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Google Hangouts
GoToMeeting free

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. 


Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while calls to both traditional landline telephones and mobile phones can be made for a fee using a debit-based user account system. Skype has also become popular for its additional features which include instant messaging, file transfer, and video conferencing.

Skype has tremendous potential for classroom use, but much of that potential has yet be fulfilled. One of the greatest benefits of using Skype is that teachers can quickly and easily invite guests from all over the world to speak to their students. Additionally, social studies and foreign language teachers could use Skype to connect with classes in foreign countries and language arts teachers could connect with the authors of works they are reading. A science teacher could demonstrate a lab activity using Skype's video capability or invite a researcher to discuss latest developments in his/her field. 

Skype is a free software, however, to record your meetings and post them in your courses, you will need to purchase Evaer ($19.95).

Here are several examples of using Skype in online and physical classroom:


AnchorGoogle Hangouts

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:

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.



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

AnchorGoToMeeting Free

GoToMeeting is a web-hosted service created and marketed by the Online Services division of Citrix Systems. It is an online meeting, desktop sharing, and video conferencing software that enables the user to meet with other computer users, customers, clients or colleagues via the Internet in real time.

Citrix Systems recently released a free version of GoToMeeting that allows for simultaneous meetings of up to three people, with no log-in or user accounts necessary for anyone involved.Students may find this free tool helpful for group project discussions or other collaboration, and faculty members may find the tool excellent for one-on-one discussions with students or online office hours. You can access the free version of GoToMeeting at


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.

Updated on 7/26/17

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