BigBlueButton: Guide for teachers
BigBlueButton (BBB) is a free and open source software for video conferencing. The use of BBB via TU Graz TeachCenter (TC) offers you the following features:
- Presentation of slides (PDF document, MS- Office and OpenOffice documents without animations)
- Chat feature with all or individual participants )
- Playback of videos from external providers (e.g. YouTube)
- Whiteboard features directly in the document (markers/notes, zoom, pointer)
- Breakout rooms for group work (max. 8 rooms)
- Desktop sharing feature )
- Surveys (max. 5 choices)
- Recording of the video conference
BBB can only be used directly via a TeachCenter course. It requires a valid TUGRAZonline account and an existing TC course for teachers and students. Please note the maximum number of 150 participants per conference without cameras or 40 participants with cameras running.
For larger meetings please use several BBB instances or Webex. Please do not use BBB with VPN connection activated at the same time. This may lead to transmission problems or termination of the conference.
Before the meeting
To use BBB in your TC course, please contact the support team with a request to create a BBB activity in the respective TC course. As soon as the BBB activity is created, you as the teacher will see the activity in your TC course.
You can move, rename and adjust the BBB activity to your needs. If you want to change the settings of your BBB activity, turn on the course editing mode and click on edit > edit settings next to the activity as usual.
You can reuse this BBB activity for the next sessions as well.
By default, your BBB room is set up as a room/activity with recordings so you can record the meeting and make it available to the students via TUbe.
The basic settings are defined as for any other TC activity.
- Virtual classroom name: Here, you can rename the BBB activity. This name will be displayed in the TC course.
- If necessary, add further information to the Description, which you can display in the course by ticking Display description on course page.
- To remind students of the BBB meeting , you can send a notification. However, note that students may have notifications disabled in the TC.
In the Activity/Room Settings, you can define a welcome message and whether students can join a conference without a moderator being present. If you activate this option, you should enter a welcome message for students.
Here you can set that all participants are muted when they enter.
If you want to record the meeting, tick the box “Session can be recorded“.
By default, all teachers in a TC course have moderator rights in the BBB meeting; students are only viewers. If you want to change these rights, you can do so in the Participants section. You can define roles for the following groups:
- All registered participants
- Participants with a specific role in the course, e.g. all students
- Single users
The rights (moderator, viewer) mean the following:
- Moderator: has extensive rights and leads the online conference (teacher), can end the meeting for all participants, can grant or withdraw participants‘ rights.
- Viewer: is a participant in the online conference and can be granted further rights by the moderator (e.g. students).
Additionally, you can assign the presenter role to viewers in a running BBB meeting. This allows viewers to switch between slides themselves and use different tools without having to be granted moderator rights. The presenter role is suitable, for example, for presenting the results of group works that were previously developed in breakout rooms (BR).
Use the Schedule for session to control access to the conference. You can set a start and end time between which students can join the conference. Outside of these times, students will only see the activity on the course home page, but will not be able to join. Always define both times so that rooms are not left open, consuming server resources.
In the sections Common module settings and Restrict access, further settings of the BBB activity can be defined. These are, for example, availability of the activity on the course home page and group mode.
Conducting a meeting with BigBlueButton
To avoid interruptions in the connection, we recommend using a network cable instead of a WiFi connection.
In order to be able to participate in the conferences, a microphone and a webcam are required as hardware, whether integrated into the PC or connected externally is irrelevant. We recommend the use of a headset; if you are using a notebook with an integrated microphone, you should be in a quiet environment.
If you are not actively speaking, we recommend muting the microphone and if the quality of the video conference is poor, we recommend switching off the webcam.
- On the course home page, click on the BBB activity.
- Within the time period defined in the Schedule for session setting, moderators and viewers will see a Join session button, which allows you to join the video conference.
Outside this period, neither you nor the other viewers will be able to click this button.
If you have defined in the Activity/Room Settings that viewers cannot join without a moderator, the button will be displayed for them, but they will not be able to click it until a moderator is present.
- Click on the Join session button
- You will be asked if you want to join with microphone or audio only. For participants with microphone, there is an echo test at the beginning.
- If you change your microphone (e.g. from a headset to the laptop microphone), the echo test must be performed again.
To upload your presentation, click the plus icon in the bottom left corner of the default classroom presentation.
