Google Hangouts

Categories: Video conferencing/ Online communication
Availability: Browser, iOS, Android
Uses: Communication, Collaboration, Feedback, Peer Learning, Problem-based Learning

What is it?
Google+ Hangouts is a free video conferencing tool available as part of Google’s online suite of software. Google+ Hangouts provides a quick way of communicating with friends, colleagues and students through video, audio or text and offers additional features such as screen sharing and the ability to make phone calls. Google+ Hangouts is a useful tool for staff and students, for presentations or collaborative tasks.

Google+ Hangouts has a maximum limit of 15 participants per session but this often addressed by conducting smaller group sessions or using Hangouts on Air through YouTube Live (more on this below).

How can I use it?
Google+ Hangouts can be used to hold video calls with students to facilitate presentations, issue feedback, demonstrate a piece of software or to answer questions outside of class time (for instance, announce a set time that you will be online to answer questions on an upcoming exam or topic). Google+ Hangouts can also be used to invite a guest speaker to address your class remotely and allow your students to engage in a discussions with the speaker.

For students, Google+ Hangouts is particularly effective to facilitate peer learning and problem-based learning, to encourage collaboration and communication with peers. Students can use Google +Hangouts to hold discussions as part of a study group or within a group project to develop ideas and share resources.

To get started using Google+ Hangouts:

  • Log in to your Google+ account or sign up for a free account.
  • Go to and click the video icon to make a new video call.
  • You will be asked to invite people to your call, search your contacts to find the people you would like to join, add their email addresses or get the shareable link and email this to the group of participants.
Users who do not have a Google account can still be invited to the call as an observer but will not be able to use the additional features such as the text chat or other Google apps (from the full suite of offerings).

You can extend and record a video chat session by using a feature called Hangouts On Air through YouTube Live:

  • Go to Live Streaming Events
  • Create New Live Event (you may need to enable streaming on your account by undertaking a quick verification)
  • Select Quick (using Hangouts on Air)
  • Give your stream a title
  • To control access to your session, choose the privacy setting for your broadcast. Unlisted allows anyone with a link to access the session while private is invitation only - more details here. 
  • Click Go live now or enter details to schedule your video chat session for a later date/time.
    When the video session opens you can click the menu button (3 dots) on the left to add apps to extend your session, e.g. whiteboard app

Why should I use it?
Google+ Hangouts allows you to communicate and collaborate with peers, colleagues and students online in a variety of formats. Specifically, Hangouts also offers the following features:

  • Collaborative - Hangouts make collaboration easy by incorporating video, text chat and screen sharing to facilitate a collaborative online environment.   
  • Archive - Hangouts has an archive feature where text chats are archived and searchable in the Gmail inbox, and call histories for video and phone calls are also saved (although the call itself is not archived unless using Hangouts on Air through YouTube Live).
  • Mobile friendly - Hangouts, as with other Google products in the suite, is mobile friendly with an app available for iOS and android.  
  • Scheduling - Hangouts integrates with Google Calendar allowing you to schedule video calls and invite participants from your calendar.
  • Extending - Apps such as whiteboards and the other Google products (Docs, Sheets, Slides) can be easily integrated with Hangouts to extend its benefits and increase its power as a truly collaborative, synchronous tool for the classroom. 

Top Tips
If you use Hangouts on Air through YouTube Live your video session will be automatically saved to your YouTube account where you can make edits and share the video with your students or colleagues later if you wish.
It is recommended that if students are using this feature they first understand the privacy settings in YouTube (link here) to avoid class work being broadcast publicly. For group projects, private sessions where each group member is invited by email should be sufficient for their needs. 

Another recommendation is to connect your audio equipment (speakers/ headphones/ microphone) and camera prior to starting a Hangout and run a test before your scheduled session to ensure all audio and video equipment is working correctly. 

Where can I find it?
Unless otherwise stated, all reviews and recommendations are solely those of the Department of Technology Enhanced Learning team and do not reflect the views or opinions of any organisation, including Cork Institute of Technology. The Department is not responsible for any inappropriate, offensive or illegal content viewed or accessed through the tools and products reviewed.