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What is BigBlueButton?

BigBlueButton (BBB) is a web conferencing tool for hosting virtual classroom meetings. Instructors and TAs may use it to conduct live classes, tutorials, office hours, and similar meetings. But instructors may also create BBB activities as a space for you to connect with your fellow classmates and coordinate group projects.

Users can communicate through audio and/or webcam and make use of numerous collaborative features, such as public chat, a group note-taking tool, and a shared whiteboard. Additional features include Breakout Rooms for small group discussion, as well as a variety of presentation tools. (Please note that not all features may be enabled in your session.)

If your instructor has created a BBB session for your course, you can access the activity and the videos for any recorded sessions through your Brightspace course page.

1. BigBlueButton technical requirements.

We recommend the following for full access to BBB’s features:

Computing Devices:
  • A laptop or desktop computer, minimum 2GHz processor and 4GB RAM.
  • Any Chromebook, minimum 1.5GHz and 4GB RAM.

Make sure that the Operating System is up to date. (Check here for a list of other supported devices and their requirements.)

Web Browsers:
Only Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge (Chromium version) support full BBB functionality.

Make sure that your browser is up to date. Check these links for instructions on how to manually check for updates:

Internet Connection / Bandwidth:
Minimum 2Mbps download and 2Mbps upload. (Check your internet speed here.)

For a more reliable and stable connection, we recommend connecting to your router/modem directly via Ethernet if possible.

Audio Devices:
Use a wired headset with microphone, if possible.

Internal laptop microphones are often of low quality, can pick up ambient noise, or are positioned such that they loop the audio from the laptop speakers. Using a wired headset will provide much cleaner and clearer audio.

2. Connecting to a BigBlueButton session.

Step 1. Locate your BBB session in Brightspace
Step 2. Join your BBB session
Step 3. Connect your audio in BBB

Step 1: Locating a BBB session in Brightspace

  1. Log in to Brightspace with your MyCarletonOne username and password.
  2. Click on your course under My Courses or the course selector grid 
  3. Click Content in the course Navbar.                       
  4. In the left sidebar, click the module name under Table of Contents to jump to the module that holds your BigBlueButton session. Alternatively, you can scroll down the page to locate the BigBlueButton link.
Note: Read carefully the title of the BBB session to make sure you are accessing the correct activity. Depending on how the course homepage is laid out, there may be separate links, e.g., for different class sessions or types of course activities. If multiple BBB sessions are set up in your course, clicking on one BBB link will not provide access to them all. But if, for instance, the same BBB link is being used for all lectures, there may be a master link near the top of the course homepage.

Step 2: Joining the BBB session

    1. Click on the BigBlueButton session link in the Content area of your course. This will bring you to the Join Session page.                                       
    2. Double-check the session title on the Join Session page to make sure you are joining the correct meeting.

    1. Click on the Join Session button to enter the BBB room. Your BBB session will open in a new web-browser tab.

Note: The Join Session button will not appear if the BBB session has been programmed to be available during a specific timeframe or to wait for the instructor to start the meeting. In either case, a message on the Join Session screen will indicate which it is.

Step 3: Connecting your audio in BBB

Upon joining a BBB session (or Breakout Room), you will be asked to configure your audio. This process must be completed in order to hear or speak in the session; do NOT close or exit out of the audio settings window. [For a better audio experience, we recommend using a wired headset.]

Note: If at any point in the session you would like to change your audio settings, you can disconnect and reconnect your audio by clicking on the “telephone” button at the bottom of the BBB screen. Disconnecting will erase your current audio settings; reconnecting will return you to the audio configuration process.


There are two main ways to participate with audio in a BBB session, and one emergency option:

Listen only: BBB will use your system’s default speaker only. You will be able to hear audio in the session, but you will not have the ability to participate over microphone.

Microphone: BBB will use your system’s default microphone and speaker for the session. You will be able to both hear and speak to others in the session. To connect:

  1. Click on Microphone. This will bring you to a new settings window called the Echo Test.

  1. Speak a few words into your microphone. BBB will route your microphone to your headset/speaker.
    1. If you can hear yourself, click Yes to join the session.
    2. If you CANNOT hear yourself (or BBB is using the wrong microphone and/or speaker), click No. This will bring you to a new window where you can manually choose your preferred audio device(s). Select your device(s) from the drop-down menu and then click Retry to return to the Echo Test.

