Google Hangouts

What is Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a communication platform available via the web and mobile app for communicating. It includes the ability to send instant messages, engage in video calls, SMS text, and VOIP (Voice over internet protocol). It also supports audio calls between a Hangouts user and a landline or cellular number.

What is the purpose of Google Hangouts

It allows conversations between two or more Hangouts users through different mediums, including text, audio, or video. The overall purpose is to provide flexibility to the ways in which people can connect to one another for conversation and dialogue.  For teaching and learning purposes, Hangouts may be most valuable in facilitating long-distance meetings, conversations, conference calls, or office hours. Its chat functions might also be used to provide a back channel during lectures, presentations, or discussions. With the use of screen sharing, users can share a variety of materials and resources to supplement their call.

How to use Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts can be accessed with a Google account. Hangouts can be accessed through any web browser, or through a Hangouts Chrome extension or Hangouts Chrome app for a Google Chrome browser. A Google Hangouts app can also be added to an iOS or Android device. If accessing Google Hangouts through Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari browsers, you will need to download a Hangouts plug-in.

Where to find Support

This tool is not centrally supported

Help and Documentation

For help, please refer to the Google Hangouts documentation

Supported Tools to Consider

Tool Evaluation

Functionality overall rating: 2 starsFunctionality

Rating Rationale
Scale rating: 2 stars


You can use Hangouts to talk with multiple people at the same time. You can send messages in a group conversation with up to 150 people, or have a video call with up to 10 people. Hangout groups can be customized to a select group of users.

Ease of use rating:3 stars

Ease of Use

The tool has a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and personalize

Tech Support/ Help Availability rating: 2 stars

Tech Support/Help Availability

Technical support and help documentation is available from Google. Western-based technical support/help documentation is not available.

Hypermediality rating: 3 stars


The tool allows users to communicate through different channels (audio, visual, textual) and allows for non-sequential, flexible/adaptive engagement with material

Accessibility overall rating: 2 starsAccessibility

Rating Rationale
AODA Friendly rating: 3 stars

AODA Friendly

Hangouts has been developed to support the use of screen readers such as JAWS, VoiceOver, or ChromeVox

User Foused Participation rating: 3 stars

User-focused participation

The tool is designed to address the needs of diverse users, their various literacies, and capabilities, thereby widening opportunities for participation in learning

Required Equipment rating: 2 stars

Required Equipment

Proper use of the tool requires equipment that is common and/or purchased at a low cost (i.e. microphone, speakers, camera). Broadband internet is recommended.

Technical overall rating: 1 starsTechnical

Rating Rationale
OWL Integration rating: 1 stars

OWL Integration

The tool can only be offered in OWL through a link to Google Hangouts in an Internet browser window

Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Operating Systems

Users can effectively utilize the tool with any standard, up-to-date operating system (i.e. Windows 10, Apple OSX, etc.)

Web Browser rating: 3 stars

Web Browser

Users can effectively utilize the tool with any standard, up-to-date web browser (i.e. Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer 10 etc.). While not required, the Hangouts Chrome extension and Hangouts Chrome app allow flexible options for engagement of the tool.

Additional Tech Requirements rating: 2 stars

Additional Tech Requirements

A Hangouts plug-in is required for Explorer, Firefox, and Safari browsers.

Mobile Design overall rating: 2 star Mobile Design

Rating Rationale
Mobile Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Mobile Operating Systems

The tool is fully functional with a range of electronic mobile devices (laptops, tablets, touchscreens, mobile devices, etc.)

Mobile Functionality rating: 3 stars

Mobile Functionality

There is little to no functional difference between the mobile app and the main tool

Offline Access rating: 2 star

Offline Access

The platform can be used offline but tools and content are affected. It is possible to access chat history while offline.  

Usage and account set up overall rating: 1 starsUsage and Account Set Up

Rating Rationale
Sign Up/Sign In rating: 1 stars

Sign Up/Sign In

All users (instructors and students) must create an external account or additional login, and/or personal information is collected. Google Hangouts uses a Google account.

Cost of Use rating:  3 stars

Cost of Use

All aspects of the tool can be used free of charge. Calls between Hangouts users and to landlines or cellular numbers are free (some calls to landline/cellular numbers outside Canada and the USA will be fee based)

Archiving Saving and Exporting Data rating: 2 star

Archiving, Saving, and Exporting Data

There are limitations to archiving, saving, or importing/exporting content or activity data. While conversation history is saved, it cannot be exported from Hangouts. Video conversations cannot be recorded via Hangouts.

Data Privacy and Ownership rating: 3 star

Data Privacy and Ownership

Users maintain ownership and copyright of their intellectual property/data; the user can keep data private and decide if/how data is to be shared

Social Presence overall rating: 2 starsSocial Presence

Rating Rationale
Collaboration rating: 3 stars


The tool has the capacity to support a community of learning through both asynchronous and synchronous opportunities for communication, interactivity, and transfer of meaning between users

User Accountability rating: 2 stars

User Accountability

Instructors cannot control student anonymity but the tool provides some solution for holding students accountable for their actions

Diffusion rating: 2 star


Student familiarity with the tool is likely mixed, some will lack basic technical competence with its functions

Instructor Presence overall rating: 3 starsInstructor Presence

Rating Rationale
Facilitation rating:3 stars


The tool has easy-to-use features that would significantly improve an instructor’s ability to be present with students via active management, monitoring, and engagementt

Customization rating: 3 stars


Google Hangouts is adaptable (i.e. use of screen sharing, text chat, video calling), easily customized to suit the intended context of use

Learning Analytics rating: na stars

Learning Analytics

As a video conferencing and text message tool, Hangouts is not intended to support collection of learning analytics

Cognitive Presence overall rating: 2 starsCognitive Presence

Rating Rationale
Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s) rating: 2 stars

Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s)

Through the way in which Hangouts supports communication, the tool may enable functional improvement to engagement in the targeted cognitive task(s)

Higher Order Thinking rating: 2 stars

Higher Order Thinking

The tool may engage students in higher order thinking skills (given significant consideration to design, facilitation, and direction from instructor)

Feedback on Learning rating:2 stars

Feedback on Learning

Hangouts may be used to facilitate opportunities for receiving formative feedback on learning

Security and Privacy

This tool has not been formally reviewed by Western’s Technology Risk Assessment Committee

Security and Privacy Flags


  • Users are required to create and use a non-Western account. It is highly recommended that users do not use the same username and password that is in use at Western.

Information Collection

  • Application collects information that could identify the user specifically (email address, class schedule, etc..)
  • This application may use profile information and/or provided data for marketing purposes


  • Acceptance of the Application's Terms of Conditions or End User License Agreement may bind the institution to an agreement thereby requiring legal counsel to review the application contract.


  • This application is hosted outside of Canada

Last Updated: January 22, 2020


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