Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Google+ Hangouts On Air for Education

Hangouts On Air enabled
Well, in the last few days, Google have been opening up the 'Hangouts On Air' facility within Google+.  What this means is that you now get the opportunity to stream your hangout live and have it recorded on YouTube - which is fantastic.

However... though I think Hangouts On Air for education could work well for sessions you want to be completely open - webinars are a prime example...  wherever you want your students to engage and discuss things in an honest, open - and sometimes vulnerable way... I'm not sure that the recording / streaming of a Hangout On Air outweighs the potential barrier that lack of privacy while the hangout is live would present.

Equally, it's also worth thinking about your institutional policy on the openness of your teaching? Does your institution allow you to broadcast to the rest of the world?  That's going to impact on this too... and is important to bear in mind!

Here are a few of the 'early days' pros and cons... am happy to be corrected / have others add things to this list.  It'll be interesting to see Hangouts On Air develop as a product and to see what Google prioritise...

  • Easy to use
  • Free
  • Readily available if you have Google Apps enabled for the campus
  • Can stream live to YouTube and reach a global audience
  • Can invite specific people to take part live - but have to do this ahead of going 'On Air'
  • Can share apps within the hangout (as with normal hangouts)
  • Recording made of the hangout which can be downloaded from YouTube
  • Can control visibility of YouTube video after the event
  • Can embed video within an institutional VLE
  • Can create screencasts using a Google+ Hangout On Air - you don't need an audience to hang out
  • Can edit the recording using YouTube's video editor - including annotation, closed captioning 
  • Can take advantage of Creative Commons licensing within YouTube for the resulting video

Copyright notice / participation agreement
on entering a Hangout On Air
  • Cannot limit the audience on YouTube when streaming - it's either public or public
  • There are extensions on Chrome which will allow people to 'find' your Hangout On Air easily too - and which further publicises your hangout and diminishes any privacy
  • Cannot share resources for which you don't have permission / have the copyright
  • Difficult to moderate comments on YouTube whilst running the session
  • Because when it's live on YouTube it's public, random strangers can comment on your Hangout On Air
  • Learners might be put off participating because of the public nature of the Hangout
  • You can't kick someone out of a Hangout - only block them
  • If the URL of the Hangout On Air is shared then anyone with the URL can join even if they weren't invited
  • As the broadcaster, you have to take responsibility for others copyright infringements

Useful further resources:

More on Copyright in Hangouts On Air

Commons questions about Hangouts On Air

Hangouts On Air - Terms of Service

Final thought:

Hangout On Air live and public on a Google+ stream
I think that Google+ Hangouts which you can limit to very specific groups - circles and individuals (or even an institution) will be a more comfortable informal learning environment for now... unless Google allow a finer control of the live audience for Google+ Hangouts On Air.  The advantage of built in recording and integration with Google Apps sites really makes Hangouts On Air a very attractive teaching tool... but since part of learning is about admitting what you don't know and experiencing failure - I think that having a 'safe' environment in which that can take place is vital.  Google+ Hangouts On Air aren't that space at present while Google+ Hangouts can be.

It takes a brave person to learn in public.  It takes an *extremely* brave person to learn in front of a potentially global audience!


  1. In that case, how do you explain The X factor?
    Or don't they ever learn?

    1. I think you've answered your own question!

      Actually though, I don't believe that people use the X Factor as a learning vehicle. They may learn along the way, but they go on that because they believe they're already a 'product'.

      I guess a comparison is with the lecture environment. How many students never ask a question in front of their peers *because* they have to ask it in front of their peers? That was the gap in the market for electronic voting systems - anonymity of contribution. With a Google Hangout On Air, learning isn't just taking place in a physical environment but in a global, public virtual one - that's a whole different ball game. Especially if your stumbling attempts to learn are potentially there for public viewing and out of your control. Digital footprint anyone?

  2. Thanks for this excellent summary Sarah. Leon Cych and I also did a test run this morning ... we must belong in the *extremely* brave person to learn in front of a potentially global audience" category...!

    It was quite interesting to see what worked and what didn't in our test. I think agree the Copyright issue will be fundamental and will have implications for the using the screensharing feature - interestingly YouTube / docs can be broadcast.

    Another couple of Pros - the opportunity to licence the recording under CC and also the facility to add annotations. Think the Remix feature has a lot of potential.

    Early days I think, but nonetheless very encouraging

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