Connecting with others via video conferencing: Google Hangouts and the alternatives

Jason Carroll’s recent blog post Upgrade Your Next Meeting With Google Hangouts gave an overview of this increasingly popular video conferencing tool. He tells you how to get started and how to start using the instant messaging/video conferencing/screen sharing features.

To quote Jason, Google Hangouts “has the potential to replace many of the face-to-face meetings individuals are accustomed to”!

Jason and Greg 'hanging out'

Jason and Greg ‘hanging out’

Towards the end of his blog post Jason mentioned an extension of Google Hangouts – Google Hangouts On Air (HOA). The team at Spectronics have also been checking out HOA and we will be using this video conferencing tool during the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference 2014. We have also been checking out  a couple of Hangout alternatives. Let me tell you more.

Google Hangouts On Air (HOA)

As well as all the features available via a regular Hangout, HOA has a few additional benefits.

  • You can broadcast your Hangout live to unlimited viewers, people who are not actually participating in the HOA. They can watch live via your Google + page, YouTube channel, and anywhere else you decide to embed the code.
  • There is a Q&A feature that lets people watching ask questions.
  • A video of the Hangout is saved to YouTube, for viewing after the event. This is an awesome feature!

I think HOA has great potential for the classroom and to support all learners. The big plus for me is the saving of the video after the Hangout has been completed. This allows for re-viewing of the video content by students easily via YouTube. This re-viewing can support comprehension, revision and be a platform for those who require multiple repetitions to support their comprehension and generalisation of their learning. In addition, you can download the recording, re-purpose it for use within something like an ebook, or edit it and upload back to anywhere you’d like to host it, a class blog for instance.

Classroom impact? Here are just a few disruptions:

  • Collaborate with other students and schools via video. Share your collaboration quickly and easily via the recorded video.
  • Connect students with experts and others from all over the world. Students who would otherwise be reluctant to exchange information via text based communication can interact and ask questions via video!
  • Connect with mentors and other teachers elsewhere. You don’t need to be in your ‘classroom’. Indeed, the ‘one size fits all’ traditional classroom is being challenged.

Ok, so you want to explore HOA further. You want to check out HOA for yourself! Why not join us for our first HOA a week before the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference 2014.

Getting ready for the ILT2014 Conference with Google

Getting ready for the ILT2014 Conference with Google


Join five of our Google-savvy presenters in our “Getting Ready for the ILT2014 Conference Google Hangout” scheduled for Tuesday 13th May at 8.00 pm AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time). If you miss it, you can also check out the recording of the Hangout here on Spectronics’ YouTube Channel.

Google Hangout On Air Resources

For more information, guides and support for setting up your own HOA, the following links are useful:

Get started with Hangouts On Air and other FAQs

How to Hangout On Air

Ronnie Bincer The Hangout Helper

Video Conferencing Alternatives to Google Hangout

There are a number of Google Hangout alternatives now becoming available. While not having the number of features and options available via Google, they are worth exploring. For example, we have been ‘road testing’ Skype’s new free group video calls and it seems to work well, though our initial attempt has not been all that polished!

Spectronics Team

The Spectronics team nailing it!

So, here are a couple of alternatives. For some the benefit of these may be the fact that they DO NOT keep a permanent recording of the video call. In most cases these alternatives rely on peer-to-peer communication, meaning that the video streams are sent directly between you and the people you are talking to. Nothing is stored on a server and all the communication is encrypted.


Skype has recently announced free group video calls for Mac, PC and Xbox One users. We understand free group video calling to iOS Devices is coming. There are no video recording capabilities.


Free but video link only. No additional features and no ability to record video. Not iOS compatible at this point in time.

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Free but video link only. No additional features and no ability to record video. Only works with Firefox and Chrome browser and is not iOS compatible at this point in time.


Free for teams of 3, otherwise there is a subscription fee. Video link only, with no additional features and no ability to record video.

Do you use any other alternative video conferencing tools? Please share :)

Check out Google Hangouts On Air, and the alternatives, and get connected. Better still, join us for the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference Hangout and see it for yourself first hand.

Also, a return thanks to Jason Carroll, and also thanks to Cha Cullen and Lorraine Cameron, for the Google Hangout and Skype screenshots for this post. 


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About Greg O'Connor

“I firmly believe that saying “we’ve always done it this way around here” is dangerous! I enjoy disrupting that way of thinking and watching the excitement of teachers being re-motivated. Adding new technologies into the mix is powerful in driving that positive change. Driving that positive disruption”

Greg has been actively involved in supporting the learning of students with diverse learning needs for over 30 years. During this time he has worked as a classroom teacher, school executive, district consultant, regional manager with the New South Wales Department of Education and Training, and Professional and Consultancy Manager at Spectronics.

Greg is committed to exploring the possibilities that exist for ALL students through the use of technology, wherever and however teaching and learning takes place.

Greg presents at national and international conferences, and provides training and consultancy across Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. He is a Google Certified Educator, Certified Apple Trainer, and a Certified Texthelp Trainer. Greg is a committee member of the NSW Australian Association of Special Education, and is a member of the editorial committee for the AASE Journal, Special Education Perspectives. He recently became a member of the International Committee of the Inclusive Learning Network of ISTE.

5 Responses to Connecting with others via video conferencing: Google Hangouts and the alternatives

  1. Hi Greg,

    Just wanted to let you know you can record the Skype call in both audio and video components. We record our podcast using Call Recorder ( which is a product for the Mac but it records the video and audio feed, it does not present it live to air though.

    Also in regards to skype the call stream is no longer encrypted since the product was purchased by microsoft – many people are under the impression that it is, but alas it is not.



  2. Sheep says:

    Google hangouts is best suited for casual and social interactions. But for business meetings, security is what everybody aims for, hence, tools such as webex, R-HUB web conferencing servers, gotomeeting etc. are preferred.

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