Office documents (.ppt, .pptx, .odp etc.) and PDF files are supported, but animations are not.
When uploading files, you can specify whether students are also allowed to download the slides (without annotations) by clicking and unlocking the download icon (green means download is allowed).
Only the main session can be recorded. Breakout rooms, cannot be recorded.
- In the settings, check the Session can be recorded box.
- You need to start the recording of audio and video manually directly in the BBB meeting. To do so, click Start recording. Confirm in the window that appears. You can pause the recording by clicking on the corresponding button.
- The recording does not need to be stopped; it stops automatically when you leave the conference.
- The recording is automatically converted and transferred to your TUbe series after the conference ends. This may take up to 48 hours on weekdays or longer during holidays.
- The recording is available to students later in your TUbe series and can be managed via TUbeDrop.
- If you only want to make a recording (a screencast), we recommend using the TUbe Recorder instead. If you are only making a test recording, please contact the TeachCenter support in case it is not visible. Very short recordings might not be converted because it is assumed that it was an accidental recording.
You can create notes (e.g. collaborative protocols) by clicking on Shared notes above the participants list. A box for taking notes appears to the right instead of the chat. In the bar at the top you have several options to format the text or to edit it.
These notes will NOT be saved automatically when you exit! If you want to keep the notes at the end of the online conference , you can download them with the button on the far right of the bar.
The on/off switching for audio/video works via the menu bar at the bottom center:
- By clicking the microphone button on the very left, you can turn your microphone on and off.
- Clicking the button with the phone will take you back to the audio settings. Here you can reconnect your audio output or microphone. If you made a mistake when entering the virtual classroom, you can correct it here.
- By clicking the button with the camera icon you can turn your webcam on and off.
- Click the button with the screen on the very right to share your screen or stop sharing.
You can communicate with all students in the public chat or with individual students in the one-on-one chat. The chat is visible to and can be used by everyone in the session unless set otherwise. Here, students can exchange ideas, ask questions or share information.
To write a chat message, click on the person with whom you want to exchange written messages. For each new message, you will receive a notification in the form of a white number on a red background.
In the public chat, your welcome message will be displayed if you have set one in the BBB activity settings.
The chat history is not automatically saved when you exit, but can be exported as .txt, copied, or deleted via the menu. This offers the opportunity to make the chat history available to students after the session ends.
By using the Plus button at the bottom left and Share an external video, you can share videos from external video services.
The following services are supported:
- Instructure Media
- Daily Motion
On the far right in the center you will find more options to annotate slides. You can change the tool by clicking on the hand. The following tools are available:
- Hand: Show a dot to all students where your mouse pointer is on the slides (similar to a laser pointer).
- Line, triangle, ellipse, rectangle: Draw the corresponding geometric shape on the slides. To draw, you need to click and hold the mouse.
- Pen: Directly draw any shape with a pen. It is best to use a graphics tablet for this purpose.
The buttons below are used to undo the last action, to delete all annotations and to enable the paint function for all participants.
- Enabling the paint function for students should only be done for very small groups because all users can paint on the slide at the same time. This might lead to your browser crashing in larger groups!
- Saving annotated slides is currently not possible. Annotations are only saved temporarily and are no longer available after the end of the session after the moderator has left. If needed, a screenshot can be taken at the end of the meeting. Please point this out to your students!
You can have your students vote directly in BBB. The question cannot be inserted there, but must be asked verbally or presented on a slide. To create a poll, click on the plus button at the bottom left and then on Start a poll.
You have several types of polls to choose from:
- Yes/No question
- 2-5 answer options indicated by letters where the answers need to be written or told
- Poll with your own choices (maximum 5)
Once you activate the poll, students can vote by clicking.
By clicking Publish polling results, you can end the survey and show the results to the students. The results will be inserted in the bottom right corner of the currently displayed slide.
Tip: Design a slide with the question and possible answers and leave some space for the results on the bottom right.
In BBB, you can create additional sessions called Breakout Rooms (BR) within a session. These BRs are additional sessions that are unlocked for a certain time to which participants can be assigned and which close again after the time has expired, sending the participants back to the original session.
