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High Quality Open Source Web Conferencing

Submitted on August 20, 2012

The problem

Every student with a browser should have access to a high-quality distance education. We intend to make that possible with BigBlueButton.

The solution

BigBlueButton is an open source web conferencing system for distance education. Last year, we recorded over 61,000 installs. The current BigBlueButton client is Flash-based.

We propose to build on top of BigBlueButton's existing platform (API, recording of sessions, playback using popcorn.js, document conversion, existing integrations with learning content management systems, large developer community, etc.) to provide a tightly integrated HTML5-based client.

By extending our existing platform, we don't have to build everything from scratch; rather, we can focus on fully leveraging HTML5 and WebRTC.

The result would be an complete open source solution for (a) enabling remote students with an HTML5 client (desktop or mobile) to view an active session, (b) enabling students with WebRTC-capable browser to broadcast audio and HD video, and (c) enabling universities, colleges, and schools to save money over equivalent commercial products.

For the 4500 degree granting institutions in North America (and the many more world-wide), BigBlueButton would provide a viable open-source alternative for offering remote students a high-quality learning experience.

While we target the distance education market (it's good to have a focus), BigBlueButton's capabilities for real-time sharing of slides, chat, voice, video, and presentations -- both one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many -- can be applied to collaboration in many different markets. Over the past four years, we've seen BigBlueButton adopted and integrated into applications (such as health care) in other market segments. We believe leveraging HTML5 and power of WebRTC will further that adoption, enabling other commercial and open source projects to build upon BigBlueButton for integrating high-quality collaboration into their products.

How will your idea make people's live's better?

We believe in a future where any student with an browser and internet access should have access to a high-quality education, regardless of their location on the planet. * Students should be able to remotely participate in a classroom session, review a recording of the lecture after the session, annotate and remix the learning to create new content, collaborate in real-time with their peers, and have one-on-one sessions with their teachers and professors -- all from within their browser. * Teachers should benefit from having a simplified, integrated synchronous learning environment that is easy for their students to use. * Universities, colleges, and schools should benefit from having a viable open source solution for delivering synchronous on-line learning. * Companies should have an open source solution for integrating real-time collaboration into their products, making improvements to the software, and contributing the improvements back to the community. Education is the key to enabling students to elevate the quality of life for themselves, their family, and their community. This project is about accelerating technology towards enabling that future.

How does your idea take advantage of next-generation networks?

Today, BigBlueButton uses Flash to broadcast videos using H.263 (sorenson codec) in 320x240. With next-generation bandwidth, the video broadcasts from an HTML5 client be a high definition (720p or 1080p) broadcast, enabling specialized modes of remote learning (such as medical procedures) that are currently only possible with extremely high-end (and expensive) systems. Recently, there is an increasing trend towards hosting massively online classes (MOCs). To scale to large number of students, there are commercial applications to support such classes, but no open source solutions. With next-generation bandwidth, a powerful BigBlueButton server and HTML5 browser-based clients could support hundreds (or even thousands) of simultaneous students, all learning and collaborating in real-time. With BigBlueButton, we've already overcame many of the infrastructure challenges. The challenges we anticipate are * Creating HTML5 interfaces that display well on mobile, tablet, and desktop clients. * Creating (or integrating) a WebRTC server capable of accepting hundreds (thousands) of connections from remote WebRTC sessions (currently, WebRTC is designed for p2p, but we need it to route all audio and video through a central server so the sessions can be recorded). * Testing the system at high levels of users (we already have tools for creating hundreds of BigBlueButton clients for testing, we could adapt those tools for creating hundreds (thousands) of HTML5 clients) * Integrating with Popcorn maker to edit the recorded sessions (we already using Popcorn for playback of a session recorded with BigBlueButton).

Fred Dixon

I am the project leader for BigBlueButton: an open source web conferencing system for distance education.

and team members

We are submitting this application on behalf of the BigBlueButton team. The team members are * Richard Alam, chief architect of BigBlueButton * Fred Dixon, packaging, integration and testing * Guga Salazar, Record and Playback infrastructure * Marcos Calderon, server * Felipe Cargno, client (Flash) * Calvin Walton, streaming server (HTML5) * Ryan Seys, client (HTML5) The BigBlueButton project is very active: - We have a community of 1200 members on our bigbluebutton-dev mailing (over 14k messages in the past three years) - We are forked over 450 times on GitHub - We have a fully packaged install that enables anyone to setup a BigBlueButton server in less than 30 minutes We have been prototyping an HTML5 client (see image attached to this submission for a snapshot of our progress).

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