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+, particularly the Hangouts tool, has made it useful for educators and students in enhancing online collaboration.

Key Features

  • 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
    News feed for Google+. 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+.
  • Instant Upload
    Connects to a user's phone, automatically uploads any photos they take to a private album on Google+.
  • Messenger
    Allows messages to be sent (via mobile) among groups.
  • Google+ Pages
    Allows for the creation of pages for groups, businesses and organizations. 

Using Google+ in Higher Ed

There are many different ways Google+ 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+ 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.