BigBlueButton is an open source tool that provides:
- Text chat
- Webcam support
- Audio discussion
- Shared desktop
- Shared presentation
You don’t need to install anything to check it out, there’s a working demo available:
I did find what seems to be a small bug using Firefox (Mac OS): the placement of minimised tools is not quite right, the thumbnail is pushed too far to the left of the screen and is hard to find. Other than that, it seems to work really well, and it seems to have lots of potential.
What I really like about BigBlueButton:
- It’s very simple – the interface is much more straightforward than (say) Wimba Classroom. Admittedly it appears to have fewer features but it has enough to be a very effective tool for synchronous learning and teaching.
- There’s a Moodle integration available – that’s a big plus that should ensure its uptake.
- The moderator and presenter roles are clearly defined. My first impression was that ‘viewers’ had not enough control and were limited to passive learning, but it seems easy to share control of the various tools and enable active learning modes.
- There are clear tutorials and help files available.
- Did I mention it’s open source? And the authors seem to be doing everything right with the project: there’s a published API and open issue tracking and version control.
Given its simplicity of use, I think learners will have fewer problems in using it than they currently do with some of the proprietary systems. Overall, this seems a great tool and one I’ll be following closely.