Moodlemoot Ireland & UK 2012 – Day #2

Day two began with a panel session on moving from Moodle 1.9 to 2.2 (and beyond!), where seasoned Moodle veterans shared their experiences on this major version transition. As Alison Pope noted (@alisonpope) on Twitter, there are “four upgrade approaches

  1. in place and (a) staged (b) in one go
  2. clean install and (a) migrate content (b) rebuild content”.

I was interested (but unsurprised) to hear during this session that plugins are the biggest issue, particularly with non-standard hacks and tweaks.

Whilst there are all manner of Moodle plugins and blocks I’d be keen on us installing at the University of Bath, I’m thankful that we’ve limited our foray into this world to three strategically important ones. These are our in-house developed Moodle/SITS integration as well as Panopto and the Turnitin integration from Dan Marsden [Further details on our Turnitin approach can be found elsewhere on this blog.] Oh, and for the record, we’re going for the 1(b) approach listed above!

Conference Organiser Gavin Henrick also mentioned towards the end of the panel session that he was going to be uploading a Moodle 2 blueprint for upgrade onto this blog before too long. One too keep an eye out for, I think!

Next up was the today’s keynote from Helen Foster, the Community Manager over at, where over a million users are registered.

In this hour long talk, Helen took the audience through several areas of the wider website (.com, .org and .net), in part, giving  walk-through of the three demo Moodle installations that it might be tapping into. These are:

  1. Moodle Demo – A demonstration version of Moodle, where users can log in as any role.
  2. School Demo site – Great for exploring Moodle within a particular role within an environment which has been populated with some data.
  3. QA Testing site – Testing new features in the dev(elopment) version of Moodle. This is due to be used (and bashed!) extensively from May onwards for about a  month in the run up to the  release of Moodle 2.3.
Certainly, following Helen’s presentation, I feel that I really should get (even) more involved with the Moodle Community online spaces. If possible, it’d be great  to contribute some (if not all) of the Moodle Features Demo course that my colleagues and I are currently working on as a way of giving something back.
In a similar vain to yesterday’s blog post, the following are some messages I took away from the range of presentations and breakout sessions that I attended over the course of today. In no particular order…
  • York St. John University (YSJ) have a rather interesting looking web application called Moodle Modules which sits between the student record system SITS and Active Directory (AD). Moodle modules dictates what modules are created within Moodle and assigns tutors roles. Given that we have a similar application over at Bath (but that doesn’t work with AD, I’d be keen to compare notes and identify differences at some point.
  • The YSJ Moodle theme allows for customisation, including some accessibility enhancements, which again would be worth having a conversation about. Their Course filter functionality was also noted as this functionality allowed for course listings to be personalised by users somewhat and prevented the dreaded “scroll of death”. It’s just a shame that York is so far away from Bath as it would have been great to have spent a bit more time with these guys.
  • For pedagogical, procedural and technical reasons, the upgrade to Moodle 2.2 was described as a “game changer” with its enormous benefit to all involved.
  • Gavin Henrick gave a good introduction to using repositories in Moodle 2.x – his slides can be found on his Slideshare space. We’ve enabled the Dropbox, Google Docs, Flickr and Wikimedia ones on our test Moodle 2.2 installation, but perhaps there are some others that we should consider?
  • As Meredith Henson from Catalyst IT Europe Limited discussed that Moodle users might be more attracted to a different activity in Moodle 2.x, than they previously used in 1.9. So, instead of using  a File resource in 1.9, users might be attracted to the Book course format in 2.x instead. Similarly, the Feedback module might be used instead of the Quiz for some activities. Something to consider when planning staff development initiatives at Bath, for sure.
  • A number of institutions are running Google Analytics on their Moodle installations. We’ve been doing this at Bath since 2008, but rarely interrogate the data to inform future decisions. Perhaps this is an area for us to develop in?

So, that’s it – another Moodlemoot is nearly over! Many thanks to all attendees for your contributions, conversations, tweets and so much more besides. It’s was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding conference, and I look forward to hearing from some of those I met to continue developing ideas with the potential to exchange resources and explore some areas to collaborate within.