Note: Depending on your privacy and security settings, a drop-down window may appear in your browser asking whether to “Allow” or “Block” the use of your microphone. Click “Allow to continue with the Echo Test.
Phone Bridge (for emergencies)
If you are experiencing computer or internet issues, the Phone Bridge is an alternative means of connecting to the audio in a BBB session. It allows you to observe the BBB session on your computer while listening/speaking over the phone.

The connection information can be found at the top of the Public Chat window or by clicking the “Join using your phone” link in the How would you like to join the audio? configuration window. There is a local Ottawa number and a toll-free North America number, and a conference pin that is unique to each BBB lobby.

Upon dialing in, you will be prompted to enter the conference pin followed by the pound (#) key. Once connected, you can (un)mute yourself by pressing “0” (zero).

Note: The main lobby and Breakout Rooms have unique conference pins. When joining a Breakout Room during the session, you will need to call the BBB phone number again and enter the new conference pin.

Refer to the video tutorial below for an overview of what you will see when you enter the session and your capabilities as a viewer. For further support, refer to the BBB resources below for instructions on sharing webcams, joining breakout rooms, and more.

3. Participating in a BigBlueButton session.

Your capabilities and the features available to you depends on your role in the BBB session. There are three role types: Viewers, Moderators, and Presenters. By default, students are assigned as Viewers (indicated by a circle user icon), and instructors and teaching assistants are assigned as Moderators (indicated by a square icon).

For more information on the features available to each role type, see the BigBlueButton Instructor Support page.

Watch the presenter/moderator video tutorial for an overview of the features you will have access to if, for example, you are giving a presentation in class.

3a. Features for Viewers.



Webcams

This feature allows you to stream the image from your computer device’s camera in the BBB lobby. The webcam feature is enabled by default for all participants in a BBB session. [See below for instructions on changing your view of other participants’ webcams on screen.]

Breakout Rooms

The Breakout Rooms tool creates separate sessions within a BBB meeting for small group activities, such as content discussion, brainstorming, peer review, and debates. Depending on the settings the instructor chooses, you may be assigned to a Room or asked to choose your own.

Raise Hand / Set Status

Status icons are symbols and emojis you can use to give non-verbal feedback in a BBB session, whether in response to a prompt from the instructor or even just to indicate your mood. When activated, the symbol/emoji will appear within your User Icon and remain there until either you or the instructor resets your status.

Among the various options (e.g., thumbs up/down, happy face, confused face, etc) is the option to Raise your hand, just like you would in a face-to-face classroom.

Multi-User Whiteboard

The whiteboard tool can be used for collaborative annotation (drawing, writing, etc) on the BBB screen using your mouse or a graphic tablet. If you have joined the session from a device with a touchscreen, you can use your finger or a stylus to write on the screen.

Public Chat

This tool is for posting messages, comments, questions, etc that are visible to everyone in a lobby.

Note: There is no anonymous Public chatting. Messages will include your cuLearn username and a timestamp.

Private Chat

The Private Chat feature creates a closed conversation between you and the instructor, teaching assistant, or any other moderator in a session (i.e., participants with square user icons).

By default, you can engage in a Private Chat with session moderators only. But your instructor may enable the Private Chat feature for everyone.

Shared Notes

The Shared Notes is a writing space intended for real-time, collaborative note-taking where participants can add and modify content.

All participants can view the Shared Notes. However, by default, editing the Shared Notes in the main lobby is limited to moderators (i.e., participants with square user icons, such as instructors). Your instructor may enable editing for all participants in the main lobby.

Everyone can view and edit the Shared Notes in Breakout Rooms.

Notes: The usernames of those writing in the Shared Notes do not appear in real time, but a record is created of authors and the content they have contributed.

Viewing Recordings

BBB sessions may be recorded for you to consult later. The recordings are viewed through a BBB interactive player that displays the slide presentation, webcams, and a scrollable “real-time” Public Chat window.

Note: Any and all class recordings (BBB or otherwise) are the intellectual property of the instructor and should be used for class purposes only. You should never copy, reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise circulate course materials outside of the course without the instructor’s written permission. You can refer here for more information on Carleton’s Copyright Policy.

For assistance with your computer’s settings and device support (e.g., browser privacy, etc), please reach out to ITS Student Support.

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