We all know when the pandemic began: it was early 2020. As it spread, pretty much every school in the world shutdown and moved online using virtual classrooms. Using web browsers, mobile phones, and laptops, teachers and students collaborated together in virtual classrooms, sharing their audio, video, and slides as they worked together through the course material. The classrooms of the world shifted, and the school year continued.
At BigBlueButton, an open source virtual classroom platform supported by Blindside Networks, the pandemic meant a massive increase in usage of BigBlueButton in just a few weeks. Following a two week sprint in 2020, Blindside Networks spun up over 1,000 servers on DigitalOcean, which has led to over half a billion minutes of online classes being hosted on DigitalOcean. We are excited to share that today, DigitalOcean has furthered their support of BigBlueButton by donating $25,000 to BigBlueButton Inc., which will use the donation to promote awareness and advocacy, foster and recognize research, introduce contribution awards, and support more collaboration amongst the BigBlueButton community, all benefiting teachers world-wide.
BigBlueButton started at Carleton University in 2007 with one goal: to provide the most teacher-centric virtual classroom in the world. As an open source project, it enabled anyone in the world to run on their own servers. For years, Blindside Networks, the main developer of BigBlueButton, was hosting it for many large and small schools all over the world using physical servers.
That all changed in February 2020 when the pandemic hit, when schools closed, and when the company needed to move virtually very quickly. Blindside Networks had an existential challenge: they could not scale fast enough with physical servers. Two weeks later — thanks to the simplicity of DigitalOcean’s API and a lot of caffeine — they had fully virtualized, scalable hosting of BigBlueButton running across DigitalOcean’s world-wide data centers.
It was also at this moment that BigBlueButton began experiencing an accelerating increase in use from schools around the world. Examples in 2020/2021 include:
Behind the scenes, most successful open source projects have an independent foundation that supports the community. BigBlueButton (the software) has BigBlueButton Inc., a member-based, not-for-profit that supports the global development of BigBlueButton. It holds the copyright for source code, manages its open source license, and owns the trademark for the project.
BigBlueButton is localized into over 55 languages by the community, a strong metric of its global adoption.
“When we looked at the underlying foundation behind BigBlueButton, and their focus on creating a world-class virtual classroom for everyone, we wanted to support them directly.” says Yancey Spruill, CEO of DigitalOcean. “DigitalOcean believes our community is bigger than just us, and we saw supporting BigBlueButton Inc. as a way to give back to the global community focused on improving access to high-quality online education.”
DigitalOcean’s donation represents the largest donation to-date for the project.
The BigBlueButton project is currently in the final stages of releasing 2.4, which provides the teacher with metrics of student attendance, engagement, and learning during an online class. It runs very well on DigitalOcean’s C-8 servers, supporting up to 200 concurrent teachers and students with full recordings.