Bellbird – A free video chat tool for teaching online lessons

I’m the CTO of Japan’s largest online English school, and I want to share some details of a free video chat tool we released this week that I think might be helpful to people conducting online classes.

Last year we created our own video chat system as a replacement for Skype. We built it because we wanted something simple, that didn’t require downloads, managing accounts, or adding contacts. But of course, it still needed all the features we wanted for teaching classes. So far, we've used our system in over 10,000,000 lessons and the feedback from students and teachers has been really positive.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic we've decided to release it publicly. It is completely free, so please check it out:

https://engoo.com/app/meeting

We're positioning it as a video chat tool that anyone can use, with a focus on easy sharing. But where it really shines is as an online teaching platform. It includes features like synchronized navigation, shared highlighting, and collaborative note taking which make teaching much easier. You can read more about some of the features here.

The tool is still a work in progress, and we will be making a bunch of improvements specifically targeting online teaching over the next few weeks (custom branding, curriculum uploads, pdf highlighting, crowd control tools, etc). But even now we think it might be a better option than Skype/Zoom/Hangouts for a lot of teachers. Here's why:

Pros:

  • Simple. Student’s don’t need to download anything or make new accounts. Just send them a lesson link via email, line, whatsapp, or however else you contact them.
  • Shared highlighting and navigation. Keep everyone literally on the same page when you share materials.
  • Private. The service is mostly p2p and we don’t record any audio or video data. Be careful of who you share links with though, as they give access to chat history.

Cons:

  • No notifications or call sounds. Students need to know when to join the lesson.
  • Our Logo/Url. Depending on how you are using it, you might not want your students to see this.
  • Designed for small group lessons. We recommend using it for a max of 6 people. Audio-only calls can handle many more.

Anyway, please check it out, and if you have questions/suggestions let me know. Also even if it's not what you're looking for, please help us by sharing it with anyone you think it might help.

Give Bellbird a go here.

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1 comment

  1. qirueisi

    |Author

    Thanks for posting this. I am also actively involved in operating an online English school.

    For a while we used Google Hangouts but it is simply too clunky. Back then you had to use YouTube to record any videos which just created extra steps. I think GH has become better, but still not up to par with other ones.

    Zoom works well for many things, but it can also be intimidating for our students/parents. Our parents/students are not technologically savvy necessarily so they find Zoom difficult to set up.

    I liked your software and it looks very simple to use. I also liked the artwork used as it is very welcoming. More power to you and your organization!

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