Obviously, Google Hangouts seems to get most of the attention when it comes to video conferencing and for good reason. “Hangouts” is a great platform to host an online meeting or webinar, especially when you want to record the session and have it available to a wider audience after the meeting has ended. But if you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, you know that I like it when I can manage my class by housing students within one program with everything they will need. So in comes The BigBlueButton, hidden within Schoology’s app center.
I first had the opportunity to see this app live while attending a Schoology Ambassador videoconference. This app (similar to GoToMeeting, Skype, and Google Hangouts) gives you the opportunity to schedule video conferences with your students and take advantage of some neat features, such as:
- Interactive Whiteboard
- Integrated Voice over
- Presentation mode
- Webcam sharing (similar to Skype/Google Hangouts/Facetime etc.)
This makes for a great (safe) way to video conference with students on snow days, before a major test, extend office hours, and offer extra help!
To access this app simply: Go to the “App Center” in Schoology –> find BigBlueButton Conference and select it–> click to “Install App”–> then select the courses you would like to add it to by checking off the boxes. Once you do that click “Install”. To see it in action, now select one of the courses you attached it to –> then in the left navigation bar find and select the BigBlueButton app. To start a video conference after selecting the app, click “create new conference” –> enter a conference name and/or a start time and end time –> click “create”.
The conference will be created and show up in a list. Click “start conference” next to the title you created to jump in the conference room. Once there, it will ask you how you want to join (by selecting either microphone or listen only). Note though: you can turn your microphone on or off at any time! So here is why this is such a great (and free) app. Because it confines your students to Schoology. As you may have heard me say time and time again- CREATIVITY CRAVES CONSTRAINT. To better manage our classes, our students, and our technology within, it’s the best practices of how your classroom functions that play a pivotal role in how your students react to it. The more we can limit sending our students off into no man’s land, the better engagement and attention we will have in our classes when utilizing the technology.
Be creative yourself when thinking about utilizing this app in your classrooms. We don’t often think of video conferencing tools when it comes to edtech, but the opportunities to take advantage of these tools are there. Consider hosting a late night “office hour” with your students. What about hosting a meeting with your class the night before that big exam (AP test/Bio Test) etc? What about recording the session so that students can go back to it at any time for reinforcement? There are lots of possibilities. The BigBlueButton just adds another dimension to what Schoology has already brought to our classes. So how will you take advantage?