Using Google+ hangouts for on-line tutorials...The University has just added Google+ to its suite of Google Apps, and it seemed like a great opportunity to try out using a Google+ Hangout for a tutorial. There's tons of stuff out there extolling the virtues of the web as an educational amplifier (start with Sal Khan's TED talk), and plenty of skepticism. What is clear is that students can't be served up the same dross lectures with dreadful lists of bullet points; lectures to inspire, sure; lectures to give keynote and signposting, sure; but lectures to pass across content - no more! So lectures simply have to be excellent. Why would a student attend lectures in a local university when they can take them from MIT or Oxford? Of course, the reverse applies - there may well be lecturers at our University who are brilliant, and would attract an international audience.
Lectures also provide the opportunity for academics to meet with students, and form intellectual connections with them. A corollary of not having tons of local lectures, in my view, is that we must provide the opportunities for small group teaching - tutorials by another name. Hence the interest in using Hangouts, and this post detailing the n=1 experience.
I used a low-end Wacom tablet and the free SketchBook Express software as a whiteboard. I didn't need the shared whiteboard, just a place to write and draw where the students could see, so just shared the SketchBook window.
I started on my MacBook Air and quickly found that the screen size limited interaction with the students, so added a second screen and things improved dramatically - don't think the second screen would be needed on a big screen.
The other issue encountered was etiquette - people not speaking need to mute their microphones, otherwise the background noise from 10 participants drowns out the communication. Students put their hands up to get attention, and then turn their mike on when notified by tutor. I really cannot emphasis the etiquette / protocol thing enough - without it, a lot of time is wasted on "crowd control".
I'd have to say that the overall experience was good - it remains to develop a "booking process" so students can book into a scheduled hangout... I'll update with some thoughts on this next time, as well as some student reaction.