In this BBB Pulse
The pandemic caused many institutions, whether educational, corporate or administrative, to stop functioning or to change their mode of operation to virtuality. For many it was an obstacle, but for others it was an opportunity to innovate and move forward. That was the case of Blindside Networks, the company that ensures that millions of people around the world can receive quality education during the closure of educational institutions.
Since 2008 Fred Dixon, founder of the company together with Richard Alam wanted to set the goal of creating an open source virtual classroom that would help many people in the educational aspect. The motive of this project was to solve the problems in the world by giving people quality education.And from there the idea of Blindside Networks and BigBlueButton was born.
Dixon, had the opportunity to learn that his business idea is actually fulfilling its purpose, when he spoke with habitants of a remote village in Africa. They told him that the children there were being educated through BigBlueButton,At that moment he realized that his goal was paying off.
The pandemic made online learning popular and for a company like these it was seen as a great opportunity, and it was. With the help of Amazon Web Services they managed to have the expected number of servers and a good distribution of class hosting. Thus offering sessions with 55 languages available.
Now Blinside Networks hosting environment has multiplied by 60, it is running thousands of servers compared to the number it was running before the pandemic.
Dixon mentions that without Amazon Web Services they would not be where they are since the capacity they managed to cover in the last year was greater than it was covered in the last five years. He also recommends AWS to small companies as it offers them specific tools that solve complex problems without requiring external resources, as well as offering support as the company grows.
For the moment the purpose of Blindside Networks in offering quality education to millions of people around the world, is stable and structured, taking into account that virtuality is here to stay.
BigBlueButton World Highlights: The 10 Best Moments
In the transformations happening across classrooms, educational institutions and teaching methods, BigBlueButton has been a driving force. Supporting thousands of teachers create live class experiences and helping millions of students to continue their education, the №1 Open Source video conferencing tool continues to cement a status of quality, reliability, security and ownership.
June 21 to 24, BigBlueButton World 2021 gathered teachers, administrators, developers and commercial partners to share experiences, learn and discuss the future of ‘BBB’.
Here are the 10 key highlights of BigBlueButton World.
Day 1: Teachers
- Scott McLeod, professor at the University of Denver, talked about the importance of learning to innovate, in times when a situation is affecting a large part of your environment.
- In a meeting with representatives from Germany, the U.S., Canada, Russia, Jamaica, France, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Switzerland and other countries, university professors from all over the world discussed how a teacher can increase engagement in virtual classrooms. The answers range from using polls and other tools built into BBB, to digging deep down to find what makes a topic exciting in a ‘shareable’ way.
- Speaking of which: Teachers shared their varied opinions, sparking some debate. But what they agree on is their goal of being able to empower students and motivate them to learn.
- During the day, another debate on the advantages that BBB brought to virtual education took place. Despite the apparent fatigue, BBB does facilitate the job of qualifying students.
Day 2: Administrators
- Malte Dreyer, a professor at Humboldt University in Berlin, told the audience about his experience using BBB as an educational platform for remote classroom delivery. BBB saved the school year in Germany, a country whose educational and academic community have strong ties to the cause of Open Source.
- Also from Germany, Daniel Molkentin, open source contributor for more than 20 years, brought a case study in which BBB was extended incrementally over a short period of time to meet the needs of a school needing to fulfill its mission, suddenly without a campus.
Day 3: Developers
- On day 3 Fred Dixon, the creator of BBB, and CEO of Blindside Networks, gave a short but poignant introduction about what BigBluebutton represents, how to use it with intent, and how to leverage its features according to unique educational goals. Check out Dixon at the Elearning Success Summit.
- Bartu Banza, software developer at Liongate, discussed his company’s work on bringing background blur and virtual backgrounds to BBB, followed by an intriguing discussion on the privacy merits of making it hard for people to see what your house looks like.
