Working and Learning Remotely with Zoom & Google Hangouts
As companies, schools, colleges and universities pack up to work from home amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of remaining connected while working from home has become an unexpected essential priority.
Zoom and Google Hangouts are just two of the online tools available to those looking to retain a steady flow of communication with their peers, colleagues and – in the case of education – students, with both platforms coming with their own merits and pitfalls.
Building and efficient virtual team
While it is undoubtedly a growing trend, the vast majority of employees in the UK are unlikely to be accustomed with working remotely.
Alongside the inevitable struggles of remaining motivated, sticking to routine and effectively managing a healthy work-life balance (not to mention the snacking!), the first cause of concern for most will be the ability to keep up the same level of communication as comes naturally in a more traditional setting.
Zoom offers online solutions to everything from business meetings to informal communication, allowing organisations to conduct their usual discussions via HD video, audio calls and text chats from both desktop and mobile.
According to Forbes, the popular video conferencing tool recently experienced its largest daily download total in history, with more than 340,000 employers, employees, teachers and lecturers flocking to Zoom to ensure that normality resumes – or at least, as much as that’s possible.
Zoom allow up to 1,000 participants to conference remotely at one time, with users able to join a meeting by simply clicking the link in their invitation (Note: For first-time users, this will trigger a download for the Zoom app, which is necessary in order to join a call).
For this with limited access to WiFi or the relevant hardware to conference online, you are also able to dial-in to a meeting via phone using the number provided in your invitation.
Users can also integrate their meetings with other similar apps and services, notably Facebook Workplace, Skype for Business, Outlook and a range of Google services like calendar and Google Drive.
From conducting one-to-one appraisals on an encrypted voice or video call to using the Zoom whiteboard and custom polls to brainstorm your next big idea, there are several ways in which an organisation can make the most of working at home with this video conferencing service.
Using Zoom for education
There are 2 ways of delivering a virtual class on Zoom: teaching live (synchronous) or recording a class (asynchronous).
Teaching live on Zoom is easy to do, particularly if your school or university operates a Learning Management System (like Blackboard or Schoology). Zoom classes can be set up in advance to allow students quick and easy access to your lesson, as and when it goes live. Simply share the link for your Zoom class somewhere on the LMS where students can easily access it, or share the details of the class via email, calendar or online chat (this is a great idea if you have specific instructions which you’d like students to follow before the class takes place).
One of the key benefits of teaching live on Zoom is that students can ask and respond to questions in real-time both through voice chat and text, while the host of the class also has the power to mute, rename and disable the video feed of any attendee.
Recording classes via Zoom is another great option for those looking to deliver a class online. These classes can be pre-recorded and distributed via an LMS or email, along with any relevant instructions such as assignment deadlines or reading material.
As well as using the platform for learning purposes, schools, colleges and universities are able to use Zoom to conduct regular briefings and assemblies to share any important information they may have, or host conferences to ensure that all members of staff are fully equipped (both mentally and physically) to deal with remote working.
Google Hangouts Meet
Google Hangouts Meet is an alternative remote working platform allows workers to collaborate during an uncertain period of home working and is a good option for organisations that already utilise the vast range of services available on the G Suite (such as Gmail, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides).
The most advanced G Suite package allows users to engage in video calls with up to 250 individuals and live stream to a capacity audience of 100,000.
Google Hangouts Meet works alongside other Google tools like Hangouts Chat and Gmail, seamlessly integrating the useful workplace communication platform into the everyday life of employees already familiar with working within the G Suite. Any recorded meetings can be saved in a shared Google Drive for future reference.
Hangouts Meet also integrates with other video conferencing services, such as Skype for Business.
Hangouts Meet’s specially designed apps for both iOS and Android are integrated with its other apps, meaning joining a call, conference or meeting is as simple as clicking a link on your smartphone – like with Zoom, Hangouts Meet has an option to call a dial-in phone number to ensure maximum inclusivity.
Using Google Hangouts Meet for Education
Until July 1st 2020, Google have enabled educators to take advantage of Hangouts Meet’s premium video conferencing feature to allow even basic G Suite Education subscribers to hold meetings of up to 250 people, as well as allowing them to live stream and record meetings.
Google has an array of useful guides on using Hangouts Meet for teaching purposes, providing clear instructions on how to live stream a class to students or record and share a lesson online.
Some of the benefits of using Hangouts Meet for education purposes include the ability to enable live captions to assist those who are deaf or hard of hearing and the implementation of Google Slides Q&A, which can be used to take real-time questions from students at your own pace.
For students, Hangouts Meet boasts a section for video-based discussions in which peers can engage with each other via video (perfect for those struggling to make sense of text-based instructions), while integration with Gmail and Google Calendar makes it easy for students to request and arrange one-to-one meetings via video.
Students can join a livestream, or view a pre-recorded class, using any device with an internet connection which enables the use of G Suite (such as laptops, tablets and most smartphones).
Increasingly important during uncertain times, teachers can create mood check-in forms using Google Forms to allow students to share privately how they are feeling.
Whether using Zoom, Hangouts Meet or another video conferencing service, there are a number of online tools which can ensure that your employees, colleagues or students aren’t too harshly penalised for having to work remotely.
The benefits of each service will vary from user-to-user and, while Zoom’s free-to-use core service might be appealing to smaller businesses that can work within the service’s limitations, those already enrolled on a G Suite subscription will likely reap the benefits of using Google Hangouts Meet as their video conferencing platform of choice.
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