Google+ is the social networking component of the Google suite. Features include real-time chat and video conferencing, and asynchronous communication through the G+ wall, in G+ Communities and Pages. One of the RMIT guiding principles for inclusive teaching is to “Offer flexible assessment and delivery”, and these Google features can support this. The availability of iOS, Android and Windows apps make these tools accessible to most students with a smartphone.
Using Google+ for mobile learning
G+ supports communication of text, images, videos, links to websites and Drive files, organised in Collections, Communities, Pages and Hashtags. One of the major benefits of using G+ is that it’s easily accessed from a mobile device, through the Apple, Android, and Windows phone and tablet apps. The G+ mobile application can enable learning and assessment activities away from a desktop environment, such as on a work placement, in the field, or whenever an activity is “on-the-go”.
While G+ allows people to post publicly or privately, G+ Communities create a dedicated space for course groups to communicate specifically with each other. G+ Communities have been used for this purpose by a number of courses and programs across the College of Design and Social Context.
Considerations for using Google+ Communities
Before implementing a G+ Community:
- Consider whether or not there is a chance that you may want to include people outside RMIT. This might be people from industry, prospective students, alumni or other guests into the Community. If this is likely (and we hope it is for the majority) then you may need to consider setting up the community as “unrestricted”, or outside the RMIT domain. You cannot change this setting later. For information on how to do this, see our guide on setting up communities (RMIT login required).
- Decide if the community needs to be public or private. Public means anyone can join in, private means people have to be accepted in or invited. You cannot change this setting later.
- If you expect people to use their RMIT Google accounts to participate, allow some lead time to facilitate the opt-in process. The Google+ bundle of tools are available to staff and student RMIT accounts, but you must opt-in and accept the terms of service to enable these features on an RMIT account.
- Test out the mobile apps. The mobile accessibility of the apps is incredibly powerful with Communities, but some features (such as the links you can add to a Community description, and the ability to search within a Community) are not available with all apps versions. Have a look at these before you roll them out.
Video-based teaching with Hangouts on Air
Video Hangouts is a video conferencing a feature of Google+, and has its own app for mobile. A Video Hangout is just a video, voice and/or text message conference call, it is not recorded. A Hangout on Air is a live broadcast of that video to a Youtube channel, with a recording left after the live event. Hangouts on Air can be made for a private audience.
Many people in the College of Design and Social Context are using Hangouts on Air to make screen recordings, instructional videos, mini lectures, panel discussions and interviews to video.
Hangouts on Air requires a Youtube account, and so is not currently available through an RMIT Google account. If you want to use Hangouts on Air you will need to use an external account for the entire process. However, you can create a G+ Page that is managed both by your RMIT account and your external account (including your colleagues), and that Page has its own Youtube channel. This way you can keep your personal account separated from your teaching account if necessary.
For more information on using Hangouts on Air, check out our other blog posts on the topic.
For how-to instructions and examples of using Communities, see the Youtube playlist below. (To see all the items in the Playlist, click the icon in the top left corner of the video player.)
Image ‘Barack Obama Hangout’ from Wikimedia Commons. This image is in the public domain.