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Videoconferencing in the Classroom: Skype vs. Google Hangouts

As Google Hangouts attempts to cut in on Skype’s market dominance, what was once a no-brainer decision—which tool to use for free video conferencing—is now more of a choice.

skype vs google hangoutsIn the beginning, there was Skype, and while those first years were filled with choppy connections and pixilated video, the conferencing software was eventually ironed out and expanded to include mobile versions. This performance upgrade and platform expansion quickly positioned Skype as the go-to app for free videoconferencing.

This year, Google announced it was going after that title with the release of Google Hangouts. While similar in concept, Hangouts differs from Skype in several respects. EducationWorld has examined both apps and compiled a list of pros and cons for each platform when it comes to integrating this technology into the classroom.

Skype

Pros:

  • The basic version of Skype is easy to install and operate. Once users have an account, they can build their contacts list by finding people they know who also have Skype accounts. If a contact is online and available to talk, an icon attached to his/her profile turns green. With a single click on the contact, a videoconference begins.
  • The connection is clean and fluid (provided users are connected to a reasonably solid Internet source). The audio is crisp, and there is very limited echo.
  • Skype also offers an education-specific product. Skype in the Classroom is a free, global community for teachers to connect, find partner classes, discover new cultures and share inspiration. Teachers can see what other classrooms are doing over a Skype video call, and students can share ideas and collaborate on projects, too.

Cons:

  • Skype is a person-to-person video conferencing tool. Because only two devices can be connected at one time, this dramatically limits the number of people who can participate in the call.
  • Also, there is no screen-sharing feature, meaning a user cannot share with attendees a view of his or her computer screen.

Google Hangouts

Pros:

  • Like Skype, Google Hangouts is very easy to install and set up, especially if you already have a Google account. Once users have an account, they can build their contacts list and begin hosting Hangouts.
  • The video is decent quality, as is the audio.
  • In contrast to Skype, Google Hangouts allows many more active participants—up to 10 devices can be connected to a single meeting.
  • Google Hangouts provides a suite of productivity apps that let users share what’s on their screen, collaborate in Google Docs, view presentations and diagram together. To access these, simply click the “Add app” button inside the Hangout to browse and add new apps. If a team member can’t join the hangout, users can also dial the person in by clicking on the “Invite” button and then the “+telephone” link. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are free.

Cons:

  • The more apps a user adds to his/her Hangout, the slower the connection gets. High-need apps, like those that project funny hats on participants’ heads, can cause dramatic lag and even frozen screens.
  • While the video quality is good, it isn’t as good as Skype’s.
  • Because Google Hangouts provides for multiple participants, it doesn’t allow for single-click conferencing. A user must create a Hangout, invite participants and then begin the conference.


Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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