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Live Office Hours with Google Hangouts On Air: A Recipe

DartmouthX has recently offered Live Office Hours with students in an Introduction to Environmental Science (ENVX) with Google Hangouts on Air. Instructors Prof. Andy Friedland and Mike Goudzwaard along with the course team hosted four sessions over two offerings of the course. In each session we tried something slightly different based on feedback from that last session. This “recipe” is based on what we learned from the experience. Like any recipe, feel free to use, improvise, simplify, or spice it up.

People

  • Camera operator - It’s helpful to have someone with some experience with media production who can frame your shots and check audio levels.  This is a “nice to have” though.
  • Presenters - We have had our course instructor and instructional designer present to do the Q+A facilitation.
  • Feed Switcher - This person will manage the computer with Hangouts on Air running and the Wirecast software feed to the hangout session.  They decide what goes on screen when.
  • TA’s or Community Helpers - We recommend two people for this role.  They will be monitoring the question feed and helping out make sure everyone is on the same page.

Ingredients and Utensils

  • 1 HD camera with HDMI out
  • Tripod
  • 2 lav mics for presenters (or Yeti Pro USB to the computer)
  • 1 HDMI cable (for camera)
  • Blackmagic Design Intensity Extreme HDMI and Analog Capture & Playback Device - Thunderbolt (or similar)
  • Mac computer (Pro or MB Pro recommended) with multiple monitors (optional)
  • robust internet connection (wired connection recommendation)
  • Wirecast software for the HDMI stream and switching
  • Google Slides (in Google Drive)
  • A really quiet and controllable space for sound and lighting.
  • 2 iPads or other tablets running Google Slides for presenters
  • Computer for TAs to curate questions

Combining the Ingredients

Preparation:

Schedule the the event on Google Hangouts On Air (GHA)- set the date/time.

Build a section in the course to host the Live Office Hour information including:

  • Date and time of the event
  • Invitation and methods to ask questions in advance and during the session (Discussion forum, Google Hangouts Q&A, and/or other social media)
  • Link to the Google Hangouts on Air and YouTube live stream (links found in GHA event).

Promote the Live Office Hours with:

Plan the session the day before. Review, select, and edit questions and place into a Google Slide deck (example).

Setup:

  1. Setup set, camera, lighting, and mics
  2. Run HDMI cable to the Intensity Extreme
  3. Connect Intensity Extreme to Mac via Thunderbolt
  4. Set software settings (see details in Wirecast for Google Hangouts On Air - post coming soon).
  5. Configure Wirecast with camera feed, second monitor feed (Google Slides), and static image on track one. Camera audio on track two. Launch Virtual Camera
  6. Open Google Hangouts on Air, create a new hangout (not the scheduled hangout) and test the setup, video and audio. It will take up to a minute to buffer and there will be a 30-90 second delay.
  7. When confirmed everything is working, end the test broadcast, quit and relaunch the browser, and select the actual hangout.

Going Live:

5-10 minutes before the scheduled start time, start the hangout, displaying a static slide with the name of the event and start time. One of the presenters announced that we would start in a few minutes, and then mics were muted.

At the start time, fade to the presenters, and explain how participants can submit question during the session.

TA’s monitor the Q&A app, social media, and discussion board for incoming questions from students, select relevant question, edit, and place in the Google Slides deck. Presenters could see the questions in progress through the slide deck on their iPads. TA's signal the Video Switcher to refresh the slide show feed to Wirecast.

Video switching is communicated through spoken queues by the presenters.  For example "Let's go to this question, 'Recycling Challenges'. . " is an indication to the Video Switcher to fade to the question.

Following the broadcast, update the Live Office Hour page in the course to point students to the recording. It is helpful to modify the YouTube link to start at the broadcast point in the video.

Examples:

See examples of the Live Office Hours from Introduction to Environmental Science (on edX) here:

See examples of Live Office Hours from An Introduction to Italian Opera (on edX) here:

We look forward to seeing what you cook up with the Live Office Hours with Google Hangouts on Air recipe.

Update 7/31/15:

The ENVX Live Office Hours were featured in the Dartmouth Library newsletter article, Jones Media Center Hosts DartmouthX Live Office Hours and in Josh Kim's Inside Higher Ed post, Experimenting With Open Online Office Hours.

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