It is no secret that I am a Google+ fan. This is mainly because Google Hangouts is hands down my favorite multi-party video chat client. This past summer I integrated Google+ into the hybrid online course for which I was a teaching assistant. While I was teaching mostly online, Google+ could be a nice support for face-to-face courses as well. Here are my top three favorite ways to use Google+ in online teaching:
- Set up a Google+ page for your class: Pages were originally conceived for businesses and brands, but there's no reason not to set one up for a course. I merely followed the instructions and voila! I had a Google+ page for my course. The nicest aspect of setting up a page is that you can then use Google+ as the page (similar to Facebook) and set up Hangouts, which allows you to interact with students and create circles just as you do as an individual. This allowed me to announce course information, share useful URLs, and schedule office hours (more on that below) without cluttering up my personal feed. In addition, the course information can be shared privately only with those students in the course.
- Use Google+ Events to schedule virtual office hours: Google+ offers a brand new service called Events. Setting up an event is easy: just set the date and share with a circle. They even have these fantastic .gifs to make your Event look extra special. But what takes the cake is the Event features integration with Google Hangouts: Events will automatically generate a link for a Hangout and add the date and time for that Hangout to Google Calendar. All an invitee has to do is indicate that he or she wants to attend, and Google does the rest, reminders and all. Magic.
- Use Google+Hangouts on Air to record and archive office hours on YouTube: Google Hangouts on Air are the best. Not only do you have all of the functions of a regular Hangout, but the Hangout will "broadcast" live in the feed, much like UStream. After the Hangout is finished, the archived recording is automatically archived on YouTube for sharing later. This is the feature we used most in my course this summer, and the students who couldn't make the scheduled sessions were very happy with the archives. I also coupled the recording with a brief written summary of the session that was shared via email or on the Google+ course page.
BONUS FEATURE: In case you've never participated in a Google Hangout, my favorite feature is the ability to 'dress up' through graphic overlays that move with your image on the screen. Nothing brings a much needed dose of levity to a stressful discussion of due dates and assignments like a goofy costume.
Have you used Google+ in your courses? Do you have experience using any other programs or websites that have improved your online teaching experience? Let us know in the comments below!