Thumbs up to Big Blue Button

Well – I can give BBB the thumbs up. We had an enjoyable, informative and stimulating webinar today.

That’s not to say that there weren’t things that BBB and presenters in BBB need to think about.

I am used to Elluminate and missed some of the functionality of Elluminate – but not a lot. Three things I missed. These were:

  1. Being able to write onto the whiteboard using a text box and your keyboard. Currently BBB has a drawing type tool, which is just too clumsy for participant interaction and contributions. It is really helpful if participant responses can be typed up onto the whiteboard.
  2. A voting system – which is great for generating interaction. So for example, the presenter can create a slide with a number of contentious or thought provoking statements which participants need to think about and then vote on.
  3. The ability to applause (clap) and smile in the participant window. I think these symbols are very important for gauging the ‘mood’ of participants.

But the advantage of BBB is that its open source. This is so important. Elluminate is very good – but is very expensive, especially for small self-funded community groups. Even HE institutions are struggling to meet the costs of Elluminate – given all the cuts that are happening at the moment.

BBB is developing and there will be increased functionality with time – but this is what I learned about using it today.

  • You do need headphones and microphone to avoid echo and feedback (similar to Elluminate)
  • I’m not sure how well it would work with large numbers – we had a small group and I found it difficult to see all the participants in the ‘listener’ block without a lot of scrolling up and down.
  • We sought participant interaction in two ways 1) We asked participants to take the microphone and speak. 2) We asked participants to summarise discussion and upload their slides. This was a little slow – probably because we were all learning how to do it – but worked well. We found that power point slides saved as PDF worked best.

I was kicked out of BBB a couple of times. By that I mean that I lost sound and had to log out and log back in again to hear again. I did notice that changing and uploading presentations could interfere with sound – but I’m not sure why this happened.

Otherwise, the chat had exactly the same functionality as Elluminate. As yet there isn’t the facility to separate into rooms – but our group wasn’t big enough to do this anyhow.

So all in all it was a good experience – and I’m all for open source – so thanks to Big Blue Button 🙂

One thought on “Thumbs up to Big Blue Button

  1. Fred Dixon June 4, 2011 / 12:33 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    Many thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts about BigBlueButton. As one of the developers, it’s always great to read suggestions from others on improvements.

    1. Being able to write on the whiteboard

    We do hear this quite a bit. Our original use case for the white board was a math teacher wanting to solve a math problem for students.

    Your scenario about having multiple students writing on the presentation also touches on a more collaborative mode for BigBlueButton.

    Currently, only the presenter can mark-up the presentation with the whiteboard. Your scenario suggested enabling all users to simultaneously use the whiteboard controls to collaborate on a presentation (with the ability to type with a text tool).

    2. A voting system

    We’ve got this marked as a feature request, and is definitely on our road map for 1.0.

    There has been some good discussion recently in our mailing list about the requirements for a polling system. See

    3. The ability to applause (clap) and smile in the participant window …

    This is something we’ll add in the near future (probably after the upcoming release with record and playback).

    We definitely want to give the teacher more visibility on the mood of remote students.

    A few more comments. We recommend using BigBlueButton with groups of 25 students or less. Your right about the need to scroll the users and listeners window. When not using dial-in numbers (i.e. through the phone system), we can unify those two windows as every user had a one-to-one entry in the listeners window.

    We can also do a some improvements such as move a user to the top when their raise their hand. See

    Finally, unlike a HTTP connection (which is very quick and then ends), BigBlueButton maintains a persistent connection. If the internet drops for a moment, which can happen more frequently on a wireless connection, then you’ll get disconnected.

    Again, thanks for your sharing your thoughts on our open source project. For a detailed look at where it’s headed, see our road map to 1.0.

    Regards,… Fred
    BigBlueButton Developer

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