I am not an expert or even intermediate user of Google Hangouts, like my dear friend Janice Mansfield. However, I have used the Hangouts for mentoring chats, office houring, and chatting with colleagues across the continent. I have found that Google Hangouts are more effective for me than Skype, since ten people can sign in and it is still free. Yes, you read that correctly.
At Social Media Camp Victoria in June 2012 I attended Janice Mansfield’s talk, which was standing room only. I took notes and then was lucky enough to have a personal meeting with her and a trial run at a Hangout. (Full disclosure: Janice is a Google Plus Rockstar with more than 1.2 million followers). I have since shared those notes with different colleagues, who have also used Hangouts as means of team meetings or family chats.
I am a college professor and part of my duties includes advising students in the department. I am one of three on the advising team; however, I think most would agree that I spend more face time with students. The majority of this is conducted via face to face office hours; however, this year I added Google Hangouts as an option during the busy assignment weeks. This has allowed me to meet with more students and offer more flexibility between our respective schedules.
This social media platform offers me an additional opportunity to help and engage with my students. Sure, I have noticed that occasionally a student just wanted to chat about politics and not the course, but I easily moved our conversation back to the course assignment and any questions that she had regarding it. What Google Hangout offers me is the ease of meeting up with students and others at other times during the day.
The Google Hangouts have also made it easier for me to continue mentoring and coaching former students. I have had hangouts with a student who is now at the London School of Economics and our chat was really a coaching conversation. Frankly, I was thankful that years later he sought me out for coaching. I tell my students that there is no expiration date on mentoring or coaching and Google Hangouts has definitely made this easier!
I have also used Google Hangouts with people that I have never met in real life, but these chats have been useful to collaborate on a projects or to coach the other person through the last point in their project. If you are hoping to meet with people remotely, Google Hangout is the way to go. And, now, even I can give a basic primer about how to use it.