Video conferencing platforms have become massively more popular over the last two years or so, for obvious reasons. Even as we manage the pandemic however, the use of video conferencing platforms will remain a significant part of people’s lives and e-learning in general.
Love them or hate them, video conferencing platforms or virtual classrooms, and screen sharing have helped save many institutions and businesses, and reduced our carbon footprint. But which platform is the best? It’s not an easy question to answer, as it really depends on what you are using it for.
To help you form an opinion, we have looked at several factors and chosen the best performing from four of the most popular platforms out there – BigBlueButton (BBB), Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet.
Feature comparison table
Here is a simple comparison table for the features of Zoom, BigBlueButton, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet:
|Feature||Zoom||BigBlueButton||Microsoft Teams||Google Meet|
|Video Options||HD Video||Low, Medium, High Resolution||HD Video||HD Video|
|Learning Analytics Dashboard||No||Yes||No||No|
|Dial-in phone numbers for every meeting||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Integrated with learning management systems||Yes||Yes – deep integration||Yes||Yes|
Overview of each platform
The four video conferencing platforms, Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and BigBlueButton, each have unique features and interfaces, but also share similarities.
Zoom’s interface is user-friendly, allowing for screen sharing, adjusting views, and accessing the chat feature. It also offers breakout rooms for private discussions and document sharing, and it allows for the annotation and sharing of PDFs, although participant editing is limited. Zoom’s audio capabilities are robust, including the sharing of PC audio during screen sharing, noise cancellation, and closed captions. However, its polling feature requires pre-meeting preparation and doesn’t show individual responses. Zoom’s whiteboard function is easy to use but limited to text, stamps, and spotlight formats, with no PDF or image collaboration possible. While Zoom doesn’t have a dedicated classroom function, it can be integrated with Google Classroom and Moodle.
Google Meet’s interface provides options for changing layouts, presenting screens, and accessing chat. It now includes breakout rooms, but lacks the ability to share PC audio. Google Meet allows for annotation but doesn’t support direct PDF sharing in the chat. Its polling options are less convenient than BigBlueButton’s, and its whiteboarding requires accessing Jamboard, which may not be available on all devices. Google Meet offers Google Classroom integration for a comprehensive classroom experience, along with Moodle integration.
Microsoft Teams’ interface appears as a pop-up window, with limited options for viewing shared content simultaneously. It lacks editing and sharing capabilities for PDFs within the platform. However, Teams offers breakout rooms with automatic assignment and reassignment of participants, and it allows for the sharing of audio and adjusting noise suppression. Its whiteboarding feature is more collaborative, allowing everyone to write and draw on them.
BigBlueButton’s interface allows for viewing participants, chat, videos, and screen sharing simultaneously, making it the preferred choice for many education institutions. It provides comprehensive PDF editing, sharing, and collaborative annotation options. BigBlueButton stands out in breakout room functionality by displaying shared content within the rooms, and it offers a quick and teacher-focused polling system. Its whiteboard functionality is the quickest and easiest among the platforms, allowing participants to write and seamlessly integrating with the presentation. BigBlueButton’s classroom features are part of Moodle, offering class material storage, individual notebooks for students, assignment submission, and grading.
While all four platforms offer video conferencing capabilities, they each have their strengths and weaknesses. Zoom excels in audio capabilities and user-friendly interface, Google Meet in classroom integration, Microsoft Teams in collaborative whiteboarding, and BigBlueButton in simultaneous viewing and comprehensive presentation editing.
So which is best? Zoom vs BigBlueButton vs Microsoft Teams vs Google Meet.
- Interface If you’re using the video meetings platform for teaching, you need to view lots of information at any one time. Having to click through different windows can be disruptive, so which platform offers the best interface? Only BigBlueButton (BBB) allows you to view PDFs, users, video and the chat box simultaneously. In all the other platforms, at least one of these tools cannot be viewed at the same time as others.
- Presentation editing A feature that allows you and/or students to edit a presentation on-screen is a valuable teaching tool. In our comparison, BBB and Zoom allow all users (teachers and students) to share and edit at the same time. Although there are workarounds for Google Meet, collaboration in this way is not as straightforward.
- Chat The chat box is an important feature that allows teachers and students to chat privately or among the group, using text. This facility enables users to share and comment on documents. All platforms perform well in terms of being able to chat with the group, with Google Meet being the only that does not have private messaging features.
- Breakout Rooms Group work is an essential component of any online training activity to facilitate discussion. Ideally, the trainer should be able to effortlessly set up and activate breakout rooms. All platforms offer breakout rooms, but only Zoom allows users to share private texts and documents within the group. BBB allows users to send texts but not documents. The other two platforms offer neither of these benefits.
- Audio Sound quality is paramount when delivering a virtual class. Again, all platforms are comparable here. If your internet connection is good, then there should be no issues. The only caveat to that, is if you are self hosting BBB or using a low cost hosting provider, make sure that the hardware can cope with the demand. Additionally, BBB has a dial in phone number.
- Polling Online polls are a great tool for engaging your students and sharing a snapshot of opinion. However, they are cumbersome to set up on many platforms. BBB easily has the best performing polling tool, which is quick and easy to execute, and with the latest version allows anonymous responses from your audience.
- Recording When course participants miss a virtual training session or wish to review certain parts of it, a recording is the best way to address this need. Zoom offers the best service because you can choose to store your recording in the cloud or locally on your device. Others allow you to access a recording in the cloud, although it’s worth noting that the premium BBB package allows unlimited recording, storage and downloads.
- Whiteboard The whiteboard is a great facility that enables students to write their ideas and responses on a shared screen. This is particularly helpful for brainstorming activities. BBB wins for ease of use and their multi-user whiteboard feature which allows users to draw or write simultaneously. The others are slower and need several clicks to set up.
- Document sharing Sharing documents, such as assignments, is an integral part of the virtual classroom experience. Google Meet is the king here as it uses the prolific Google Docs to easily share documents, collaborate and comment. MS Teams and BBB offer a limited sharing / commenting facility, whereas Zoom offers no specific document sharing tool. BBB also has a shared notes feature for anonymous note taking. If you are a Google Docs fan, you can of course share links to editable docs in all of these platforms.
As the video conferencing platform landscape is constantly changing, with new features constantly being developed, do let us know if we have made any omissions or if our information needs updating.
So which is best? Zoom vs BigBlueButton vs Microsoft Teams vs Google Meet. It’s a tough call, and we are hugely biased being involved with BigBlueButton since 2013. Honestly, any of these platforms can enhance your e-learning courses, however if you are looking for virtual classroom software that has been built from the ground up, and designed around the needs of educators then do give BigBlueButton a try.
If you need advice on integrating any of these video conferencing platforms into Moodle, contact Pukunui today.