every release, we’ve refactored components to improve stability:

    • Updated Playback Layout (see 3521)

    We’ve also added enhancements for developers/administrators:

    • updateRecordings API call (see API)
    • Packaging for Ubuntu 16.04 (see 3118)

    In moving to Ubuntu 16.04 we rewrote the old system5 init scripts into modern unit scripts in systemd. The result was a much simpler and deterministic startup sequence for BigBlueButton.

    The install steps shrank as well. Thanks to the packages available in Ubuntu 16.04, the administrator no longer needs to compile ffmpeg or add external repositories for libreoffice.

    Components of BigBlueButton were completely rewritten. The new screen sharing doesn’t require opening another port, captures the mouse, and is faster. Under the hood, the new screen sharing runs a minimized version of ffmpeg to capture the screen and transmit it over RTMP – which is similar to the implementation in commercial applications.

    We strive to make every release easier and more capable for helping you as an instructor teach remote students. If you have any feedback on this release, please share it with our communty at bigbluebutton-dev. To install see install BigBlueButton 1.1-beta.

    Features

    Closed Captioning

    BigBlueButton now supports live captioning during a session - a moderator (such as a stenographer) can enter captions for a selected language during the class and BigBlueButton will display those captions, in real-time, to other students. After the session is finished, the captions will appear as subtitles in the recordings.

    Creating Live Captions

    A moderator first selects Closed Caption layout.

    cc-open

    and then selects the language to provide captions

    cc-select

    and then selects the first tab (it will have the name of the selected language).

    cc-open

    Once selected, the moderator clicks Take Ownership (this ensures only one moderator at a time is entering captions for the given language).

    cc-take-ownership

    At this point, the moderator can begin typing text (or using a stenograph machine to inject text) into the tet area.

    cc-typing

    As they type, the text is visibile to viewers (see below).

    Viewer Capabilities

    When a viewer (student) selects the Closed Captioning layout, The Closed Captioning dialog will display the active language streams.

    cc-student-select

    Clicking a language opens a new tab. Clicking on the first tab shows the live captions as they are typed.

    cc-student-view

    Viewing captions in Playback

    Later, when viewing the recording, the playback bar will have a ‘CC’ button. Clicking on the ‘CC’ button will show the available captions.

    cc-playback

    Faster Screen Sharing

    When the presenter launches screen sharing, the BigBlueButton client will download a Java Network Launch Protocol (JNLP) file called screenshare.jnlp that, when opened, will download a Java application and run the screen sharing outside the browser.

    By running outside the browser, screen sharing works on all browsers.

    Starting Screen Sharing

    To start screen sharing, the presenter clicks the screen sharing icon in the toolbar.

    ds-start

    BigBlueButton client will display the Screen Sharing Presenters Preview window. This will show the presenter a thumbnail view of what others see when the screen sharing starts.

    ds-launch

    The window displays a set of images that guide the user through starting the screen sharing. These images are specific to the user’s combination of operating system and browser.

    When the user clicks ‘Start’, BigBlueButton will download screenshare.jnlp. The file may be called screenshare(1).jnlp, screenshare(2).jnlp, etc. depending on previous downloads.

    Following the steps shown in the window, the instructor can opens screenshare.jnlp, which causes Java to launch and download and run BigBlueButton Screenshare. Java will display certificate confirmation dialog requesting permissions to run BigBlueButton Screenshare.

    ds-applet

    Once running, the Desktop Sharing Presenters Preview window shows a thumbnail video of what students are currently seeing. This thumbnail is not resizable (students see the desktop in a resizable window).

    ds-running

    The presenter can pause/resume the desktop sharing stream. Clicking ‘Close’ will stop the desktop sharing.

    ds-resume

    Sharing a Region

    On Windows and Linux, the presenter has the option of sharing a region. When choosing region, the presenter will see a dashed outline of the desktop sharing area when BigBlueButton Screenshare runs.

    ds-region

    Clicking ‘Start Sharing’ will start sharing the selected region. As with sharing full screen, a thumbnail version of what the remote students see will appear in the Desktop Sharing Presenter’s Preview window.

    Due to the limitation of underlying components in the new screen sharing, there is no option on Mac OS X to share a region – it will only capture full-screen of the first monitor.

    Breakout Rooms

    Any moderator (usually the instructor) can now place students into breakout rooms, monitor their interaction, and end the breakout rooms at any time.

    Breakout rooms are full BigBlueButton sessions. The ability to record breakout rooms is under development. Each student in a breakout room has moderator role, which means any student can make themselves presenter and upload a presentation for sharing with other students.

    To start a breakout room, choose “Breakout Rooms …” from the gear icon.

    br-launch

    Configure Breakout Rooms

    When you choose “Breakout Rooms …” the following dialog box appears.

    br-configure

    The Breakout Room dialog enables the instructor to specify

    1. the number of breakout rooms: 2,3,4, or 5
    2. time limit
    3. enable/disable recording
    4. drag and drop users between rooms
    5. which users should not be placed into breakout room (the “Not Assigned” room)

    Student Joining a Breakout Room

    When the moderator presses the ‘Start’ button in the Breakout Room dialog, any user assigned to a breakout room will see the following dialog inviting them to join the breakout room.

    br-confirm

    Clicking ‘Yes’ causes the breakout room session to open in a new tab. The user remains joined in the main session (where they can chat with the instructor and ask questions). BigBlueButton will disconnect drop them from the audio from the main room. This will prevent students from being joined into two different audio sessions at the same time.

    br-time

    The breakout room will have a countdown timer about the chat to inform the users of the remaining time [1]. Once the timer reaches 0, the breakout room will automatically close.

    Users can return to the previous tab and rejoin the audio in the main room.

    Monitoring Breakout Rooms

    When the instructor clicks ‘Start’ in the Breakout Room dialog, a breakout room status table will appear in the Users window.

    br-monitor

    The instructor can join the breakout room in a new tab [1], or join only the audio [2]. The instructor can also close the breakout rooms early (before the time remaining expires) [3].

    Updated Playback Layout

    The new playback layout provides an expandable list of thumbnails. The playback format also supports subtitles for sessions that had live closed captioning.

    Recording

    Miscellaneous upates

    Restrict viewer webcams to only display for moderators

    There are cases where you want to restrict a student’s webcam to only be visible to the moderator. We’ve added a parameter webcamsOnlyForModerator to enforce this behaviour for a meeting.

    Param NameRequired / OptionalTypeDescription
    webcamsOnlyForModeratorOptionalBoolean Setting 'webcamsOnlyForModerator=true' will cause all webcams shared by viewers during this meeting to only appear for moderators

    Here’s a overview video demonstrating how this restriction works in a meeting.

    FreeSWITCH

    We upgraded the version of FreeSWITCH to 1.6.14. This brings support for forward error correction (FEC) in WebRTC audio, which means viewers using Chrome (support for FEC is coming soon to FireFox) will have even better audio on wireless or low-bandwidh networs with packet loss.

    FreeSWITCH is a great open source project and the development team has done a solid job on creating an open source soft switch.

    Red5

    This release builds upon red5 1.0.8-M13 which includes a number of bug fixes over the previous release we were using in BigBlueButton 1.0 (thanks to the red5 team for being so responsive).