I was recently hired at Seneca’s Centre for Development of Open Technology (CDOT) as a part-time researcher. I’ll be contributing to BigBlueButton, an open-source web tool used to conduct lectures and web conferences online. It allows one to stream audio, video and slides to a large group to simulate a conference setting. There are additional tools available, such as a polling module to get responses from those attending and a live chat to ask questions to other attendees or the lecturer.

Personally, I find this project quite exciting. One of my areas of interest is education and how it can be enhanced by using technology. I believe that it has never been easier to learn something new than now. With resources such as Khan Academy and OpenCourseWare, a first-rate education available to anyone. As of this posting, both sites primarily serve educational videos, along with other features such as exercises one can do as practice. When I imagine how both sites could be improved by using a tool such as BigBlueButton, the possibilities are quite exciting. Imagine having a free course that people from all over the world could attend. Have a question during the lecture? Simply ask a classmate! Do you learn better visually or by listening? No problem, BigBlueButton has both avenues covered! Couldn’t make the lecture? BigBlueButton saves all lectures so one can simply view it later. I feel like BigBlueButton can really help people all over the world learn in a more efficient way. That’s a good thing!

There is one tiny issue with BBB: the client is currently Flash-based (gasp)! I’m pretty excited that I’ll be working on writing a new, HTML5-based client. This will allow those with devices that do not run Flash, such as mobile devices, to also take part in the learning experiences offered by BBB. The idea of being able to partake in a lecture no matter where you are is a very cool one. Why should learning be limited to schools? You should be able to learn, wherever you are.

A university in Brazil (I don’t think I was ever told the name) will also be assisting in converting the BBB client from Flash to HTML5. Blindside Networks, the founders of the BBB project, have also made some headway in the HTML5 client. There is a bunch of information on the wiki that I will need to go over before starting.

Since our HTML5 client will be written in CoffeeScript and Backbone.js, my first goal will be becoming more familiar with those technologies. Hopefully in a week or so, after I’ve done some research into CoffeeScript, Backbone.js and the BBB client architecture, I can start writing some code. I’ll be writing another post on CoffeeScript and Backbone.js shortly so stay tuned!