Nearly, every college or university today uses some sort of collaboration tool on-campus (traditional/virtual). Some are homegrown social networking sites used to connect students and faculty or serve as a virtual commons area. Others are off-the-shelf LMS systems such as Adobe Connect Pro, WebCT or Moodle coupled with sharing capabilities that enable collaborative work spaces where students and faculty can exchange documents or chat in real-time. What's missing from a lot of these online tools are a comprehensive group video chat feature in which groups of online student can utilize. In the past chat rooms have been the primary platform for students to connect online. Although effective for basic conversations, jotting down ideas, online chat rooms are ill equipped to handle the sort of engaging conversations needed to transpire in group meetings. For instance, without seeing someone's face there's no way to gauge the non-verbal cues that usually happen in a real face to face meeting. A silent person in chat room could mean that person is confused, asleep or not physically present. Because students feel a sense of anonymity the tone of chat rooms conversations often turn pretty ugly or unprofessional ( with ALL CAPS). Introduce Google+ Hangout, a cool way to chat with your fellow classmates or group members. With the intuitiveness of Google+ Circles, students and faculty can group networks based on associations, courses, and teams thereby provisioning student's social graph into sub nodes or what Google calls Circles.
As Google+ becomes available to the public in the near future and the integration with Google Apps Enterprise this should prove to be an excellent asset to keep online students engaged and and connected to fellow classmates who are traveling down the same path.