Conducting Your Class Online: 10 Online Hangout Tools To Get Started

October 24th, 2012 7 Comments Other

As more classes go online, the demand for web conferencing and video chat software is on the rise.

The following list is a compilation of 10 different solutions, ranging from full-service professional solutions to free open-source “tech-free” hangouts for the classroom. All of these options bring students closer together with integrated audio, video, and file sharing capacities.

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Saba Classroom

Saba Classroom is more than just a video chat. Saba Classroom is a full-service web solution for virtual education. Instructors can create the classroom content, set up enrollment, prepare presentation materials, and create evaluation forms.

Students can attend the class from any computer or mobile device, with cool options like “raising your hand”, a whiteboard for everyone to update in real-time, instant polling, breakout rooms, and sharing of desktop files and applications. The only disadvantage to Saba Classroom is cost. There is a free option, but it only allows 4 attendees.

From there, subscriptions go up from $15.00 a month for 20 attendees, to $31.00 a month for 40 attendees.

2. Cisco WebX

Their tagline is, “Connect with anyone, anywhere, any time.” Cisco Webx is not only for e-learning, but for any virtual meeting or hangout that a group of people might need.

It requires no certain device- if you can get online, you can use Cisco. From remote technical support, to online training, webinars, and password protection, classrooms can use Cisco to reduce the cost of traditional buildings and classrooms. Prices vary, but the free version only allows up to three attendees.

It is $24.99 for up to 8 people and $49.00 a month for up to 25 people.

3. Blackboard Collaborate

Blacboard is designed exclusively for education. There isn’t much this company hasn’t thought of.

Aside from offering two way audio, whiteboard, recording capabilities, hand raising, breakout rooms, desktop sharing, and media file sharing, Blackboard Collaborate also offers an administrative module for instructors, flat-fee licensing, and a publishing component for those who want to create materials as stand-alone units.

They also have instant chat so students and instructors can touch base during office hours and after school. It was difficult to find a price on their site, so call to get a specific quote.

4. Big Blue Button

Big Blue Button is an open-source web solution designed for higher education. With all the same tools as other software (recording, desktop sharing, video conferencing, chat, etc.), Big Blue Button is committed to free and public.

Users can download the software and integrate it in any way with their existing e-learning modules. They have three demo options for teachers, students, or developers who want to modify the existing software for further customization.

Their website offers some support solutions, but since it is open-source, their technical support is more limited than other larger companies that require payment.

5. Fuze Meeting

Fuze Meeting is a full-service web conferencing software, not specific to education. Therefore, it lacks some of the tools the ones above offer. It is marketed as a sexy, ultramodern, and streamlined solution for web conferencing.

Like the others, there are three subscriptions plans ranging from $15.00 a month to $69.00 a month.

6. Yugma

Voted as a recommended web tool for 2012, Yugma allows you to schedule meetings and send invitations, record your webcast, sharing of mouse and keyboard annotation tools, along with a shared file option and free technical support.

There are several pay thresholds for a user’s individual needs, as well as options to create webinars. It is marketed for all types of meetings, so it is not customized for education.

7. GoToWebinar

GotToWebinar is designed as a webinar and conferencing system. For a flat rate (and up to 1000 people), users can set up a conference or webinar in minutes.

Use tools such as creating a registration page, practice sessions before the conference, reminder emails for students and participants, instantly change presenters, file sharing, drawing tools, support, chat, and audio conferencing.  The software also allows you to see your audience, gives you Q&A, polls, and raising hand options.  GoToWebinar also offers a myriad of post-conference tools as well.

For 1000 attendees, the price is $500.00 (though there are cheaper plans for a smaller audience). The main disadvantage to this software is that it is designed as a one-time conference, rather than an on-going class.

8. Google+ Hangouts

Google+ Hangouts is a free “no-tech knowledge” required hangout offered by Google. Up to 10 people with an account can chat and see each other through a webcam. Users can add apps to your hangout, such as education app games and other activities.

It is fully integrated with Google Docs for online collaboration.

People who cannot be a part of the web conference have the option to call in. Google+ also allows the host to broadcast the hangout on YouTube or live through their Google+ profile. It is designed for a broad audience, so it lacks some of the educational tools.

The biggest drawback is that it only allows 10 users at a time.

9. Skype Classrooms

Skype Classrooms is a great enrichment for a traditional classroom. Teachers can skype other classrooms or professionals out in the field such as a zoologist, doctor, or beekeeper. Kids can interact and say hello, while learning about different cultures, lands, environments, and jobs.

Browse through a growing list of profiles available to connect with. Skype in the Classroom is not intended as a solution for a full e-course.

10. Adobe Connect

With Microsoft LiveMeeting closing its doors, Adobe Connect is stepping up to the plate. On any platform or device, users can collaborate, share documents, run polls, and use other pods and tools to run an interactive meeting.

This is run with Adobe Flash, so any computer is virtually ready to go. Apps are available for devices that don’t support Flash. Adobe boasts of its user-friendly and intuitive appeal, so even first time users won’t be confused or frustrated.

Pricing was not found on the website, but there is special consideration made for students and teachers using Adobe Connect.


Julie DeNeen has her bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of New Haven. She spent several years working for a local Connecticut school at the district level, implementing new technologies to help students and teachers in the classroom. She also taught workshops to teachers about the importance of digital student management software, designed to keep students, parents, and teachers connected to the learning process.

You can find out more about her @jdeneen4 and Google+.

7 Responses

  1. M TALCOD says:

    Great list. BigBlueButton is really fine. Open source software solutions grow in popularity even if they are still considered by some as ‘false economy’ solutions. I’m currently working at TALCOD (French Open source and Web agency), and all the customers seem satisfied with the solutions and videoconferencing rooms that we base on BigBlueButton. I do believe that open source solutions have a bright future.

  2. Allan roger says:

    Hey, you forgot to mention one more alternative: RHUB`s web conferencing servers. It is easy to use and best part is, it has no download of any kind.

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