Google Plus (Google+) is a social collaboration tool that lets you both collaborate and network with others. While originally designed as a social networking tool, the extensive feature set of Google Plus, particularly the Hangouts tool, has made it useful for educators and students in enhancing online collaboration.
- Circles - lets users organize their friends (or classmates) into smaller groups. This is particularly useful for organizing contacts into different classes and sections.
- Hangouts - web conferencing tool that lets you video chat, collaborate on shared documents, share your screen with others, and view YouTube clips together while carrying a discussion at the same time.
- Stream - a news feed for Google Plus. When you choose to put someone in your circle, their activity (posts that you have access to) will appear in this central area. Similar to a Facebook News Feed.
- Search - allows users to search content and users on Google Plus.
- Instant Upload - connects to a user's phone, automatically uploads any photos they take to a private album on Google Plus.
- Messenger - allows messages to be sent (via mobile) among groups.
- Google Plus Pages - allows for the creation of pages for groups, businesses and organizations.
Using Google Plus in Higher Ed
There are many different ways Google Plus could be used among students, faculty and staff in higher education.
Uses for faculty:
- Use circles to organize students and TAs by class. Post external supplements and share them with their respective class circles (links to news stories, sources for web tools).
- Share lecture material online and have students conduct group discussions on course material with Hangouts.
- In addition to "office hours", have "online meeting hours": a designated time when you will be online and available on Hangout. Hangout can provide a more flexible option for conferencing (and 2-10 users at a time allow for group conferences) as well as more informal drop-in questions and meetings.
- Hangouts can also be a great tool for online learning. Often times in online courses, students and professors go through an entire course without ever seeing/meeting each other. Hangouts can put faces to names and connect people within a course.
- Use the Hangouts feature as an alternative to bringing in a guest speaker or panel to the classroom. Save time and money.
Uses for students:
- Connect with classmates, separate them by course. Easily allows students to connect with individual classmates, or the group as a whole. By using Hangouts, you can easily collaborate with up to ten other classmates and share files/videos with each other.
- If you belong to a club or group that can't seem to find a meeting time that works for everyone, have some members video in via webcam from wherever they are on Hangouts.
- Communicate better with members of your group. Any student with a UW NetID can sign up for Google Plus using their UW Google Apps account.
- Tutor or be tutored by other students by using Hangouts to share files or let others see your computer screen or files or webcam!
Uses for academic staff & administration
- Publicize or stream campus events in real time using Hangouts (career fairs, transfer fairs, etc).
- Conduct group meetings and minutes using Hangouts to reduce the need to reserve rooms or carry files across campus.