Day 4 : Commercial Partners
- How can one idea benefit millions of people around the world? On the last day of the event, Steven Muegge, associate professor of entrepreneurship at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, gave an overview of the BigBlueButton foundation, an idea that was born in 2010 with the goal to maximize the value of academic experiences while reducing the costs deploying said experiences, at no loss of quality or reliability. Interested in joining?
- Cliff Ashford, Director of Software Engineering at Monash University, explained how experience is an elementary trait to expertise, and why our increasing reliance on technology demands a critical understanding on this relationship. Cliff concludes that, experience-wise, BigBlueButton offers subtle but radically different approaches to the relationship between technology, experience and expertise.
- To end on a high note, BigBlueButton announced real-time closed captioning and instant translation of sessions, with more than 55 languages available, a significant aid for countless students and teachers around the world. The feature was long-time in the making.
Forget The Language Barrier With Web Interfaces For Language Processing Systems
In the wake of the pandemic, the master project “Web Interfaces for Language Processing Systems” was developed at the University of Hamburg with the aim of improving the BigBlueButton conferencing software.
This project allows users to transcribe a conversation, lecture, session or class and find elements related to the subject of the transcript, such as research from well-known universities. And all this through a very easy to use interface from within a BigBlueButton session or class.
The text that is transcribed is available to all participants of the session and in addition to that each user can choose the language of their preference and in which they feel better able to gather the information they want to learn during the session or conference. This will allow the user to read what the speaker is saying in the chosen language.
We know that BigBlueButton is a very complete tool and in the development of the project we were able to merge information sources with the platform, so that the user could quickly search for the terms mentioned during the conference.
Secure, Fast, Light, Sweet! Check out the Roadmap to 2.3 Release
The latest release of the open classroom favorite is here. BigBlueButton 2.2.35 is ready for download or update on your server.
Read the announcement on the bigbluebutton-dev group.
The 2.2 series of the open source technology set a change of pace for the company, headquartered in Ottawa but with a global, remote workforce. Not to be ones resting on their laurels, Blindside Networks, BB’s development house and commercial liaison, looks forward to remain at the edge of what a highly engaging experience over live video should be like. It explains development priorities such as smoother interface, more interactive tools, better-featured API, and security, speed and reliability improvements.
Ready to get started? If you know your way around a bash terminal,
bbb-install is the most expedient way to get BigBlueButton in your own server. Other installation routes involve Ansible and step-by-step.
As with recent previous releases of the software, performance recommendations are at hand:
- While there are cases of successful virtual server installations and even a Kubernetes project for it (check it our here), it’s always best to run BB in a dedicated, “bare metal” server. Learn more about why, BB’s minimum server requirement’s and the meaning of FreeSWITCH here.
- Installing and testing BB requires top-level (SUDO) permissions on your machine.
- A single BigBlueButton meeting minimum configuration requirements has been tested to supports up to 200 concurrent users with not performance loss. To host more users concurrently, Blindside’s Scalelite is your friend. Also FOSS, it balances loads on a pool of BB servers. The math on how many users and breakout rooms you can have running simultaneously with Scalelite and your choice of BB servers on a pool is nothing short of riveting.
Developers should test BB at test.bigbluebutton.org
Pedagogical UX: Blindside’s Rationale & Roadmap to 2.3
Continuous thought goes into the development roadmap by Fred Dixon and company. A small ship works continuously and holistically on the hard tech and the “pedagogical UX” to create a powerful and reliable solution that plays along with any elearning platform —it offers the best tightly-knit integration with Moodle, of which BigBlueButton it’s a Certified Integration, of any other video conferencing platform— and it its fully responsive on HTML5-ready browsers —mighty, Firefox-like WebRTC support is a plus— on PCs, phones and tablets.
For BigBlueButton 2.3, a number of noticeable features are on the pipeline: A brand new player, improved recording playback, layout customization tools, slide thumbnails, search function, and enhanced engagement features including:
- Smart Polling
- Background presentation upload and “Quick-Switch”
- Better notification options
- Webcam window drag-and-drop reordering
- Network quality indicator
BigBlueButton is free and open source software. Visit bigbluebutton.org to learn more and get a trial.