BRs are particularly suitable for short group works, discussions or small presentations that the participants are to work on. We recommend a maximum of 6-10 students per BR so that the work there does not become too confusing. The students are distributed into the BR and can speak, discuss and work there without being disturbed or disturbing other groups that are also working at the same time. So you can divide students into small groups to work or discuss and later have them present their results to the whole group. As a moderator, you can switch through the BRs and listen to what the students are working on or discussing.
Create Breakout Rooms
To create BRs, open the Manage users menu and select Create breakout rooms.
You will be redirected to more detailed settings. You can now specify the number of rooms you want to create. You also need to specify for how many minutes the rooms should be available. After that, you can use drag & drop to assign participants to the created rooms, or allow them to choose a room themselves.
After creating these BRs, all participants will receive a message that they have been moved and will have to join the session manually by clicking Join room. The new BBB session opens in a new tab of the browser.
You and the participants need to confirm your audio settings again for the new session. The session is no different from a regular BBB session. Students in each room can upload presentations, use the whiteboard, or write in the chat. However, recordings do not work in these BRs. The time remaining for the session is displayed at the top of the screen.
Moderation of Breakout Rooms
Moderators of the original session can switch between the BRs as they wish. Moderators now see another menu in the original session, where the BRs, the number of participants and remaining time are displayed.
In the list of participants, the number next to the user icon indicates in which BR the participants currently are. By clicking on Join room, you can enter the respective rooms and support students or answer questions.
After the time has expired, the rooms are automatically closed and all participants are sent back to the original session. The contents of the BR can then no longer be viewed, so it is advisable to save the chat histories, presentations etc. before the time expires.
As a moderator, you can adjust the rights of the participants on the left side of the screen in the participant list by clicking on the gear symbol and clicking on Lock viewers:
- Share webcam: Set whether students can share their webcam with others. By default, students can share their webcam. Please note that the servers can be quite busy during video transmission. Therefore, ask students to turn off their cameras during your lecture if they are not needed.
- See other viewers‘ webcams: Set who can see shared webcams. By default, everyone can see the shared webcams. During exams, it may be necessary to revoke these rights from students so that they cannot see other students.
- Share microphone: Set whether students can share audio from their microphone. By default, all participants can share their microphone.
- Send public chat messages: Set whether students can write messages in the public chat that can be read by all participants. By default, all students can write messages in the public chat.
- Send private chat messages :Set whether students can send private messages to participants who are visible to them. In exams, it may be necessary to revoke these rights.
- Edit shared notes: Set whether notes can be created and edited by students. By default, students can edit shared notes.
- See other viewers in the users list: Set whether students can see other students in the user list. By default, all students can see each other. During exams, it may be necessary to revoke these rights.
Please note that after being granted audio rights, students must reconnect their audio. Students can do this by clicking on the Stop Audio button and then clicking on the Start Audio button.
Students can change their status and, for example, virtually raise their hand. The status is displayed in the user list on the left.
If there is an audio change during the meeting, i.e. you switch from a headset/headphones to another audio source such as the integrated laptop microphone, BBB must first re-enable this source. Reload your browser window by pressing the F5 key or in the address bar and re-take the echo test with the new audio source.
Check whether your audio is turned on and rejoin the conference if necessary. BBB uses WebRTC, which is often blocked by firewalls in corporate and mobile networks, as well as public internet access. Check if you get a hint from your firewall, or if it works with another browser. If this does not help, try another way of access (mobile network instead of WiFi). If this does not help either, please contact the IT support.
BBB works with all major browsers. As of 2021, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are the recommended web browsers for BBB. This is where most of the features are supported. Update your browser to the latest version if necessary.
In principle, students only need access to the TC course in which the activity was created. Instructions for students can be found in the user guide “BigBlueButton for Students“.
All teachers in the respective TC course, unless otherwise specified in the settings.
All current devices support BBB. However, there may be displaying errors on smartphones due to the small screen. Therefore, it is not recommended to join a meeting as a moderator using a smartphone.
Help & Contact
If you have any problems in the video conference, try our tips from the user guide Troubleshooting in Video Conferences.
In case of technical issues, please contact the IT Support: firstname.lastname@example.org
For any questions regarding BBB settings in the TeachCenter: email@example.com
For further help, BBB tutorials and the BBB documentation by the IT-Support or on TU4U (in German) might be useful. Tipps for using BigBlueButton can also be found in the two TELucation articles #03 BigBlueButton - Technical Tipps and #04 BigBlueButton - Didactical Tips.