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Friday October 24th 2014
Moodle on Steroids WIRIS: Maths for Education

Go Ahead…Push the Big Blue Button

By Kent Brooks, Brian Carpenter and Steve Prater of Western Oklahoma State College

Western Oklahoma  State College has faced fiscal constraints for a long time.  We are the classic portrait of Rural America.  We see substantial population loss in rural counties, an aging demographic and declining fertility rates.   Deaths vastly exceed births, schools are closing, their contents auctioned, and families are selling the farm.

These fiscal constraints have prevented us from even looking at certain IT projects in the past.    Web Conferencing has long been a dilemma for me.  I really love some of the commercial products available.  There is no doubt that products such as WebEx and GoToMeeting  Elluminate-Wimba aka Blackboard Collaborate or something like that etc.  provide a tremendous service and a way to share knowledge.   I have been involved in numerous sessions with all of these products and others as well.  All of the products provide some way to show audio and/or video from a presenter, share slides, documents, images etc,  a chat function to assist with interaction and then finally a recording feature.Different degrees of features and customization within each product then add to the complexity of the product. The myth in all of this is that I don’t really need all of the features that are available with many of these services.

Essentially I want to:

  1. Share Slides
  2. Share a talking image of myself
  3. Record the discussion so that students can play back the session

We have long looked for products which allow us to improve communications within our online courses.  The real question comes down to whether one of the commercial products is scalable for us.  The answer I believe is no.  As more faculty wish to engage students in real-time office hours we need a really great self-service tool to facilitate communication which they can install themselves.  What is the answer?  “Big Blue Button”

I must confess I  have used the phrase “I like what I see with Big Blue Button but it isn’t ready because of the lack of a recording functionality”.   Well I have changed my mind, it is ready but it still doesn’t have the recording functionality.   What is the matter with me?  Nothing I say Nothing at All.   It is simply a matter of understanding the limitations of any tool that you use.  If you have a Swiss Pocket Knife you should expect that you can do more with it than with a plain ol’ pocket knife.   We don’t seem to understand this in the software and computers.  Instead we spend our days complaining about what a particular tool cannot do.   (NOTE:  Look at the update section below.  It looks like they are really close.

What we needed to get started

  1. Had to install a virtual appliance that includes Red 5 streaming server and Asterisk PBX system,
  2. Regular Moodle Install
  3. Bandwidth  (See  Slides below)

The only real issues we have had

  1. You must have a headset to eliminate feedback.
  2. The Headset completely eliminated feedback  If you have anyone using  a headset and a microphone they will probably have no trouble. (Probably for any web conferencing tool to work well you need this.
  3. To reduce audio problems you may have to mute everyone and required speakers to raise their hand

Thoughts and the Basics

  1. To add it you add it as an activity.
  2. Don’t make it available until your ready to use it.  f students click on it the first person in becomes the moderator.  You may want that in some cases.  Just be aware.
  3. The primary application right now is for virtual office hours.  Since it doesn’t
  4. This is a tool that would provide live interaction

What do you need to use this

  1. Student doesn’t need a headset, but they could chat
  2. Don’t need a webcam but they can
  3. They need a computer, Flash and a decent computer

Pros

  1. It is pretty straight forward and easy to use
  2. Once integrated teachers can add it to their course without intervention from IT

Cons

  1. You have a limitation with screen size.  You simply can’t fit all that you want on the screen.
  2. Cannot record…Yet

Other Thoughts

  1. We haven’t tried this but why couldn’t you use the free version of Cam Studio for recording until BBB does record (technically this is product does not line up with our philosophy for choosing open source tools…but oh well)
  2. It is amazing more people aren’t finding a way to use this tool

UPDATES

  1. A build (0.8) of bigbluebutton with record and playback was demoed at Sakai 2011 July 1, 2011
  2. Beta of 0.8 coming soon July 13th, 2011

The embed below is from a Presentation by Brian Carpenter  of Western Oklahoma State College at the Oklahoma Moodle Moot

Go Ahead…Push the  Big Blue Button

Session Description:  This session explores the open source Big Blue Button web conferencing tool.  We will discuss how it is currently being deployed at Western Oklahoma State College and how the projects roadmap aligns with Western’s course initiative.   This session will also overview our search for cost-effective Web Conferencing in both the commercial and open source realms.


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Reader Feedback

10 Responses to “Go Ahead…Push the Big Blue Button”

  1. Frankie Kam says:

    Hi Kent. Glad you found BBB to be what you were looking for. Thanks for the specifications listing especially the bandwidth requirements. Cheers.

  2. Jason Cameron says:

    Bbb is a great tool, though new comers need to realize it’s definitely in it’s early stages. I truthfully hope the app gains the following it needs.

    Personally I have found it to be a great addition to a moodle environment, but can become an administrative responsibility. Red5 has frozen from time to time and watching bandwidth can be resins for those who are limited.

  3. For those who are curious you can go to bigmarker.com and use their service for free. Those cheeky monkeys wrapped BBB in a web2 service delivery model.

    I have installed BBB on a VM build and it is dream to setup and I got it working with the Moodle 1.9 plugins without issue.

  4. Frankie Kam says:

    Patric: THANKS for the link. I am always thankful for all cheeky monkeys since I am one too. I am cheek..I mean, checking it out now. Down another rabbit hole…..

  5. Frankie Kam says:

    Patric. Simply great. I signed up for an account and will hold a free 24-hour one man MOOT. Haha! Actually just trying it out and hope to invite my students to an online class on IT. Also I plan to create a Moodle hacks online class and invite other Moodlers. Why knows? The sky’s the limit. I wonder how their bandwidth and speed will do for a class of 20 online students. A great rabbit hole. Thanks for highlighting it here on Moodlenews.com.

  6. Terry Floyd says:

    I’m encouraging more people at my office to use BBB instead of paying for more expensive services like GoToMeeting, iLinc and Webex. I set up one in our server lab and we’ve now done three meetings, one with as many as 150 participants, which would have cost us thousands of dollars if we’d used one of the commercial services. And only a few of these services allow recording of meetings without charging more for this feature. DimDim (built on the same code as BBB) was an exception, but that’s now owned by SalesForce.com and costs much more than when it was a startup. You can always have your administrator host it from an Ubuntu Linux box and use the desktop recording feature and audio recording tools to preserve the experience for later playback. This has the added benefit of allowing for post-meeting editing as well!

  7. Frankie Kam says:

    Kent Brooks, you can rejoice as BBB now supports screen recording and playback. as of BigBlueButton 0.8-beta. September 12, 2011. YEAAAHHHH!!!!

  8. Fred Dixon says:

    Hi Everyone,

    We just released BigBlueButton 0.8-beta-4. For what’s new, see

    http://www.bigbluebutton.org/2012/03/06/bigbluebutton-0-8-beta-4-released/

    Next stop, BigBlueButton 0.8-final!

    Regards,… Fred

    BigBlueButton Developer

  9. Davd O'Keefe says:

    GoToMeeting can be signficantly discounted for universities and easily integrated with Moodle and other LMS platforms. It’s worth giving us a call, before embarking on a BBB project.
    Best regards,
    David
    1 888 646 0015

  10. ike says:

    Please,I have installed moodle whiteboard on my moodle site ,but any time I do or write something on the the whiteboard,it disappears again.Can anyone here help me with this.thanks

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