In the meantime (and as some know), I have some more writing of my own to be getting on with…

Moodlemoot Ireland & UK 2012 – Day #1

The first day proper of Moodlemoot Ireland & UK 2012 began with a keynote from Moodle Founder, Martin Dougiamas.

Well, actually it began with the loudest rock music I’ve ever heard at a concert conference, but it set the tone to what was going to be a cracking day. With this being my sixth Moodlemoot, I’m in Dublin with high expectations, and the sessions and conversations to date certainly haven’t disappointed.

Martin gave an overview of current priorities at Moodle HQ in Perth, Australia and gave insights into plans for Moodle 2.3 and 2.4.

Whilst the Moodle Roadmap is always there to be referred to, it is always useful to engage in more of a dialogue on development issues related to Moodle’s release cycle and related community, and Martin focused his talk around four key areas, which I discuss briefly below.

1. Plugins
It’s difficult to not notice, but there’s been a seismic shift across a number of devices to the concept of ‘apps’ – often with seamless download and installation. Moodle isn’t going to be missing out here, through the introductions of ‘plugins’ for which a new system has been written. It’ll be easier for both developers and users to integrate these, and installation will be rather WordPress like. Should be ready for Moodle 2.4. (James Clay has written his thoughts on this area on his blog e-learning Stuff.)

2. Processes
Continuing to develop professionalism in this area, whereby management of Moodle developments are striving to be efficient, transparent, predictable, stable and open. There’s lots of related work going on in this area too with the Moodle Tracker, Git repository and Moodle Docs all being constantly and consistently reviewed. Testing procedures are more automated ever, leading to less buggy and more a resilient codebase.

3. Usability
There’s a massive focus on this area, with an emphasis on solving user frustrations through gathering experiences, prioritising issues and developments, concentrating and then communicating change. Some usability studies on Moodle will be undertaken when time and money allows. These iPhone app continues to be a success, and a further (open source) app for Android will be released before too long. and are due for a re-brand.

4. Integrations
This section was beyond my technical knowledge and interests, but hopefully the slide on the right gives an idea! That said, I was interested to hear that Moodle HQ will be doing some work to integrate Open Badges from the Mozilla Foundation. (No I didn’t know what they were either…)

A number of questions were put to Martin during the Q&A session, including the following items.

  • The “scroll of death” specification will be online before too long. Within this format, topics within courses can be switched to one per page, which then in turn have a table of contents type navigation. Mockups are floating around on
  • The Assignment activity is being re-factored for Moodle 2.3, as noted yesterday. In particular, the ability to grade assignments offline and then send grades back to Moodle sounds awesome!
  • The code freeze for Moodle 2.3 will happen in four weeks time, which in turn will be followed by one month of testing. The Book module – not one I’ve used yet, admittedly – is currently in the hands of a Moodle Developer and will be part of Moodel core for 2.3.
  • Drag and drop is going to become more and more important. The prediction is that more content will be stored in the cloud, in services like Dropbox. Related to this, the usability of the Moodle file picker is being re-visited and details can be found on the Moodle Tracker.

For further notes on Martin’s keynote, do head along to Becky Barrington’s blog to catch up on any points that I might have missed. I haven’t talked about Martin’s thoughts on Blackboard’s entry into the Moodle world, for example.

I took reams of notes (well, lots of Evernote Notes were created and written!) in the numerous sessions that followed the keynote, which I’m afraid, would take days to dissect and reflect upon before reporting back on this blog.

However, I can give a numberred list (in note form in part) giving an overview of those things that caught my eye, or made me sit up and take notice. I always haven’t matched the sessions below to presenters, but would be happy to on request.

