What is a Google+ Hangout? A Hangout is a video group chat in Google+ for up to 10 people. If you click “Hangouts with extras” when you start a Hangout, you will see that it has a whole lot more power then just a Web chat feature. (Figure 1) In fact, it’s very close to the power of the best online meeting websites. For very small classes, this might be a good alternative to expensive online meeting Websites
Figure 1. Google+ Hangouts with extras offers a lot of capability – for free!
Here are six ways you might use Google+ Hangouts for online education:
To share your screen, all you have to do is click “Share screen” at the top. Then you can share a window or your entire screen. (Figure 2) This is a great feature for teaching software so your students can see exactly how you are doing something.
Figure 2. Screen sharing is very easy to launch, and you have your choice of what to share.
Notes & Google Document collaboration
You can add a note to the chat or you can open up a shared Google document. This is a very powerful tool for meetings, collaboration, and training. Let’s say you want to talk to an online student about her term paper. You could open up the paper and go line by line while you are seeing and talking to each other.
The Sketch Pad feature allows you to draw within the chat window in case you want to get creative or need to whiteboard ideas.
Circles could be classes
You can invite people through e-mail or circles. If you grouped all of your students into classes, you could invite an entire class in seconds. (If you invite more than nine people besides yourself, when ten people are in the Hangout, the latecomers will receive a message that the Hangout is full.)
Training that requires personal one-on-one
Hangouts would be great for language, arts, music, and many other subjects that require personal interaction with an instructor.
The Hangout API allows developers to integrate Hangouts into their own Web apps. How useful would it be if your LMS integrated Hangouts into your course room?
What Hangouts does not do
Hangouts does not have a way, by default, to record and play back the meetings. As far as I can tell you cannot schedule a meeting through Hangouts.
If seeing, hearing, or sharing with your online students could help the learning process, then Google+ Hangouts could be a great, engaging venue for your students. Considering that many students use Social Media as one of the primary ways to communicate, this might be a way to better engage younger generations.
Have you used Hangouts in your online education? Do you think Hangouts are good or bad for online education?