There are times during your lesson in a physical classroom when, as a teacher, you are giving an explanation and expect your students to listen attentively. You may allow the occasional interruption, but that is the exception rather than the rule. Then there are times when you want to allow the students to say something: they need to answer a question, give an extended explanation, or even speak as a presenter.
Whether you are teaching a physical or virtual class, the requirements for classroom management are the same: as an instructor, you want to focus the students on learning and minimize disruption. BigBlueButton is designed for online teaching, and, as such, has unique capabilities to let you moderate your online class. (In BigBlueButton terminology, this concept is baked into the roles: as a teacher your role is called “moderator” and students are called “viewers”). Whether you are teaching a physical or virtual class, you are at the wheel, but when you’re teaching the course online, you may take that wheel literally. We’ve highlighted below some of its capabilities to help you moderate your class and keep the focus on learning.
By default, any user can mute or unmute themselves. To mute, click on the icon with the microphone in the icon group at the bottom center of the conference window. When you mute yourself, you will also hear a notification “you are now muted” and the icon changes to muted state (with tooltip “Unmute”) . If you click the icon again, your microphone will be turned back on.
As the teacher, if you want to mute the microphone of one student, you can click on their avatar in the user list and choose “Mute user”. BigBlueButton makes it easy for you to mute any active microphone. When you are teaching the class and a student’s microphone is generating background noise — maybe they are in a noisy area – click their highlighted name above the presentation next to yours. They are now muted. It’s a one-click mute of a student. You are now the only one speaking.
A student can still unmute themselves, and you can mute them again if needed.
In addition to muting an individual user, BigBlueButton lets you mute everyone except yourself, and further lock students’ microphones so they can’t unmute themselves.
All these capabilities are available under the little cogwheel located to the right of the user list.
When you click the cogwheel, a menu opens and presents you with three choices:
1) Choose “Mute all users” to mute everyone’s microphones. All microphones will be muted, but students can unmute themselves.
2) “Mute all except presenter” to mute everyone’s microphone except yours (assuming you are the current presenter, which is likely as you are the instructor!). Students can still unmute themselves.
3) The third method gives you more control. You can choose “Lock viewers” to display a dialog that lets you lock certain features of viewers (students). For example, activate the lock next to “Share microphone” and all students will be muted and they can no longer unmute themselves. This gives you the ultimate control over the classroom audio. Until you remove the lock settings, no student can unmute their microphone and disrupt the class.
The options for blocking the webcam, chat and shared notes work in an analogous way. As the moderator, the lock settings do not apply to you — just to the viewers.
Once you have locked specific functions for all students, you can unlock them for one specific person. To do this, click on their avatar in the user list. The menu now offers the additional possibility to unlock the student.
One caveat: Unlocking a student in this way will remove all the lock settings. If you already have lock settings for private chat as well, for example, and you want students to be able to share their microphone, then use the gear icon to access the Lock settings and unlock the microphone. This leaves the other lock settings in place for your students.
It may be useful to prevent all students from sending chat messages in the main conference window in some cases. Locking the public chat speaks for itself: once locked, they can not send a public chat.
Locking private chat works similarly: you restrict the ability of the students to send private messages to each other; however, they can still send you a private message. You can also send them private messages (again, the lock settings do not apply to you). The recipient of that private message will then be able to reply, even if you have previously locked that feature. In other words, you don’t need to do any unlocking before sending your private message.
By default, you as the instructor will see all webcams (we recommend keeping the number of webcams to 25 or less). However, to keep the bandwidth requirements lower and, more importantly, to keep the focus on you, students will see about 5 other webcams in the class (with the ability to paginate between them).
However, for some situations, especially in K12, you may want to restrict students to only see your webcam. There is a lock setting for this. You can open the Lock settings dialog (using the cogwheel) and enable “See other viewers webcams”. Once enabled, students are locked from seeing each other’s webcams. They will only see yours.
If you are recording the session, the student’s webcams are still recorded. If you do not want to include student webcams in recordings, reach out to your hosting provider as they may be able to restrict this at the account level.
If you divide your students into teams and send each team into a separate breakout room, the lock settings don’t apply anymore. Participants start in a breakout room with the status of moderator. It is sometimes practical to first send one person into the breakout room as captain of the team. You don’t have to worry about webcam recording in a breakout room because recordings are not possible here. If the participants return to the main room after their separate session, all the lock settings remain in effect.
The lock settings are a versatile tool. At first, you may need to get used to them a bit, and you may forget to click on or off a specific setting. We recommend that you do a little experimentation before your first courses. Invite a colleague or two to explore the system. Learning something new as a group always goes quicker and smoother.