Using Google Hangouts to Bring in Guest Speakers

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This post was originally published on Heather Ross’s blog on February 28, 2014.

I’m considering myself very fortunate that I’m the instructor for Introduction to Learning Technologies. I get to meet with students in the blended cohort. I get to communicate with participants in both groups through email, Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and a couple of weeks ago I got to sit down and have a Google Hangout with John Boyer, a geography professor at Virginia Tech. He’s done some amazing things with learning technologies in his World Regions course.

I started following John some time ago on Twitter and he was kind enough to respond to my tweets and follow me back. While planning this course I got it in my head that he would make a great guest speaker. During initial planning I thought that I could bring him in through Skype to chat with the students in the blended cohort during one of our face-to-face sessions, but then we decided to offer the course as a TOOC so I had to come up with an alternative.

In early 2013 I took a MOOC on Gender Through Comic Books through Ball State with Christina Blanch as the instructor. Every week she brought in guest speakers to this online class using Google Hangouts. This allowed the sessions to be live, open and recorded for viewing later. Students were able to watch the sessions live from wherever they happen to be and send in questions to the speaker through Twitter (questions could have been emailed to the instructor ahead of time as well).

I asked John if this would be acceptable to him (the live, open and recorded part) and he was all for it. We did a test on the Friday before our live session on Monday February 10. John had his technical advisor Katie at his side and all went well for the test, which thankfully was the story for the live session as well.

I received a couple of questions from students through email before hand and the Twitter stream (the course hashtag is #ilt_usask) was a buzz with questions for John that I relayed to him during our hour long chat so that he didn’t need to watch Twitter. He was gracious, insightful, funny and I can completely understand why he literally has thousands of students wanting to take his course.

Everything worked perfectly with only a few second delay between our conversation and what others were seeing live. The link for the live stream automatically became the link for the recording which meant that I didn’t need to make any changes once I initially posted it.

As I was setting up my laptop in our unit’s boardroom, Ryan Banow reminded me that I should use an ethernet cable to hardwire my Internet connection instead of relying on wireless. This is very good advice if you’re going to live stream a Hangout. Also, I picked the boardroom for the quite and used headphones to reduce chances of feedback from my laptop’s speakers.

Overall, this was an amazing experience for me and have heard only positive feedback from those who have watched it. You can view the entire recording below. If you have any questions about how I did this or the course in general, please don’t hesitate to contact me.