Thursday, March 07, 2013

OpenSource Webinar / Web Conferencing Software: An Update

Open Source software does not always stay Open Source, and many of the products I’ve reviewed in the past either disappeared, were devoured by other products, were acquired by companies, or simply stopped the updates (rendering many fairly unusable).

So, I’ve put together a quick list of Open Source Webinar / Web-Conferencing software. They can be downloaded, and you can customize the look and feel, as well as providing hosting in an environment that you feel is more secure than using a commercial solution.

Let me state for the record that I am a BIG fan of BigBlueButton. The interface is straightforward and easy to use, and it’s flexible. You can participate with a video feed, or simply use an audio bridge. Participants can instant message as well as participate with audio bridge, and, to a limited extend, with video.  I also like the fact that BigBlueButton is accessible for Moodle 1.9 and above. However, there is a minor downside – your Moodle host may not have the latest plugin installed, and they may not be willing to install it.  So, there could be bugs. 

Video: Working with BigBlueButton in Moodle... 

In that case, the following options are available:

·        Option 1:  Change Moodle to a different hosting solution. Not always a good idea, since it’s not always easy to migrate everything to a new provider, especially student records and registrations.

·        Option 2:  Download BigBlueButton on your own webhosting provider. Some, like Fat Cow and Earthlink, will let you do so. However, check for bandwidth usage and data transfer fees. They can add up quite quickly.

·        Option 3:  Use a commercial hosting service such as or Generic Conferencing ( The downside is that your web conference / virtual class will need to be rather small to be affordable. For up to 5 attendees, it’s only $12.95 per month. However, with up to 50 attendees, the price escalates to $74.95.  In this case, it starts to seem as though a “per seat” solution such as one that Omnovia (their own interface, not BBB, although similar) offers ($50 / month, and $3.50 per seat) might be more affordable. It’s hard to say, though. It depends on how often you host webinars, and how many attendees you consistently have.

Getting Started with BigBlueButton in Moodle 2.3  

Note: I used to be an empassioned Elluminate devotee, but then they were acquired by Blackboard, and essentially imprisoned within an LMS. BIG Thumbs Down! I love solutions that can be standalone as well as integrated into your LMS (OpenSource and otherwise), and of course, if web conferencing software is OpenSource, it’s even better because can be a huge driver of innovation.

There is a Moodle Plugin for OpenMeetings, which is good if you’re hosting Moodle on your server. If you’re not, and you’re relying on someone else’s hosting services, you may not have administrative rights / permissions to add the plugin.

In that case, you’ll need to contact the administrator and ask them to go to the Moodle Plugin page and download the latest version.  Here’s a link to the Moodle Plugins Directory :

Non-OpenSource Web Conferencing Moodle Plugins

WizIQ has a couple of very interesting products that will work in Moodle 2.4.  There is a Virtual Classroom plugin, along with a Live Class web conferencing module / tool. 

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