  1. The log-in integration of Moodle with Google Apps has not been as seamless as one institution had hoped. The lack of the tech-speak to describe an institutions issues to a Moodle Partner was seen to be problematic.  One of the key things was finding that Moodle 2 behaves differently [to 1.9] and that this was seen to challenge to the intuition that staff had developed around 1.9
  2. Presentation of a new acronym: NoSSTFOM – “Not Strictly Speaking The Fault Of Moodle”!
  3. Discussion of work “underpinned by a 3E framework at Edinburgh Napier University as a way of thinking about technology and sharing examples”.
  4. A fantastic presentation by Michelle Moore (@michelledmoore), Chief Evangelist at on the Book Module, the Glossary, Lesson and Workshop activities and Conditional Activities. Her presentation can be found on Slideshare.
  5. ULCC‘s discussion of three Moodle case studies where the environment has been tailored for institutional use. One of the key findings of this work for them was that a “shared service approach is transformational”.
and finally…
  • Becky Barrington (@bbarrington) has developed a rather useful Prezi presentation entitled  What is new with Moodle 2 (and 2.2)? It includes and highlights differences between 1.9, 2.0, 2.1 and 2.2.
  • The fabulous Twitter conversations going through the #mootieuk12 hashtag. This is the first time I’ve ever engaged with Twitter so much for a conference, and its been immensely useful. It wouldn’t neccesarily work in every context, but has without a doubt, been a fabulous value added for conference attendees.

Day #1 (well, 2) over. Time to go and explore Dublin a little more, before the final day of Moodlemoot 2012 tomorrow. Can’t wait!

Moodlemoot Ireland & UK 2012 – Pre-Conference Workshops

Having not blogged for some time, I figured that getting writing again whilst in the lovely city of Dublin would be a perfect opportunity to re-initiate my writing.

Having achieved both Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) and Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) over the last nine months or so, I’ve indulged in a fair amount of reflective writing recently. With both now completed and awarded, I feel strongly that I should return to this blog to continue reflecting as well as sharing practice with others.

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, I’m in the city for MoodleMoot Ireland & UK 2012, a conference based around the open source software, Moodle which we use at the University of Bath.

Whilst tomorrow sees the first of two days of the conference, I flew into Dublin yesterday evening in time for the pre-conference workshops that were taking place today. After some consideration of the workshops on offer, I decided to attend the following two.

#1 – Introduction to teaching with Moodle

Led by Mary Cooch (@moodlefairy), I was attracted to this workshop because of its introductory nature, despite having been a Moodle user since 2005.

With the University of Bath upgrading to Moodle 2.2 this summer, I was keen to get some ideas for both our own Moodle 2 Familiarisation seminars, and the longer term (new) Moodle Staff Development programme which will be rolled over over the next year or so.

Additionally, attending a(nother) Moodle 2.2. introductory workshops works too in getting me to polish those new skills – and paths through the environment – that are new to me.

Over the course of the three hour session, I picked up a range of ideas which I know that I’ll be considering when I’ll be leading development of the new Moodle Essentials workshop at Bath.

There were also some other items that I’ll be keen to explore after the Easter break:

  • With the Assignment activity changing for Moodle 2.3, the Online Text functionality, might be changing. This would be worth investigating given that we’re currently pushing this as an alternative to the Journal activity which we’re not installing.
  • The Lesson activity, and how to build an effective example within the Moodle Features Demo course I’m building as part of our staff development work. This holds tremendous potential for building branched learning activities.
  • The Workshop activity is another to explore, given that both activities have been re-developed completely since Moodle 1.9. This activity allows for both peer- and self-assessment based activities.
  • Develop thinking around default blocks that we should recommend users add to their Moodle courses. Talking of which, there are an increasing number available in the Blocks drop down menu when Turn Editing On has been enabled. Are all of these required, or can some be switched off?
  • When it comes to repositories available through the file picker – Is integrating with Picasa Web Albums essential? Or will Flickr be enough?

#2 – Adding Social to learning (SoMe Bootcamp)

Following lunch (no one at the conference was quite sure what the soup served was!), I headed to conference organiser, Gavin Henrick’s (@ghenrick) session on the making Moodle courses more social.

In turn, he took the group through a range of Moodle resources and activities to see how integrating with, or pulling feeds from, social media services could make Moodle courses less static.

