Monday, 18 November 2013

Google Hangouts & Hangouts on Air

We are currently investigating alternative options for our paid-for video/web conferencing tool, we didn't have to look far to see what Google Hangouts could offer as each of us in the team use a fair amount of Google tools as it is. After experimenting with both Google Hangouts and Google's Hangouts on Air we were astonished with it's ease of use and feature sets.

For those who are unaware, Google Hangouts are private areas where communication can be purely text, multimedia or a video hangout which can be done with up to 10 people, all while being able to share desktops, collaborate on Google Drive documents and watch YouTube videos together. You can find out more using the link at the end of the post.

Google Hangouts on Air however allows the above to be publicly broadcast live from the hosts public profile with the added bonus of the whole video being archived direct to YouTube where people will always be able to access it for future reference. There are also added apps which are available for the on Air version, most to compliment the now 'live' status.

One of these feature's we'd like to focus on is the Q&A tool. This tool essentially allows the public, as long as they have a Google Account, to ask questions to the host/s of the hangout using a very simple interface. The user doesn't need to be invited and can't participate in the hangout discussion, however when a question has been asked it gets sent to the host of the hangout to review. Other users can also ask questions but also +1 other peoples questions, the highest rated questions climb to the top. The host can dictate what questions to answer and simply clicks the question when they are ready to answer it, once answered the host simply clicks 'Done' on the question and that's that, the question has been answered.

If you don't have a Google Account you can still access the live video feed and all of the questions, now here it gets really clever, the user can now click on any of the answered questions and the video will automatically skip to the relevant section in the video where that particular question was answered.
You can see below the publicly available Hangouts on Air we conducted to demo this simple but incredibly powerful feature.

And here you can see the view from Aaron who was asking the question.

The whole process from setting up a mock event, scheduling the Hangout, running the hangout and using the Q&A tool was incredibly simple.

After an initial install of a small plugin which is necessary for anyone hosting or participating in the video broadcast, there was little reliance on heavy technology (It was ran from a cheap small Chromebook, accessed on institution laptop, etc).

Once the hangout had finished it was automatically available for viewing within YouTube making an archive incredibly accessible to anyone. There wasn't a complex setting up of mics or webcams and there was zero clutter on the screen from tools or settings that weren't used. The interface was effective and really intuitive.

Hangouts at it's very basic level, with its quick and easy features, whether its text or video, would be a great communication tool for lecturers who want to use video conferencing for personal tutorials or support.

Plus what we have learned using Hangouts on Air we feel this would also cater brilliantly for Webinars, distance learning, group tutorials, knowledge bases, video FAQs, visiting lecturers and more besides.

If you would like to find out more about the benefits of Google Hangouts and Hangouts on Air, you can check this link -->

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