Despite the popularity of video conferencing software, a majority of which are free, educators have been slow adopters of using this technology in their online classrooms (Wankel, 2013). Video conferencing is inherently synchronous (synchronous learning refers to a group of people learning the same things at the same time in the same place), but with recording functions, it can become asynchronous tool. A lecture is an example of synchronous learning in a face-to-face environment and with the advent of web conferencing tools, people can learn at the same time in different places as well. For example, use of instant messaging or live chat, webinars and video conferencing allow for students and teachers to collaborate and learn in real time.
There are myriad of video conferencing tools that are designed around this basic functionality. Where they differ are additional features such as screen sharing, remote desktop, meeting recording, and a number of participants during a meeting etc. Some of the more prominent tools include Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Citrix GoToMeeting, Microsoft Lync etc.
Google Hangouts (quick intro) is a free instant messaging and video chat platform developed by Google. It replaces three messaging products that Google had implemented concurrently within its services, including Talk, Google+ Messenger, and Hangouts, a video chat system present within Google+. Like Connect and Skype, Hangouts is available on Android and iOS devices. Hangouts allows its users to:
- Hold group audio/video/text conversations between two or more users
- Share YouTube videos and images
- Screen sharing
- Live-stream with Hangouts On Air
Here are several examples of using Google+ in online and physical classroom:
- Intelligence2 uses Google Hangouts to produce their series of Oxford Debates, “Versus” https://www.youtube.com/user/versusdebates.
- Article from Online Universities: 18 Amazing Examples of G+ Hangouts in Education.
- A hangout hosted and produced by Barry Burkett, Twitter and Pedagogy: Using Twitter in the Classroom.
To use Google Hangouts, you and your students will need a free Google account. Once your account is set up, please follow these system requirements to start using Google Hangouts.
- Getting started with Google Hangouts (Google Resource)
- Getting started with Google Hangouts (YouTube video 1)
- Getting started with Google Hangouts (YouTube video 2)
- Using Your Webcam: Look and Sound Like a Pro
Zoom unifies cloud video conferencing, simple online meetings, group messaging, and a software-defined conference room solution into one easy-to-use platform. Read the Zoom FAQ. You can download Zoom from here.
Wankel, L. A., Wankel, C., & Blessinger, P. (2013). Increasing Student Engagement and Retention Using Multimedia Technologies : Video Annotation, Multimedia Applications, Videoconferencing and Transmedia Storytelling. Bradford: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Blackboard Collaborate is a powerful all-in-one platform that offers you an immersive human experience through your computer, tablet, or mobile device anywhere, anytime. A fully interactive web conferencing environment and asynchronous voice authoring capabilities allow for greater engagement so that you're not missing a thing.
You can use a robust tool set that allows you to web conference and connect with one student or your entire class. You and your students can collaborate using audio, video, and recording capabilities. You can also use private and public chat, a whiteboard, application sharing, a clip art library, and add and edit content at any time.
With Blackboard Collaborate, you aren't just replicating the face-to-face experience, you're adding a personal touch to online collaboration.
Resources for Educators:
- Bb Collaborate: Overview (8 mins, interactive)
- Bb Collaborate: Starting the session, Screen Sharing, and Session Recording (4 minutes, interactive)
- Bb Collaborate: Student-Led Group Discussions via Breakout Groups (3 minutes, interactive)
- Bb Collaborate: Student Consultations and Assignment Feedback (3 minutes, interactive)
- Blackboard Help-Collaborate Ultra Help for Moderators (BB Collaborate help link with common issues and popular pages)