The primary purpose of Zoom is online meetings, whereas the primary purpose of BigBlueButton is online teaching.

Hence BigBlueButton focuses on providing features for student engagement during the class and analytics from the classes to assess and evaluate students.

Here are some key differentiators that make BigBlueButton better than Zoom for online classes.

#1 Learning Dashboard

In BigBlueButton 2.4, Moderators (teachers) are now able to view student participation and engagement throughout the session. 

The Learning Dashboard gives moderators a live view (updated every 10 seconds) of user metrics that include

  • When they joined the session
  • How long there have been in the session
  • Time talking
  • Time-sharing their webcam
  • How many messages, emojis, and raise hand events they have done
  • current status (online/offline)
  • Response to all polls

#2 Student Engagement Tools

You have following tools available in BigBlueButton to engage your students during the class:

  1. Poll: You can be creative in using polling. For example, you can ask a question that students will answer over a poll. Or, you can display quiz questions on the slide and students can answer over the poll.
    Refer to Learning Dashboard above, you will precisely know who is answering and what he is answering to grade students if you want to.
  2. Private Chat: This is great to create a real class environment. Students love to chat with their peers. So allow them to chat with each other even during class.
    This is far better than letting students wander to browse social network sites on the other browser tabs.
    As a student, we all used to cross-talk during class.
    Mimicking the same in the online class, give your students reasons to attend your classes.
  3. Multi-sharing Whiteboard: You can ask your students to join you in discussing some specific points by drawing/writing on the whiteboard.
  4. Raise Hand: Students who want to ask questions can easily click on the Raise Hand icon. As the moderator (or teacher) you would get a notification for students who are raising hands to ask a question.
  5. Virtual Background: You can add a virtual background in BigBlueButton classes.
  6. Other Tools: public chat, raise a hand, slides, screen sharing, and audio/video chat are common as Zoom.

#3 External URL share:

 In BigBlueButton You can share the external URL of any documents and can edit those documents with your students in an online class. That is simply an awesome feature of BigBlueButton.

In Zoom you can’t have this feature.

#4 Data Privacy

  • Data privacy has been a big concern for Zoom (selling data to FacebookZoombombing).
    Though Zoom has taken some steps in recent days to mitigate such issues, please do remember that Zoom, like any other for-profit company, is always working towards meeting analysts expectations and optimizing shareholder returns. Nothing wrong in that.
    But let’s be clear that selling user data for advertising revenue from Facebook was not a software bug but a well-thought strategy to maximize revenue-per-user.
  • BigBlueButton, being an open-source project, has no such revenue-per-user maximizing motive.
    First and foremost, the entire source code is available for anyone to inspect, find bugs and make changes.
    Second, you can install BBB on your own server and take full control of your data.

#5 Branding Matters

You can white-label BigBlueButton and offer your classes under your own domain.

Think of it as offering your classes in a community center (Zoom) vs offering your classes in your own school building (BBB).

#5 40% Lower Cost

Let’s see the cost of running your online classes on BigBlueButton vs on Zoom.

Suppose your school is having 1000 students.

You are want to figure-out which is cheaper: BigBlueButton or Zoom?

Here are some estimates that would help you make up your mind.

Suppose 1000 students are divided into 40 classes (1st to 10th grade, each grade comprising 4 sections) with each class comprising 25 students. 40 classes have to be conducted simultaneously. So you would have 40 teachers. 

Cost of Zoom 

1,000 students are divided into 40 simultaneous classes.
Each class comprises 25 students and is conducted by 1 teacher.
So you would need 40 teacher licenses.
Unit cost: Each teacher license = USD $20 [reference]
Total cost for 1,000 students = USD $800 per month

Cost of BigBlueButton 

You would need 5 BigBlueButton Servers (~200 students per server).
You would also need 1 Scalelite Server for load balancing.
Unit cost: Monthly subscription for 1 BigBlueButton or Scalelite server = USD $80 [reference]
Total cost for 1,000 students = USD $480 per month

BigBlueButton is 40% cheaper than Zoom!

BigBlueButton Free Trial

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