By Sabina Hajizada, Educational Technology Specialist, EDC

BigBlueButton (BBB) is a web conferencing tool that allows instructors and TAs to host live online presentations, seminars, office hours, or other meetings from cuLearn.

We have recently moved to a new and improved version of BBB that has some notable changes to the interface. You might be wondering what this means for you, your TAs and your students. This post will help answer your questions and highlight the major updates to the tool.

Flash vs. HTML5

The biggest change to BBB comes in the form of a software change. Previous versions of BBB were written in Flash (this is what made it possible to stream audio and video). However, Flash is not supported on smartphones. Taking into consideration the increasing number of mobile phone users, the latest version of BBB has switched over to HTML5, which works on desktops, laptops, and mobile phones. BBB’s switch from Flash to HTML5 is reflective of a much larger, global transition that is currently underway as Adobe, the company that develops the Flash software, has announced that it will discontinue support for it by the end of 2020.

Major updates

The general interface has been updated to provide a more unified experience with less icons and a more modern look.

Icons

The user icons have been updated to provide information about user roles (e.g. moderators vs. viewers). Moderators are represented by a square icon and viewers are represented by a circle.

Each user icon also has a mini icon at the bottom right that indicates the state of audio. For example, it will identify whether the person has no audio, has the microphone muted or unmuted or if the user is listening only.

Private chat

Users can now privately chat with any of the participants by clicking on a user name in the Users list. Moderators have the option of turning off this feature if they would prefer not to allow it.

 Shared notes

Now, Shared Notes are part of the default format of BBB. Shared Notes allow simultaneous collaboration among participants. This feature has been upgraded to include an editing toolbar that is always available on the top left side of the screen. Notes can also be exported in different formats.

Upload a stack of presentations

Another useful feature is the ability for presenters to upload multiple presentations at once. Presenters will only be able to display one presentation at time, but can switch to other uploaded presentations throughout a session. Presenters can also enable viewers to download presentations (though we recommend converting presentations to a PDF format).

Sharing a YouTube video

Moderators and presenters can now screen a YouTube video for students during a BBB session. The moderator can move the video to different time codes and end video viewing at any time. Note that the link must be set to public or unlisted (settings controlled by the owner of the YouTube video).

Auto detection of poll questions

The new update includes a feature that recognizes pre-created poll questions in slides which then activates the poll feature in your session.

Screen sharing

Screen sharing is now much easier and requires no additional software. Presenters can choose whether to share the entire screen or the application window. It is important to note that this screen sharing feature is supported by Chrome and Firefox browsers only.

Screen Sharing in Chrome browser

Screen Sharing in Firefox browser

Mobile users can reduce bandwidth

Viewers accessing a BBB session from their mobile devices can use Settings menu to disable webcam and screen share in order to reduce bandwidth.

BigBlueButton training

If you would like to learn more about BBB and these exciting new enhancements, register for our next training session or contact us at edtech@carleton.ca.