One of the most useful parts of the session was Gavin’s insistence on actively encouraging audience participation and asking people to share their experiences. This in turn led to a much richer session.

Tomorrow, I’ll be keeping a look out for sessions in which Moodle/Mahara integration will be discussed, as I feel that there might be some discussion in this area at the University of Bath within the next six months or so.

During Gavin’s session, I was interested in a conversation about blogging functionality in Moodle, where one institution decided to switch off this functionality completely, and directed students to Mahara instead. Food for thought!

That’s it for today. I’m looking forward to more interesting sessions and conversations tomorrow, especially the remote keynote from Moodle  Founder, Martin Dougiamas, where I’m sure he’ll talk about the Blackboard-related news that shook the Moodle-world last week.

Making Choices: Moodle-Turnitin integration

Over the last couple of months, my colleagues and I in the e-Learning team at the University of Bath have been considering the merits of integrating Moodle with Turnitin, the plagiarism detection service.

We’re currently supporting a variant of Moodle 1.9, though any decisions made would need to also consider Moodle 2.0 (or 2.1, 2.2…) which we’ll most likely be moving to in summer 2012.

Our Moodle-Turnitin integration was first mooted for investigation within the Moodle Development Plan 2010 that I developed in January of that year, but due to to technical difficulties at the time, we temporarily abandoned the idea.

One year on, online submission of work using the Moodle Assignment activity continues to rise. Additionally, and in light of a review tothe QA Statement for Examination and Assessment Offences, it was timely to review the integration, with a view to having something in place by the beginning of the 2011/12 academic year.

I’m currently in the throws of testing our chosen integration, but whilst waiting for things to happen in the background, I thought that I would take a few moments to reflect on our evaluation process and the decisions taken.

After some initial investigation, it was clear that two competing integrations, both with the respective pros and cons, would need to be considered before a decision was made as to which one to go for.

First up was the Catalyst integration aka “Dan Marsden’s code”. Further information on this particular integration can be found at:

This integration has the key advantage of being integrated with the existing Moodle Assignment activity in Moodle 1.9.  Importantly, this integration works  with Moodle 2.0 core code and takes advantage of the new Plagiarism API.

Whilst this integration does not currently include an interface for GradeMark, Turnitin’s e-feedback software, hooks into this functionality are planned for the Moodle 2.0 version.

If enabled (see options below), any supported file (the two popular file types, .doc and .pdf, are supported) submitted to the Assignment activity is automatically submitted to Turnitin whenever a side-wide cron job is called or is run.

The Turnitin related options within the Assignment activity.

The similarity score is returned when the cron job runs again, but this can be delayed depending on how busy the Turnitin server is. The similarity score and report can then be made available to the student, who can then review their performance but clicking on the relevant Similarity link.

Teachers can access the Turnitin originality report by clicking on the 'Similiarity' link, as illustrated above. The student view is similar.

One of the real advantage of this integration type was that it existing within a Moodle activity that academics at the University of Bath  are already very familiar with. Deployment would not require a massive support overhead, with a few FAQs and possibly a How To Guide being written to guide colleagues through the process of creation of a Turnitin enabled assignment activity. (Of course, the wider issue about how to get staff and students to interpret similarity scores in an appropriate way needs to be addressed elsewhere.)

The other integration that we considered was the iParadigms / Moodle Direct Integration aka “the one by nLearning Ltd.” (official Turnitin integration). According to the Turnitin website, this integration “allows access to Turnitin OriginalityCheck and GradeMark (not PeerMark) without having to leave the Moodle environment or log into Turnitin directly”. Further information can be found at:

The main difference between this integration, and the one discussed above, is that this is a new and distinct Moodle Assignment type with a different submission handling process to the usual Moodle Assignment activity one.

It is clear that the workflows employed by the iParadigms integration is markedly different from other Moodle activities – one of the hallmarks of some third party integrations, unfortunately. It was clear that this approach would require far more support than the Catalyst integration discussed above.

