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Web Conference Tools & Technology


Northwestern currently has several options available for web conferencing: WebEx, Big Blue Button, and Zoom. Each platform allows for remote, web-hosted audio and/or video conferencing and screen sharing, as well as a text chat option. Calls within each platform can be recorded as well.

When should I use a web conference?

Web conference tools can be used anytime you want to have a synchronous interaction with one or more students. Most commonly, web conferencing is used to host optional sync sessions during the course. Faculty can also use these tools for meetings with small groups or individual students, as well as to host virtual office hours. Students can also use web conferencing tools to meet in groups for projects or studying.

Which web conferencing tool should I use?

This table compares the features and capabilities of each web conferencing tool available at Northwestern. Consider what you need the tool for and what you need it to do: a virtual whiteboard sounds like an interesting addition, but are you going to use it? You can also reach out to the DL team with questions about how each tool functions and which might be best for your purposes.

Web Conferencing Platform WebEx Meetings BigBlueButton Zoom
Features Basic audio and video conferencing, whiteboard, annotation of shared screen/file, breakout rooms (part of WebEx Training, uses old interface), polling, quizzing Basic audio and video conferencing, multi-user whiteboard, screen sharing, file upload, polling, breakout rooms Audio and video conferencing, multi-user whiteboard, annotation of shared screen, breakout rooms
Canvas Integration Yes, by request; invitations currently not sent from Canvas; recordings automatically posted Yes, but without invitations or calendar options; recordings automatically posted; Adobe Flash required Yes, Invitations sent and recordings automatically posted (ETA: Fall 2018)
Student-initiated Meetings Yes, through Northwestern Webex Portal Yes, through Canvas Yes, through Northwestern Zoom Web Conferencing Portal
Action Required to Begin Use E-mail if you are interested in piloting WebEx and to have it added to your course. None - Click the Conferences link in your Canvas course site None - Click the Zoom link in your Canvas course site
Support Cisco WebEx Support BigBlueButton Support Zoom Support
Accessibility Cisco WebEx Accessibility BigBlueButton Accessibility Zoom Accessibility