Web Conferencing Showdown: BlackBoard vs. Everybody

Many of you might already be familiar with Elluminate, a web conferencing system we have had in the College for the past 4 years. If you aren’t, web conferencing is a term that describes a system which makes it possible to hold live course sessions or meetings over the internet. Typically these systems include live voice, video, and text chat, along with an interactive whiteboard, and remote desktop access.

Sadly, Elluminate was bought by a company called Blackboard, and then Blackboard was subsequently bought by a private equity firm called Providence. As part of the acquisitions, Blackboard has decided to make some substantial changes to Elluminate, and re-brand it as “Blackboard Collaborate.” In light of this, UF has decided to review other systems in the web conferencing market.

A committee convened by Academic Technology and the Associate Provost’s office have chosen to pilot 4 alternatives to Blackboard Collaborate, in hopes we might be able to get more bang for our collective buck. These systems include: Big Blue Button, Adobe Connect, Webex, and Unity.

Over the next couple of months the COE will begin piloting Big Blue Button, an open source system that seamlessly integrates into Moodle and Sakai, along with Unity, a small company with the capacity to do custom development for the unique needs presented by the diverse UF constituency.

In case you’re interested, we have a demo site for Big Blue Button available here. Feel free to click around and let us know if you have any feedback, or would like to test it our with a group.

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