Given these two options, it was important that we conducted a side-by-side comparison of the two integration – available on request. The key emergent themes were as follows:

  • The Catalyst integration was considered to be more usable and ‘Moodle like’ in this embryonic stage of Turnitin uptake. It would provide a low level entry point and would in turn encourage uptake.
  • As such, the inability to integrate with GradeMark at this stage would not be a “deal breaker” as internal assessment processes would need to be amended to reflect this alternative method of marking.
  • It was felt that use of the iParadigms integration type and its associated new/complicated workflow processes, might in fact inhibit uptake of Moodle to support online submission of work.

(Reference: Moodle/Turnitin Integration report by Lisa McIver, Moodle Operations Manager)

Whilst the Catalyst integration fast became the preferred option of the e-Learning team, we were keen to get some feedback from our academic colleagues in departments. Whilst some new items came to light during this meeting, their thoughts broadly supported our own internal evaluation.

So, that just about tells the story of where we are now! Should you have any thoughts or questions, do get in touch through the contact details provided elsewhere. Onward with testing…

How do I support Panopto pedagogically?

A discussion towards the end of last week sparked off some thoughts in my head about how I have been supporting Panopto, our Lecture Capture solution, and how I might continue to do so in the future.

In particular, much of the work that I have been involved with in the last six months or so, have been concerned with operationalising Classroom Technologies as a whole, with an underlying emphasis of the pedagogical principles behind such a deployment.

[For those who are interested, I have both presented and written about the the operationalising side of my work within the last 3-4 months.]

And whilst I feel strongly that this part of my work continues to be important, and needs to be maintained, I am realistic enough to appreciate that being part of an educational development unit entails a responsibility to the academic community where pedagogical enhancement should be the centre of much of what I do.

Very simply, I’ve thought about how (and why) I support Panopto in particular, with a set of Inputs and (Pedagogically focused) Outputs from and to our staff development model.


  • Webinars – I am fairly new to the area of lecture capture, and have been keen to upskill in this area. A range of webinars, both specific to Panopto and not, have been appearing in a variety of places over the last few months. One such source has been the ViTAL Special Interest Group (SIG), which is focused on the use of video in education. Recent webinars have focused on the deployment of Panopto at Imperial College London, and another on “webinar visited some of the pedagogical questions raised by new(ish) technologies such as lecture capture”. My aim is to watch these webinars (usually a recording, unfortunately), jotting down some notes along the way. Questions can always be followed up with presenters either during the session, or afterwards.
  • Distributors – I’ve always been keen to build good working relationships with the distributors of such technologies, both with the UK-based people, and sometimes, with those in the US too. Whilst their approach can sometimes be sales focused, their published case studies often provide invaluable pedagogically sound reasons for the deployment of such technologies. Such strands can subsequently be developed locally at institution level.
  • Blogs & Tweets – This area really shouldn’t be underestimated. Much of the Lecture Capture-related work that I’ve been made aware of has been through a variety of RSS feeds, or through Twitter. Custom searches on Lecture Capture and Panopto, setup using Tweetdeck, have been incredibly useful in locating new, relevant and consistent sources of information.
  • Papers & Journals – Lecture Capture has been around in several guises for a number of years, and some research in the area exists. Mostly it has been case studies, but occasionally, there’s a relevant paper that catches the eye.
  • Special Interest Groups – As a Steering Group member of the ESTICT SIG has enabled me to connect with like minded individuals and teams around the UK HE sector. The ViTAL SIG, mentioned above, is also another source of interest. This aids the process of what is being discussed at other HEIs, both pedagogically and technically.

