Zoom (300 users), Google Meet (100 users) AND BigBlueButton (100 users): Platforms for hosting live/synchronous sessions

  1. Contact ICS Department for Zoom Licence to host over 100 students

If you intend to host a session for more than 100 students, please contact the ICS Department servicedesk@uwc.ac.za – to request a Zoom Licence/ Account – which allows up to 300 students per session (according to ICS); and other related Zoom queries:

  • Setting up Zoom sessions, 
  • VPN access,
  • Data costs,
  • Constraints and limitations,
  • Licensing

**The Zoom platform is similar to Google Meet, with added security and activity features.

  1. Contact ICS Department regarding Google Meet to host 100 students

Google Meet is an online communication tool that enables video and audio calls with the option of recording online sessions. Google Meet can be accessed via your Gmail profile, thus logging in to Gmail will grant you access to the platform. Group sessions are set up within the user’s calendar events. It is advised to add between 90-100 participants per session even though Google Meet allows up to 100 attendees per session. Please see the attached link which shows how to use, record and share.

YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/nJA3wzEk7VQ

NB: In March 2020 Google increased the number of users who could join a live lecture/Google Meet from 100 to 250 participants, due to the national lockdown.

NB: This number has been reduced to 100 on 01 March 2021

**Lecturers across disciplines have been making effective use of Google Meet to host live/synchronous sessions.

**The ICS department has advised users to login to OpenVPN (please refer to ICS email communication). Contact ServiceDesk regarding OpenVPN setup. Google Meets and Microsoft Team uses a WEBRTC protocol that bypasses VPN connections. This results in these applications consuming data. At this stage Zoom is covered by the VPN (ICS Department).

Google Meet: Create group sessions/lectures

Lecturers are able to create group sessions for large classes. **The recorded session can be presented in the follow-up classes/groups; and engage in discussion.

You are able to record the Google Meet session and share it via iKamva (online environment). In addition, pre-recorded lectures can be uploaded into iKamva.

  1. BigBlueButton – external plugin/tool: Capacity 100 users

BigBlueButton(BBB) is an external plugin (separate web conferencing tool). The eTool is integrated within the institutional Learning Management System, iKamva and has been named Meetings. This eTool has been piloted across disciplines. The CIECT team encouraged the exploration and pilot, especially in order to support the #NoStudentLeftBehind campaign. This tool was placed on UWC’s zero-rated list, as it had been integrated into iKamva.

NB: The BBB vendor recommends hosting sessions of 100 users (or less). This is not a hard-coded constraint, as you can have 101, 102, etc. However, as more users join in the session, in general, overall performance may be compromised, due to the extra server load and data usage.

NB: Some lecturers have raised concerns about the connectivity and reliability of BBB live/synchronous sessions. The following are possible explanations:

  • Since the BigBlueButton was placed on the zero-rated list of URLs, there has been an influx of users. Lecturers explore the eTool for their synchronous/live sessions.
  • Because this service is zero-rated, ISPs may throttle connectivity speeds compared to non-zero rated websites, which could in turn affect the connectivity to BBB sessions.
  • Wireless connectivity can often fluctuate in signal strength, which can negatively affect the online experience with BigBlueButton.

NB: The ICS Department has advised users to login to OpenVPN (please refer to ICS email communication). Contact ServiceDesk regarding OpenVPN setup. OpenVPN allows students not to use their own data. Accessing iKamva while logged into OpenVPN will not incur data costs. 

After extensive testing and evaluation, CIECT recommends the use of Zoom over BigBlueButton (Meetings), especially for live/synchronous sessions that require more than 100 participants. Zoom is also zero-rated under OpenVPN, unlike Google Meet at this stage. 

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