BigBlueButton is an open source web conferencing system for online learning. What does this mean?
Open source - It means you have full access to BigBlueButton’s source code under an open source license. With the source code, installation steps, and community support, you can easily your own BigBlueButton server (or 10 servers if you want). For each server you cancustomize it, modify it and integrate it into your products and services. Cool.
Web conferencing system - It means BigBlueButton gives you all the core features you would expect from a commercial web conferencing system (but under an open source license). These core features include real-time sharing of audio, video, presentation, and screen – along with collaboration tools such as whiteboard, shared notes, polling, and breakout rooms. BigBlueButton can record your sessions for later playback.
Online learning - It means BigBlueButton extends these core features to help instructors engage remote students. For example, a tutor can use BigBlueButton’s multi-user whiteboard to help a student with solving a difficult math problem. BigBlueButton has built-in integrations with all the major learning management systems (LMS), including Moodle, Canvas, Sakai, Jenzabar, Blackboard, and D2L. It also supports Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) 1.0 for integration with other LMS systems.
Want to try out BigBlueButton? Visit our demo server at https://demo.bigbluebutton.org and setup a free account. The demo server uses Greenlight, an easy-to-use end-user front-end for creating rooms, starting meetings, inviting others, and managing recordings. Greenlight is open source as well.
Want to setup BigBlueButton server? Check out the bbb-install.sh install script. If you have a public server that meets the minimum requirements and have a domain name pointing to the server, you can use
bbb-install.sh to install the latest version of BigBlueButton, configure the server with SSL (thanks to Let’s Encrypt), and setup Greenlight – all in under 15 minutes. Very cool.
Want to learn more about BigBlueButton? The site gives you all the details on how to install, configure, and customize BigBlueButton to your needs. We’ll give a brief overview of BigBlueButton and then use the navigation on the left to jump to any section.
BigBlueButton is an HTML5-based web application. Unlike many commercial web conferencing systems that require you to install software, BigBlueButton runs within your web browser. There is no plugin to download, no software to install.
BigBlueButton runs within your browser. It uses the browser’s built-in libraries – called web real-time communication (WebRTC) – high-quality real-time sharing of audio, video, and screen. For best results on desktop and laptops, we recommend Chrome or Firefox. Both of these browsers have excellent support for WebRTC. For Chromebooks, we recommend the built-in Chrome browser.
Support for WebRTC within the browser is rapidly growing. Microsoft recently announced tha tha in January 2020 new version of Microsoft Edge will be switching to use the Chromium engine the open source engine that powers Google Chrome. This means that soon that hundreds of millions of Windows 10 computers will be able to run BigBlueButton with a single click. Super cool.
Here is a screen shot of the BigBlueButton client running in Google Chrome.
From left to right, you can see the list of users in the session, the chat area, the presentation area (where the current presenter can update), one shared web cam (you can share as many webcams as bandwidth allows), and the whiteboard tools.
BigBlueButton has a “mobile first” design. We designed the user interface (UI) to first run on a mobile device. Like the desktop, there is no mobile app to download or install. BigBlueButton runs within your mobile browser.
BigBlueButton runs on iOS version 12.2+ and Android version 6.0+. To join a session, you click a link within the browser or a mobile app (such as Moodle Mobile), and BigBlueButton will run within Safari Mobile (iOS) or Google Chrome (Android).
Here’s a screen shot of BigBlueButton running on an iOS phone in landscape mode.
It’s worth emphasizing that the same HTML5 client runs across desktop, laptop, chromebook, iOS, and Android devices. This gives us a single code base to enhance, localize, and innovate without the multiple code bases.
Designed for online learning
We stated above that BigBlueButton extends many of its core features to focus on enabling the instructor to engage students. There are four main use cases for engagement:
- Tutoring/virtual office hours
- Flipped classroom
- Group collaboration
- Full online classes
If you are an instructor, BigBlueButton helps you engage students with:
- Multi-user whiteboard
- Break out rooms
- Chat (public and private)
- Shared notes
We think of engagement as an activity that causes the user to recall (such as answering a poll), demonstrate (such as using multi-user whiteboard), apply (such as in breakout rooms), or ask questions (such as using public chat) about the material the instructor is trying to teach. The more students are engaged, the more they are thinking and learning.
Of course, all these features are still useful in a business meeting, video chat, or audio conference – but they are really useful when teaching users online.
To support users with accessibility needs, BigBlueButton is WCAG 2.0 AA certified (with some exceptions).
A brief overview of BigBlueButton
There are two types of users in BigBlueButton: viewer and moderator.
A viewer (typically the student) can chat, send/receive audio and video, respond to polls, display an emoji (such as their raised hand), and participate in a breakout sessions.
A moderator (typically the instructor) can do everything a viewer can, plus more. A moderator can mute/unmute other viewers, lock down viewers (such as restrict them from using private chat), and make anyone the current presenter. There can be multiple moderators in a session.
The presenter can do the following:
- Upload slides
- Use the whiteboard to annotate any side
- Enable/disable multi-user whiteboard
- Start a poll
- Share a YouTube, vimeo, or Canvas Studio video
- Share their screen
There can be only one presenter at a time in the session. Any moderator can make any user presenter, including themselves.
We created two overview videos – one for the viewer and the other for the moderator – to show you how the above features work.
If you are an administrator interested in setting up your own BigBlueButton server, we recommend you:
- Watch the overview videos to better understand the capabilities of viewer, moderator, and presenter.
- Setup a free account to use BigBlueButton on our demo server.
- Follow us on social media: Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
- Setup your own BigBlueButton server using bbb-install.sh (for those that want to get going quickly), or follow our step-by-step install instructions (for those that want to understand the details of setting up a server).
- Join the BigBlueButton community to engage the community (such as if you need help setting up your server).
If you are a developer, we recommend you:
- Follow the above guidelines for administrator
- Explore the options to customize BigBlueButton
- Checkout the BigBlueButton API
- Setup a development environment to modify and extend BigBlueButton itself.
If your interested in using BigBlueButton in a production environment, check out the companies that offer commercial support and hosting for BigBlueButton.
The latest version of BigBlueButton is BigBlueButton 2.2 which features a pure HTML5 client. See install BigBlueButton.
Overview for Viewers (click image below to watch YouTube video):
Overview for Moderators/Presenters (click image below to watch YouTube video):
We frequenly update each BigBlueButton release. To follow the updates, check out the release notes.
Contributing to our project
The BigBlueButton project is managed by a core group of committers who care about good design and a streamlined user experience.
An easy way to contribute to our project is to tell your peers about it.
- Sending out a tweet at @bigbluebutton
- Uploading a video on YouTube demonstrating how you are using BigBlueButton
- Writing a blog post on your blog about BigBlueButton
We are passionate about making the world’s best open source web conferencing system for online learning. We enjoy reading about how others are benefiting from and building upon BigBlueButton.
BigBlueButton welcomes contributions from others on the project. See contributing to Bigbluebutton.
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