Four Web Conferencing Solutions Offered Through Canvas for Winter Quarter Pilot

Beginning now through March 2019, Northwestern IT Services and Support is piloting several web conferencing options to evaluate platforms for hosting synchronous online web sessions from Canvas. The goal of the pilot is to identify the platform that best meets teaching and learning needs at Northwestern. 

With a growing demand for web conferencing tools for synchronous, online learning, this pilot provides instructors and students the opportunity to compare tools and offer vital feedback to Northwestern IT on four separate web conferencing tools: BlueJeans, WebEx, Zoom, and the premium version of BigBlueButton. The four tools are being evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Pedagogical needs: Effectiveness in meeting teaching and learning needs for synchronous online coursework.
  • Ease of use: Functionality, interface, scheduling, communicating, collaboration
  • Canvas integration: Single sign-on in Canvas, account provisioning, access to recordings, calendar integration, etc.
  • Integration with other Northwestern systems: Single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, Microsoft Outlook, etc.
  • Impact on teaching and learning: Effects of service outside of online programs (e.g. students using conferencing for group meetings or presentations; faculty using conferencing for virtual office hours).
  • Online security: FERPA, data security, privacy, academic integrity considerations.
  • Accessibility: ADA compliance, captioning, transcription, etc.
  • Support needs: Vendor support model; estimated support needs for additional adoption and ongoing user support.

All of the services are available through Canvas or for standalone use [except for BigBlueButton, which is native to Canvas]. While the goal is seek a preferred a web conferencing solution for synchronous online sessions, this pilot is available for any teaching and learning-related needs.

If you are interested in learning more about this pilot, or would like to get involved or provide feedback, please email canvas@northwestern.edu.


BlueJeans logo

Learn more about BlueJeans.


WebEx logo

Learn more about WebEx Meetings.

  • Access: To pilot WebEx in Canvas, please send an email to canvas@northwestern.edu. Include your name, NetID, and the name of the course in Canvas [e.g. 2019WI_SPANISH_101_SEC21]. WebEx is available for standalone use at https://northwestern.webex.com/
  • WebEx Meeting Features: Audio and video, polling, hand raising, group and individual chat and file sharing, collaborative annotation of screen share, files, and white board [Breakout rooms and quizzing assessment capabilities are available through WebEx Training].
  • Canvas Integration: Meeting invitations sent from Canvas, recordings automatically posted to site, Canvas Calendar and Syllabus integration.
  • Student-initiated Meetings: Yes, through Canvas or on the web at https://northwestern.webex.com/
  • Support: WebEx Support
  • Accessibility: WebEx Accessibility

Zoom logo

Learn more about Zoom.

  • Access: To pilot Zoom in Canvas or for standalone use, please send an email to canvas@northwestern.edu. Include your name, NetID, and the name of the course in Canvas [e.g. 2019WI_SPANISH_101_SEC21].
  • Features: Audio and video, breakout rooms, polling, hand raising, group and individual chat and file sharing, collaborative annotation of screen share, files, and white board
  • Canvas Integration: Meeting invitations sent from Canvas, recordings automatically posted to site
  • Student-initiated Meetings: Yes, through Canvas and on the web at zoom.us [request an account by contacting canvas@northwestern.edu].
  • Support: Zoom Support
  • Accessibility: Zoom Accessibility

bigbluebutton logo

Learn more about BigBlueButton. Canvas guides are also available.

  • Access: BigBlueBotton is available under “Conferences” on the left hand navigation of all Canvas courses.
  • Features: Audio and video [participant video not recommended in large classes due to limited bandwidth], screen sharing [separate download required], breakout rooms, polling, hand raising, group and individual chat, collaborative annotation of files and white board
  • Canvas Integration: Recordings automatically posted to site
  • Student-initiated Meetings: Yes, through Canvas
  • Support: BigBlueButton Support
  • Accessibility: BigBlueButton Accessibility