Google+ offers two new ways to interact with your friend, colleagues, or anyone in your circles: Google+ Hangout which is a video chat application and Google+ Hangout with Extras which allows for the video and text-based chat as well as document and screen sharing and a shared online whiteboard. At it’s most basic the Hangout is much like Skype. Unlike Skype, you can video chat with 10 people at one time. You can create a Hangout that is public, where anyone can come in, or you can open it up to specific circles or individuals.
What makes Google+ Hangout special is the “extras” section. It’s a little hidden but once you know how to activate this feature you will find it a much more robust tool for academic use. The extras include:
- 10 video chat feed.
- desktop screen sharing from any of the 10 computers.
- collaborative and shared whiteboard space.
- shared notes area.
- the ability to share any file from within the users’ Google Docs area.
This is a truly collaborative space. Any of the 10 participants may share their desktops, write on the whiteboard and type in the notes area.
The great part is that when the session is over all of the participants continue to have access to the shared documents as well as the whiteboard and notes area created during the session. This feature makes this great for group work, tutoring sessions, or even small, synchronous online classes.
There are some drawbacks. As with any video chat application it works best when hardwired to the internet, not wireless. It will work on a wireless network but the screen sharing and video will not be as smooth. Be aware that individual student’s network speed will affect the usefulness of this tool. It is also not very good on the iOS devices. I didn’t have an opportunity to test it on an Android device.
To Activate Google+
If you’d like to test it out just activate Google+ in your CofC Google account. Log into your Google Apps account, click on More, then Even More and click on Google+ under the Social category. You will need to fill out some profile information and click Upgrade, then just follow the prompts until you reach Finish. Note: you can Skip or Continue Anyway during the entire set of prompts. You do not have to add this to any contacts lists.
To create a Hangout with Extras:
- In Google+ click on Start a hangout from the right side of the Google+ window.
- Click on the Mic and Camera to toggle them on and off.
- Click on Your Circles to add circles to your Hangout.
- Click on Add more people to add individuals to your Hangout.
- If you want a VIDEO ONLY chat click Hang out.
- If you want the EXTRAS click Hangouts with extras.
- At the next window click on Try Hangouts with extras.
- In the next window you can name your hangout under Hangout name. You are also given another opportunity to add circles or individuals by clicking on Add circles or people to share with…
- Click Start hangout.
Google+ Hangout is available to some degree on the iPhone/iPad and Android devices. On iOS devices you can only participate in the video chat and see the screensharing. You can’t see or participate in the notes, Doc sharing or the whiteboard.
If you are interested in testing this before implementing contact your Instructional Technologist and we’ll be happy to test with you.