(Pedagogically focused) Outputs

  • Classroom Technologies website – This is the central point of CT activity at the University of Bath.  The resource contains details on staff development,  service updates and session reports and case studies (often written by practitioners). It is the last item which is vitally important – academics are more likely to engage with the technology if they can identify with the benefits to their students.
  • Staff Development – I facilitate a range of opportunities, which include a Using Technologies in Face to Face teaching workshop as well as our now renowned Masterclass seminars, which are co-trained with product distributors. Whilst it is easy to become diverted by the What? and the How? of such technologies, the Why? is always, always (said twice for reinforcement!) at the centre of what I promote. I often look to broader sector intitatives (assessment and feedback), the institutional Learning & Teaching Strategy (innovation) as well as the National Students Survey (timely feedback on learning) for inspiration, as well as drawing on local work (Bath-based research papers that have been presented at conferences).
  • Presentations – I do my best to get involve and present information on Classroom Technologies at Departmental Meetings, or sessions for the programme for new lecturers. Often, the technology has to be the hook (it’s often rather shiny!) but emphasising how engaging in Lecture Capture can add value to the learning and teaching experience has to be discussed. Subsequent further meetings with those interested, often helps to draw out the valued added.
  • Posters – Our Innovations Day 2011 with provide for a perfect opportunity to feed back current project progress colleagues, both those who have used Lecture Capture so far, and those who may wish to do so at the moment. This poster is likely to be based on a particular Semester 1 unit, where some quantitative and qualitative data, collected from students, is available to support any findings.
  • Conferences & Papers – Inevitably, the buzzing conference scene is a useful place to disseminate any work undertaken at the University of Bath. My paper at the 6th Plymouth e-Learning Conference is focused more on technological deployment, but once academics become more comfortable with the technology, I feel that it will be easier to explore (and collaborate with them to apply) pedagogical models related to Lecture Capture. The flipped lecture is one that I’m especially keen to explore, for example.

Undoubtedly, this approach will continue to evolve as the months and years roll on. If your approach is similar, or different, why not leave a comment on this blog or drop me a line via email.

Integration makes Lightwork

About a week ago, I had a lengthy Skype chat with Dr Eva Heinrich, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering & Advanced Technology at Massey University, NZ.

We met to discuss  Moodle-compatible software for Assignment assessment, called Lightwork. I first came across Eva and this product at the M25 Learning Technologies Group meeting at the LSE (where I was presenting) late last year and was keen to find out more.

See, developing an efficient mechanism for the downloading of work from Moodle, prior to assessment by lecturers (and subseqent re-upload to Moodle) has been a major area of interest for colleagues at the University of Bath, where I’m based. Indeed, my colleague Vic Jenkins, has already worked on factors to consider for setting up such an activity in our VLE, later evaluating functionality that might be required in an ideal world.

When I heard that colleagues at a university at the other side of the world had encountered similar issues, I was keen to hear more about both their work and findings.  According to the Lightwork website, the application “runs on the user’s PC. It connects to the institutions; Moodle installation and works together with the Assignment module and Gradebook in Moodle. Students still submit their assignment work to Moodle and receive their marks and feedback via Moodle.”

Some notes and reflections from the meeting follow:

  • Lightwork has been ten years in the making, and seeks to answer a particular research question about efficient marking practices. A plan was formulated in 2006/7, and the first user version (with Moodle in mind) was released in May 2010. Five participating Australian institutions are currently piloting the software, and will report back in due course.
  • With a large investment for development by Massey University, the software is ready for download and deployment for those institutions who want to use it. These institutions would be encouraged to feed back their experiences via the website.
  • A 0.5 FTE developer is currently assigned to the project, and is available to fix bugs and the like. Longer term though, it is likely that more development resource (provided either financial or physical resource) will need to be provided by participating institutions to really drive this product forward.
  • The wishlist or roadmap currently includes Moodle 2.0 integration (this is likely to be achieved by Spring/Summer 2012 at the very latest), an iPad optimised interface (or iTunes Store app) and the ability to include audio feedback.
  • Whilst this development sits outside the Moodle Foundation, one of the key aims of the project is to have it led by a community of users. This is likely to be made up by representatives of universities who are currently piloting the software, or who have gone for a full deployment.

Whilst I am encouraged by the progress that Eva and her colleagues have made to date, I am concerned that there isn’t yet enough evidence to justify either a pilot or a full blown deployment at my own institution.

