Even before the world entered the COVID-19 pandemic, there were platforms for virtual meetings. However, as COVID-19 started to spread and the severity increased, the number of platforms for online meetings increased.
Canvas offers a conference tool Big Blue Button, or better known as BBB to teachers and students. Unfortunately, BBB is less functional than other options like Microsoft Teams or Zoom.
Teachers try to remain optimistic, however the cons of the program far outweigh the pros. The one true benefit of the program is the direct accessibility through Canvas, however, BBB is not reliable or user friendly. On many days the software leaves online students out of the classroom. Of course, there are additional issues that are fault to poor connectivity, the age of the laptops given to the students and then user error must be accounted for, as well. However, put a crummy program on a bad computer and inevitably, issues arise.
Since my school introduced BBB, the audio has always malfunctioned. Teachers will teach an entire lesson just to realize their audio failed or cut out in the middle of class. Sometimes teachers catch it because an online student typed it in the chat, however, the teacher has to pay attention to the chat and that is not always guaranteed. Then there are the students who have their audio on and cannot figure out how to shut it off, have left their computer, or are having fun taunting the teacher and making a mess of their lesson. A benefit of the program is that teachers have complete control over mic access and usage, so the number of students who clown around in online class is at an all-time low.
Cameras are another struggle for teachers and students. Teachers fight for students to turn their cameras on, while students fight teachers to properly point and use their cameras. All while the issue with BBB is the quality of the feed. The video feed comes out beyond pixelated no matter what device the student is on. No matter how good the device is or how good the student’s internet is, the video feed tends to lag significantly. At the end of the day, teachers and students could stop fighting if they realize that neither can see the other and the feed is seconds behind.
Like other platforms, BBB tries to incorporate features like private chats, white board and shared notes tool, but it needs an improvement in the more important features like audio and video quality.
Ultimately, BBB would receive a thumbs down. On some days the program functions, however on most it has issues. For the amount of time, it takes to refresh, restart a computer, or log in and out several times, when it should all be a simple click of the “join” button, it makes using BBB just not worth it.