BigBlueButton Brings Video Conferencing to Classrooms
Many schools and universities are offering online learning as a way for remote students to attend classes, but effective learning often relies upon a student's ability to interact with the instructor and fellow classmates. BigBlueButton is a great interactive Web-conferencing tool for unifying classrooms and facilitating the teaching process.
BigBlueButton is a free, open source, server-run project designed to run on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. It's built on more than 14 open source components like Asterisk, MySQL, ActiveMQ, and more. BigBlueButton integrates with open source content management system Moodle and a handful of other popular open source projects.
The project has plenty of features to make it attractive for different types of learning environments. Presenters have full control over the digital classroom's participants, including the ability to eject or mute them. Easily upload a PDF and Office documents, then switch back and forth between them during a presentation. You can even share your desktop with the classroom via a Java applet.
Viewers have a number of tools at their fingertips as well. You can see everyone who's logged into the room, regardless of whether they're connected to the voice conference bridge via Voice over IP (VoIP) or direct call in via landline. Additional features let you zoom in on the presentation for a better view, raise your hand to get the attention of the presenter, and keep track of where the presenter is pointing with a highly visible visual indicator. Participants can even contact others in the room via public or private chat.
The project is under continual development and releases updates often. The most recent have included faster desktop sharing, an API for third-party integration, and support for additional file formats including support for the conversion of Microsoft Office documents. Look for more features later this year after the project wraps up its involvement in the 2010 Google Summer of Code.