Becoming one of the early adopters is possible I guess, but we would still have to tread incredibly carefully. Making non-core database related changes to our production service is only ever done in exceptional circumstances, and if such an integration was deployed, we would need to consider the risks associated and the exit strategy.

After all, there would be nothing worse that to trial this software as a proof of concept with staff, who in turn like it, only to find that that software isn’t viable, scalable or resilient enough in the longer term. That’s the point of a pilot, I guess! That said, I feel that not enough institutions have thrown their weight behind this project (yet!) to make sure that this software doesn’t become a niche, which is not sustainable in the longer term.

Much like my experiences with BigBlueButton last week, I’d be keen to keep in touch with the Lightwork community and see how their work develops, checking back in 6-12 months to see how things have moved on. I’d really like to implement Lightwork longer term, but I think that I (and everyone else I work with) might need a few more assurances first.

Focusing on BigBlueButton

Earlier on today, some colleagues and I from the e-Learning team and elsewhere at the University of Bath (@alexlydiate, @vicjenkins, @jpodcaster, @edsgmj, @jezcope) met virtually to take a look at BigBlueButton. We’ve previously explored MegaMeeting, which after a two year pilot, is now being phased out.

According to the BigBlueButton website, the software “is an open source web conferencing platform which enables universities and colleges to deliver a high-quality learning experience to remote students”.

With Moodle integration now available (for versions 1.9 and 2.0), this solution was put forward as something that we might pilot as a proof of concept. The Division for Lifelong Learning are already trialling Elluminate so I’d be keen to hear how @jpodcaster thinks that the two compare.

It was a rather interesting exploratory session, particularly as after tweeting about the session at, a few fellow tweeters at other institutions (@mattlingard@KrisEdTech, @zakmensah) joined us for the demonstration too.

It look us a little while to get going, but once we did, we managed to get a conversation started and begin to explore the functionality.

Some notes and reflections from the meeting follow:

  • Once we got the webcams and headsets going, the streams were of a pretty good quality – admittedly most were on JANET-based university LANs – and the sound was variable. Adobe Flash doesn’t provide echo cancellation, so users need to have headsets ideally. @alexlydiate and I were using a webcam-based mic, so others in the conversation were getting a fair amount of feedback and echo.
  • The interface reminded me of a number of ESTICT SIG meetings that I’d had with colleagues over Adobe Connect – the interface wasn’t too dissimilar, though Connect was smoother in appearance and functionality.
  • @alexlydiate had a look at look at BigBlueButton over the Christmas break and found that the install guide was quite specific about the install being on Ubuntu 10.04, 32 bit. Or at least, that being the one tested and stable platform. If BUCS don’t have this expertise in house, will we (even) be able to get as far getting BigBlueButton installed on a test server?
  • The Activity Monitor might prove to be useful in monitoring usage of the software. I wonder if it’ll be able to provide graphical representations of usage going forward like the ones provided for Panopto (see slide 13 in this presentation)?
  • The Adobe Flash interface infers that it won’t work on mobile devices such as Apple’s popular iPhone and iPad devices. I wonder how much of a dealbreaker this would be for users, and if indeed, a HTML5 based solution is in the offing?!
  • @vicjenkins commented that it took 30 minutes to get her audio working, so if we did take this solution forward with staff and/or students, a ‘Quick Start’ might well be required.
  • I’m keen to learn about the funding model for BigBlueButton. For example, our institutional open source VLE, Moodle, is strategically led by the Moodle Foundation within funding contributions by Moodle Partners and other commercial activities, as well as (the community) providing support through the forums.

Where next? Talking to colleagues following the session, confirmed my views that BigBlueButton still has a way to go before we can consider it to be a viable solution that we can deploy institutionally. However, we’ll watch developments with interest and will consider setting up another, similar demonstration in six months time to see if the functionality has moved on at all.

Finally, I’m grateful to Fred Dixon at BigBlueButton who came along at 6.30am (Canadian Time!) to help troubleshoot our session and answer any questions that the team and I had. Thanks too to @alexlydiate for finding a spot in the diary for getting us all together.


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