Online Learning: Features of the New Version of BigBlueButton

    In the yard in 2014, most companies working offline have their own website and their own network connecting branches, and use Internet telephony to save money. In companies working in the field of information technology, virtualization skills and the use of the SIP protocol have long been a mandatory requirement for any IT specialist. Increasingly, management is perplexed by corporate training and rallies. In most cases, Skype is used for this, however, when there are more than 20 people you have a speaker with a presentation, it’s time to think about a solution for holding online conferences. Many IT specialists reading the Habr, faced with the task of creating an online conference service, or will face in the future. This article provides an overview of the free BigBlueButton 0 software. 9 (BBB) ​​for creating online conferences. The purpose of the work is to show the distinctive features that appeared in the new version and share experience.

    It so happened that my work is closely related to online training and the organization of any educational and methodical activities online. The creation of distance learning centers, the integration of BBB with various CMS (Drupal, Worpdress, Joomla, etc.) over the past two years led to a simple conclusion: BBB is the best free solution for creating online conferences with open source code (comparison with other analogues can be found in earlier articles on the hub), which can be customized, modified, appended to your needs, and in case of problems, the BBB developer community can always help you.

    So, on September 4, 2014, the next release of free software for organizing web conferences was released - BigBlueButton 0.9.0-beta. The new version supports Ubuntu 14.04 (64-bit). Before that, to run BigBlueButton 0.81 on Ubuntu 14.04, I had to work hard to install, and even after that there were cases when it was not possible to achieve the recording function. The global difference of the new version is that the audio now works on WebRTC technology. Despite using WebRTC Audio, Flash is still used to broadcast video. To switch to WebRTC Video, you need to connect Flash (H.264 codec via RTMP) and WebRTC (VP8 codec via RTP). WebRTC (RealTimeCommunications) is a technology stack, including a set of video and audio codecs and transport protocols for organizing connections between client devices and transmitting streaming data using point-to-point technology. The advantage of WebRTC over Flash is that when working with Flash, users must first download and install Adobe Flash Player on their computer, then go to the browser and start a web conference or make a call, after which the transfer of audio and video streams through the server will begin from one player to another by using the RTMP transport protocol running over TCP. WebRTC allows you to create a full-duplex connection between clients and does not require a server to transmit streams. This technology makes it possible to organize full-fledged video and audio communications without the use of additional servers, plug-ins and applications,

    Another useful feature in the new version is the Start / Stop button , with which moderators can now select the necessary fragments of a web conference. Previously, a complete recording of the entire conference was conducted from the very beginning to the very end. To test this feature on the Demo server, you need to log in with administrator rights - in the For Developers section, click on the API examples link , select the Record tab , enter a name for the record in the Description field , and your name in the Your Name field and click Join.

    After that, the top panel will appear Start / Stop button .

    Working with a microphone has become more convenient: an opportunity has appeared to check the operability of your device before you join a web conference.

    Also, the new version of BigBlueButton offers a mode in which it is possible to join the conference as a listener only . Such users use the FreeSWITCH one-way audio channel, which minimizes the consumption of total processor resources on the BigBlueButton server compared to users coming with a microphone in full feedback mode. When you connect to a web conference, a window will appear in front of you where you have to choose your role.

    With regards to the interface, it has not changed much. The drop-down list of the choice of language was moved from the top panel to the bottom, the "Raise Hand" button appeared. In addition to the training slide, loading by default, 4 more empty ones were added. This eliminated the need to load a white slide from the outside, in order to start drawing on the “blackboard”.

    At the time of writing, the Russian characters did not work when entering the participant’s name, but since BigBlueButton has a very large and responsive community, this problem was resolved on September 9th. Thus, BigBlueButton 0.9.0-beta is the ideal free open source solution for organizing online events (conferences, webinars, conference calls). We are waiting for release to appear, but today we are successfully using the beta version on our two projects.

    PS : BBB is really free. To use it, you need a dedicated server (4 GB of memory (8 GB is better) with swap enabled, Quad-core 2.6 GHZ CPU (or faster)). There is no admin panel on BBBto create web conferencing. This function should be carried by an external CMS, for example, Wordpress or Moodle - to integrate with them and control the process of creating online conferences (granting rights, indicating the necessary options), you must install the appropriate plug-ins.

    PPS : If you plan to broadcast a large-scale online lecture with a very large number of people (> 50) and the presence of voice feedback, a webcam, the ability to "convey a word" for each participant is not an obligatory criterion, it makes sense to look towards easy streaming servers, and for feedback use regular text chat.

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