Education On Air: Google Hangouts and the Collaborative Postsecondary Environment
Google Hangouts is a web and video conferencing tool that allows for synchronous communication and provides a platform for group collaboration. Google Hangouts is built around video chat, integrating many of the Google tools used in the modern workplace (including Google Drive) and enhancing collaborative capabilities with desktop sharing and an application programming interface (API) for third-party application integration.
Google Hangouts is great for collaborating with colleagues at a distance in many different ways. First, the sharing properties of Google Drive allows for the real-time sharing of documents within Google. Second, Hangouts also enables the sharing of any application on a user’s desktop, making collaborating with non-Google tools a breeze. For example, colleagues working together at a distance to create a Prezi presentation—using outlines and notes in Google Docs while screen sharing through Google Hangouts—can focus their efforts on the creation of a presentation in an efficient manner. Additionally, based on experience, distractions are minimized when users’ desktops become one focused, interactive and shared workspace.
The user interface is simple and allows for quick adoption of the technology. Interestingly, it is also great for collaborating with colleagues face-to-face (F2F). In F2F environments (surprisingly), working collaboratively can be challenging, but these tools make it a lot easier. No more looking over your neighbor’s shoulder at the computer screen, no more waiting for your colleague to finish a thought before adding your own two-cents. Instead you can view any Hangout member’s desktop through the screen share tool on each of your own laptops separately and synchronously.
Additionally, Hangouts On Air allows you to take Google Hangouts one step further and broadcast the session via Google+ or YouTube, or embed it on any website you choose. When using Hangouts on Air the produced video is automatically recorded and saved to your YouTube channel.
At the University of Wyoming, we are using Hangouts On Air to broadcast live faculty professional development opportunities for distance educators, as well as diversity events, such as the Shepherd Symposium on Social Justice. Google Hangouts allows us to capture a video of the speaker with a live stream of their desktop. This allows remote participants to hear the presenter as well as follow along with live technology demonstrations. We learned we could easily embed the live stream of the event on any webpage, exactly like we would a Youtube video. This allows an unlimited number of participants to watch the live stream, while the Hangout itself is limited to ten participants.
In sum, Hangouts is a feature-rich alternative to web-conferencing that brings together easy-to-manage audio and video, the best of Google applications, and third party extensions, which results in a low learning curve for users and a productive, collaborative experience. Hangouts On Air allows users to easily stream and share engaging events, promoting future viewing and distribution. Google Hangouts will continue to enhance local and global communication for users who embrace this technology, and it has tremendous potential in the higher education sector.
Author Perspective: Educator