I recently tried using Google Hangouts for the first time and found it to be a great way for students and teachers to engage and collaborate on course related topics. I teach ESL in an intensive English Program (IEP) at a private university in southern California. The students are predominantly from northeast Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. In a course on Personal Leadership Development, the students wanted to spend some time reviewing key concepts and ideas in preparation for and upcoming quiz; however, due to the tight schedule, we were unable to meet face to face, so I decided to try Google Hangouts for the first time. There are a host of ways teachers can use Google Hangouts, from being a forum for virtual book clubs, to collaborating with other students & teachers across the globe7 Ways to use Google Hangouts in the classroom. It so happened that the same students enrolled in the Personal Leadership Development class were also enrolled in a Research Project writing class in which I used Google Classroom as the learning management system (LMS). I mention this because students were able to easily add the Google Hangouts app to all their devices(laptops and smartphones).
Because we were strapped for time in terms of meeting face to face for a review, I invited the students to connect via Google Hangouts. After deciding on a mutually convenient time, we met on Google Hangouts, with the intention of spending an hour in which I would answer their questions as they prepared for the upcoming quiz. After a few minor connection glitches, all 5 of the students and myself were able to connect. The review went very well, and the students seemed a bit less stressed about the upcoming quiz, and even more confident in terms of their preparation. The students used the opportunity to not only inquire about concepts related to the Personal Leadership Development class, but also to ask questions related to upcoming assignments for the Research Project class as well.
As I reflect on my experience of using Google Hangouts for the first time, I think its potential use can serve to foster engagement, and collaborative learning. In my case, I found it helpful as a medium for review and helping students prepare for a quiz. Based on my initial experience with Google Hangouts, conducting virtual office hours with my students is one additional way I plan to use it is in the future.