The primary purpose of Zoom is online meetings, whereas the primary purpose of BigBlueButton is online teaching. Hence BigBlueButton focuses on providing features for students 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 Class Analytics

For each online class on BigBlueButton, you have the following data-points to gauge student engagement, enabling teachers to assign marks for class participations similar to in-person classes:
  1. How many students joined
  2. At what time each student joined and left; Also shows if a student joined and left multiple times.
  3. Public chat messages of students
  4. Who use Raise hand feature to ask questions during the class
  5. Who answered and what they answered for poll questions that a teacher may ask

#2 Student Engagement

You have following tools 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 Class Analytics 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 the real class environment. Students love to chat with their peers. This is far better than letting students browse social network sites on the other browser tabs. As a student, we all used to cross-talk during the class. Mimicking the same in the online class, give your students reasons to attend your classes. Private chats are not available in Class Analytics.
  3. Multi-sharing white-board: You can ask your students to join you in discussing some specific points by drawing/writing on the white board.
  4. Other tools: public chat, raise hand, slides, screen sharing, audio/video chat are common as Zoom.

#3 Data Privacy

  • Data privacy has been a big concern for Zoom (selling data to Facebook, Zoombombing). Though Zoom has taken some steps in recent days to mitigate such issues, please do remember that Zoom, like any other listed 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.
  • BBB, 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.

#4 Branding Matters

You can white-label BBB 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 Cost Matters

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 of 4 sections) with each class comprising of 25 students. 40 classes has to be conducted simultaneously. So you would have 40 teachers. Cost of Zoom Unit cost: Each teacher license = USD $20 [reference] Total cost = USD $800 per month Cost of BigBlueButton Unit cost: Monthly subscription for 1,000 simultaneous students = USD $300 [reference] Total cost = USD $300 per month BigBlueButton is 160% cheaper than Zoom! PS: We can assure you that BigBlueButton has the same audio/video quality. Because of student engagement tools, mentioned above, BigBlueButton outperforms Zoom in terms of learning outcomes. PPS: Try out BigBlueButton for a week. For free. If you don’t like BigBlueButton, go ahead with Zoom.
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