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 🙂

BigBlueButton Challenge

Next week (May 18th 2011) I will be working with a team, George Roberts, Rhona Sharpe, Joe Rosa (from Oxford Brookes University) and Andy Coverdale (University of Nottingham) to present a one day online course bearing the title – Benefits and challenges of communities of practice in HE

This will be interesting because I have never worked in BigBlueButton before, although I had a ‘practice’ meeting today so had a chance to become a little familiar with the technology.  BigBlue Button is an online conferencing platform. It is similar to Adobe Connect, but lacks some of the functionality of Elluminate.

I have been tasked with doing a 10 minute presentation on MOOCs (this might be controversial as I have rather strong opinions about what is and what is not a community of practice – enough said :-)) and also to design a 45 minute activity about the challenges for communities of practice in Higher Education. This will be interesting because, as yet, BBB does not have a voting system and does not allow for participants to write on the whiteboard – so planning for online interactivity is somewhat limited. I will have to put my ‘thinking cap’ on, as I know from experience that the most ‘fun’ sessions are those where participants can take control of their learning. I would like to try and avoid falling into the ‘teacher talks too much’ trap 🙂

So lot’s to think about, especially since I am currently working with two research groups, one on emergent learning and the other on autonomous learning – so hopefully I will have learned something from those which will be reflected in what we do in the online course.

I really need to try and ‘put my money where my mouth is’ 🙂