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BigBlueButton: Simple, Open-Source Web Conferencing

BigBlueButton is an open-source web conferencing platform with a simple vision, that “starting a web conference should be as easy as clicking a single metaphorical big blue button.” It is also a platform that is designed for use in higher education, and is modeled as a solution for distance and online courses.

The BigBlueButton platform is comprised of 14 open-source technologies, which provide the underlying support for live broadcasting and recording of audio, video, slide, and desktop sharing. BigBlueButton's tool set includes a shareable whiteboard, integrated chat, and shareable document support (PDF, Microsoft Office). BigBlueButton is also extendable, and can be integrated with a number of third-party, open-source learning environments and tools.

A few takeaways from using BigBlueButton firsthand: In our testing, it could reliably connect to more than a dozen video connections synchronously. (According to BigBlueButton, the platform has the potential to connect one presenter video and desktop to up to 50 users.) What was particularly impressive is that in our testing, many of the users were connecting across multiple continents, including North America and Europe. All the while there were minimal latency issues, and the audio and video stream quality remained high even as the number of user connections increased. The whiteboard tools and slide sharing tools were also responsive and very easy to use.

BigBlueButton requires a server installation or virtual machine (VM) software. However, visit the BigBlueButton demo server to try out a fully-featured version of the product. Videos are also available on the BigBlueButton demo server, which show the utility of the software from the perspective of instructors (included below), students, and even developers.