The global COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the massive adoption of online education, and in particular, how critical it is to foster learning engagement through virtual classrooms.
By way of positives, online access to education has brought world-class curricula from leading global institutions within reach of anyone anywhere. One of the leading companies in that space is BigBlueButton; completely open-source, virtual classroom software designed around the real-world needs of teachers, students, and schools.
BigBlueButton was created by a community of dedicated developers passionate about helping improve online learning. To understand better how BigBlueButton became a big bang since its official launch in 2007.
At the heart of that digital transformation journey was RIADVICE, the Commercial Support Provider.
We had a chat with spoke to Ghazi Triki, the CEO of RIADVICE focusing on BigBlueButton as the first open-source web-conferencing platform that gives every student access to a high-quality online learning experience using only a web browser.
RIADVICE is a top Tunisia software outsourcing providers and long-term contributor to many open source projects.
Ghazi Triki is the Chief Executive Officer of RIADVICE, a digital transformation company in Tunisia and a BigBlueButton commercial support provider serving multiple countries globally.
As a global lead Software Architecture Consultant & Developer, Ghazi and his team has won several global awards such as Mobilizing The 12th Man Award the total of 43 global recognition prizes are listed below:
- Cannes Lion 2013 – 5 Silver Lions & 2 Bronze Lions for Mobilizing The 12th Man
- Epica Awards 2013 – 1 Grand Prix, 1 Gold Award, 2 Silver Award
- Dubai Lynx 2014 – 2 Grand Prix, 6 Gold, 11 Silver, 17 Bronze for Mobilizing The 12th Man
- London International Awards 2013 – 1 Silver & 2 Bronze
- One Show 2014 – 1 Merit Pencil, 1 Gold Pencil & 2 Bronze Pencils
- CLIO Awards 2014 – 1 Gold Award, 1 Silver Award, 3 Bronze Awards
Ghazi is also a lead contributor to many open-source development, managing great agile teams for BigBlueButton-based projects and managed the development of enterprise business solutions for the telecommunications market, distance learning, carpooling, VOD, shipment tracking, GIS, food industry pricing and digital helped customers automating their infrastructure deployment script.
In recognition of his immense contribution to open source and especially to the development of BigBlueButton since 2013, he was appointed a core committer member since 2015 and ranked 4th in terms of global contribution.
He has over the years driven the digital transformation of clients across sectors in the following countries: Canada, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Cyprus, France, UAE, South Korea, Austria, United States, Australia, Turkey, Nigeria, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Poland to reach total of 50 countries.
Ghazi started as a Maven Flex Plugin contributor at the RIA (Rich Internet Applications) era, in continuous integration (automation an orchestration).
He also served as a global consultant in the setting up BigBlueButton cluster for the universities and schools of Rhineland-Palatinate, a federal state of Germany serving 250,000 participant a day during COVID19 crisis and also hosted the biggest Kuwait universities online education platforms, some of the UAE primary schools online teaching and helped spreading awareness in Saudi Arabia toward open-source by managing a not-for-profit BigBlueButton based online teaching platform distributed now to the biggest non-profit organisations in the Arabic peninsula.
Ghazi grew RIADVICE technology stack 10 baremetal server to around 70 in the first week of COVID19 spread in, the third week of March 2020. Then reached the summit with around 173 servers in March 2021.
As a former Adobe Flex (Apache Flex) developer with strong development background, Ghazi combines the expertise development knowledge for PHP & Java (rare developers who can combine the 2 of them), Golang & Ruby.
He is also a big fan of automation and orchestration, love continuous integration tools like Jenkins and make them allies of his journey.
He told us how the platform is constantly evolving and improving through a dedicated, growing international user and developer community. Great news!
So, we’re really keen to talk to Ghazi about RIADVICE, Open Source Software, Digital Transformation as shown in the impressive features and benefits of the BigBlueButton.
Ghazi, let’s begin by you telling us more about RIADVICE:
Ghazi: Thank you. So, RIADVICE was founded back in 2013 to support customers with a wide range of cutting-edge technological solutions and are proud of the vast experience, and skills our software developers possess.
RIADVICE has encountered numerous challenging projects throughout the past years, and our team has managed to satisfy even the strictest customers within the telecoms, education, and scientific analysis, medical care, thus proving ourselves as a reliable and recognized offshore software development company.
At RIADVICE, we know we need a good understanding of your company organization to offer you top-quality, efficient IT solutions that evolves with your company’s needs. And these we have demonstrated with BigBlueButton as the Commercial Support Provider.
