We were delighted that Allan Thompson ( Lecturer, Podiatry) was able to lead this month’s Blended Learning Coffee Club meeting.
Allan has been using Google hangouts, and a google community with his _ students. This module is delivered fully online and Allan was looking for a simple and effective way to create more meaningful engagement with his (UK and international) students on a couple of modules he teaches on for the MSc Theory of Podiatric Surgery. After exploring a few options, including Skype, Allan decided to try using Google hangouts to run some online seminars. As Allan is working with small group sizes (under 10) Google hangouts limit of 10 video links works well.
Allan set up a Google+ community and invited students to join it. Resources, and information are shared there as well as on the module area with GCULearn. Once sessions end the recording is immediately available on YouTube (remember to set the status to unlisted) so again it can easily be embedded in the module area in GCU Learn. Allan noted that he felt more comfortable using a Google community than a Facebook group for learning and teaching activities. Perhaps less fuzzy edges than in Facebook? Students do have to set up google accounts to access the community, but so far his students haven’t had a problem with this. It was also great to hear (and see) an example of our new educational resources repository edShare being used to share diagnostic images.
As well as giving us a demo, Allan made this video outlining how he sets up and uses hangouts.
There was a lively discussion after the demo around the pros and cons of a number of web conferencing options from VSee, to Adobe Connect which we do have a number of institutional licences for. Having successful webinars is does involve a bit of a learning curve for staff and students a like and there are a number of practical issues that always have to remembered. Does everyone have a mic/webcam? Do students have the bandwith to connect – at home and/or at work? Over the next couple of months we will be rolling out the new Blackboard Collaborate Ultra conferencing system which will integrate with GCULearn. However we would still encourage people to investigate and use any technology that they think fits their needs. The only caveat is that if anything happens to an externally hosted service then it is up to them to fix it.
There are a plethora of free (at point of use) services out there. In fact only this week there has been a lively discussion on the ALT mailing list about a number of options including Appear.In which is an instant web video chat option for up to 8 people (more here in a short video from ALT’s Martin Hawkesy). Like everything decisions need to be based on your context – what you are wanting to achieve and how many students you are working with.
If you are interested in finding out more about Google Hangouts, Allan has kindly offered to share his experiences, so just drop him an email.
If you are using any other kind of webconferencing tools then please share your experiences in the comments.