How to participate in the Institute’s on-line classes via Google Hangouts
The Institute hosts its on-line classes via the Google+ ‘Hangouts’ interface, which allows for group video / voice / text teleconferencing in which all students are able to see, hear and interact with all their instructors and fellow students in a good on-line approximation of a classroom experience. The first time you attend such a class, you will need to plan for additional time before the session begins, in order to download the necessary software, install it and ensure it is operating correctly on your computer. This document explains the process for doing so, and for preparing for your on-line classes.
(Note: This document provides instructions and technical guidance on attending and participating in our live classes; a different document outlines the formal expectations of participation and assessment methods for these classes.)
What you will need:
There is no cost involved in downloading or using this free Google service; all that is required of you is the following:
- You must be on-line, with a reliable internet connection
- You must be using a computer that has audio / video capabilities (using your computer’s internal microphone will work, but the audio quality is generally better if you use earbuds/microphone, etc.)
- You must have the Google+ Hangouts software installed and configured on your computer.
How to download, install and configure the Hangouts software:
It is important that you take the following steps well before your on-line class, as they may take you up to 30 minutes to download and install the software, based on your internet connection speed.
In order to set up Google+ Hangouts on your computer:
- If you do not already have Google+ Hangouts installed on your computer, please visit http://www.google.com/hangouts/ to install it (the software is available as a free download for most computer platforms, as well as many mobile devices; though for the sake of reliability and a larger interface, we recommend you use a laptop or desktop computer for our classes, rather than a mobile device).
- Please note that on some devices (e.g. Apple computers), usage of Google+ Hangouts may require using Google’s web browser software, Chrome. This is also available as a free download, and Google will prompt you to download it if it is required for your computer or operating system.
- Once the software is downloaded and installed on your computer or device, enter the Google+ Hangouts system to ensure that it is operational. Ideally you should use the same e-mail address as we have on file for you at the Institute, so that we can add you automatically; however, if you already have a Google/Google+ e-mail address that is different, you may wish to use this instead, for easier integration with the Hangouts system — please simply let us know.
- You will only need to go through this download-and-installation process before your first class. Once the software is installed, you won’t have to repeat these steps for future classes.
How to participate in your on-line class:
Once you have the Google+ Hangouts software installed and operating on your computer, attending one of the scheduled classes for your Institute module is simple, and the environment very user-friendly. Simply follow these steps to attend your class:
- About fifteen minutes before the scheduled beginning of your class, sign into the Institute’s web site and go to the VLE Resource Suite for your module.
- Within the VLE Resource Suite, scroll down to the announcement of the class (usually, these are listed with green headers, to make them obvious). Within the announcement, you will find a link to the video classroom for the class. It generally will look something like this:
- Click on the link to be taken to the Google Hangouts room/call for your class, which will normally open in a new window (depending on your browser / OS).
- If you are not already logged into the Google Hangouts system, you may be prompted to log into that system before you can access the room. If this is the case, follow Google’s prompts to log in with the account details you used when you first set up Hangouts on your system. If you are not then automatically taken to the room/call for your class, go back to the VLE and follow the link again, and you should be taken directly to the call.
- Note: When you first arrive in the Google Hangout for the class, the system may mute your microphone by default. If this is the case, click the small microphone icon on the upper right-hand corner of the interface to un-mute it. If you still have problems, click the small gear icon, to ensure that your system is configured to use your correct microphone and headsets, etc.
Some tips and etiquette for on-line classes:
Attending an on-line class is not dramatically different from a session held in a traditional classroom, but there are a few tips that will help things go smoothly for you and your fellow students:
- Please try to arrive in the classroom environment at least five minutes before the start time of the class. Classes begin promptly at the scheduled start time, and it can be disruptive to have students entering the interface once the lesson or conversation has begun.
- You’ll see thumbnail videos of all participants along the bottom of the screen. The Google Hangouts system will normally switch your main view (the larger, central video) automatically to whoever is speaking; but you can also manually switch to any participant’s feed by clicking on their thumbnail at any time – they will then take ‘centre stage’ on your display.
- If you’d like to speak, whether to ask a question or to make a comment, please raise your hand. Really. The instructor will see you and call on you, just like you remember from school.
- In order to prevent sound feedback from multiple microphones and speakers, it is sometimes best to keep your microphone muted unless you are actually speaking – this also helps control against background noise. Muting and un-muting your microphone only takes a single click of the microphone icon in the upper right-hand portion of the Hangouts interface; so as a general practice keep it on mute until you want to speak.
- You can also type text in the chat-section of the interface, found along the right-hand side of the screen, which is always live and can be used at any time – just remember that all participants see what is typed there. This is a particularly useful feature for instructors to provide vocabulary terms, links to on-line content, etc.