How did it come to be?
Ghazi replies: Yes, BigBlueButton started as graduation project for Filipina Student who went to Canada to finish his studies. In fact, it was birthed by the Technology Innovation Management (TIM) program at Carleton University’s Institute for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization in Ottawa, Canada, and was launched externally in 2007.
He found himself in an incubator programme where their test-kits were looked at and how they could become profitable. So, it started as the idea of providing online classes for students. So, Frederick Dixon, now the Project Manager for BigBlueButton, saw the need to starting a virtual classroom by simple pressing a single ‘big blue button’ and the name kind of stuck. At that time, BigBlueButton’s first version was built with open source technologies and the team thought okay, there was an opportunity here to provide a virtual classroom that would be available to anybody in the world through open source.
And at the time, there were many commercial web conferencing systems but there was nothing really designed for the classroom. I think open source for sure. So we thought okay, there will be a market. And if we focused on this market, entrepreneurial point of view, we would expect that universities would move gradually more online, the Internet will get faster, computers will get faster browsers and more powerful, and there would just be a slowly increasing demand for online classes.
So, from 2007 to 2014 and 2015, the team focused on integration with various learning management systems.
We wanted Ghazi to talk more about the features and also to learn a little bit more about the choice of open source:
Ghazi: Actually, till date, there have been more than a dozen releases of the core product, and each new release has seen the development of new features, testing and documentation as well as improved community support.
The focus is to constantly support teaching with improved, on-line tools that allow teachers to connect with students in ways that are synchronized, collaborative and fun.
Open Source Model is about sharing knowledge and empowering the Continent of Africa. With an open source more people will use it, the more they see the need and the global relevance, the product will be adopted around the world and companies that are providing services support hosting, traditional open source business model would be able to sell it for that market.
We have not done much marketing rather focused on building a product that solves the needs of a teacher. So, open source for us means being able to do things in the web with real time, low latency audio and video features that empowers teaching and learning.
We can guess what is on your mind now: With Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, Cisco Webex, etc., how is BigBlueButton a better virtual classrooms?
To Ghazi, the needs of a teacher are very much different than the needs of a manager. So, these products existed long before the pandemic and very few none of them focus on the efficient market. In other words, they were basically business application. They were team based application.
A teacher is trying to guide the students through a learning journey. And we think about what the students have to do you have to remember, recognise apply assess. It’s very much constructed constructivism which is what the basis of ‘Moodle’; you must interact with the students which is what the work of the teacher. There are things that you can do in a virtual classroom that you would probably not able to do with platforms like Zoom. You would require the differentiation, integration, engagement and analytics.
We were and remain passionate about making sure that users can access the platform on Mac, iPad, Android, iOS, Chromebook – keeping it simple.
As the chat continued we asked Ghazi about their experiences during the peak of COVID-19, and how indigenous technologies can help Africa leapfrog.
Ghazi: COVID-19 has actually demonstrated the need for Africa to intensify efforts towards indigenous technologies. You solve local problem with local solutions. That does not imply shutting the door against multinationals from other continents. However, when you have locally developed innovation the challenges associated with adoption will be minimized. This is why RIADVICE is proud about the work we have done with BigBlueButton which saw a spike in adoption during the peak of COVID-19.
Honestly, COVID-19 exposed the ill-preparedness of African countries with regards to infrastructure to deliver services in a pandemic of this nature. While schools were shut due to Covid-19, millions of African children in the rural areas were left with no infrastructure support to adopt eLearning like their counterparts in the urban centers. This has to be addressed.
We asked Ghazi to share his view about Open Source Software and why businesses in Africa should adopt the approach:
He said, though most people are far from realizing it, a good number of technologies in use today rely on open source software. Many of today’s phones, cars, and IoT devices use the open source Linux kernel operating system as well as over 60% of the world’s websites that run on Apache and Nginx web servers.
Kubernetes, an open source container orchestration system, has become the de facto standard for Linux container development. Furthermore, most of today’s public cloud workload runs on Linux.
Open source is everywhere, which is why it would come as no surprise that today global IT leaders are using enterprise open source for IT infrastructure modernisation, application development, and digital transformation.
In his words: “With Open Source you are sharing knowledge and helping the economy to grow”.
In all, your business can make success happen faster by taking the right step towards DevOps Adoption. This is one of the value services RIADVICE offers with BigBlueButton support included; and they are happy for it!