Web Conferencing

What is it?

Web conferencing allows participants to connect online to communicate and collaborate. It often involves live audio and video, text chat, and content sharing. In education, web conferencing tools help to bridge the distance between teachers and learners, facilitating synchronous discussion for online lectures, office hours, and presentations. To learn more, please refer to EDUCAUSE's handout, "7 Things You Should Know About Virtual Meetings."

Uses for web conferencing:

  • Online lectures for blended learning
  • Attend or organize small group, team, or committee meetings from your home
  • Offer office hours without being in your office
  • Conduct remote training

About the pilot:

This pilot ended July 2012. The Technology and Learning group conducted an evaluation of two web conferencing tools: BigBlueButton and Blackboard Collaborate.

BigBlueButton logoBigBlueButton is an open-source web conferencing tool. It is based on Adobe Flash-based technology, which is available for both Mac and Windows computers. It offers common features such as a shared whiteboard, webcam streaming, live audio, text chat, application sharing, and more. You can learn more about BigBlueButton by visiting: http://bigbluebutton.org/

Blackboard Collaborate logoBlackboard Collaborate is a commercial web conferencing tool. It is based on Java technologies, which are cross-platform and run on Mac and Windows computers. Collaborate also offers a shared whiteboard, webcam streaming, live audio, text chat, application sharing, and more. You can learn more about Blackboard Collaborate by visiting: http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Collaborate/Overview.aspx


  • Available for Mac and Windows computers
  • Load presentations into a shared whiteboard
  • Live audio and video communication
  • Support for at least 40 simultaneous connections
  • Session recording and playback
  • Integration into Courses (powered by Sakai)


After testing of the BigBlueButton platform, we were encouraged by this open-source solution but found that the tool did not support the robust needs of our academic community.  For this reason, we closed the BigBlueButton pilot in July 2012 and decided to renew our license of Blackboard Collaborate (formerly known as Elluminate Live).  In late summer, Blackboard Collaborate released several welcome improvements.  One of the main improvements is an app for iOS.  This means that iPad and iPhone users can participate in online meeting and class sessions hosted on Blackboard Collaborate.  They also released several other enhancements to the application that improved the overall usability of the service.