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Different Synchronous Platforms

Alan Cafferkey, Director of Faculty Technology Services, provides the following thoughts on different synchronous platforms:

  • Google Hangouts Meet (
    • I like this the most for small groups or one-on-ones (although it does go up to 100).  
    • Because this is integrated with Google Calendar, I think this is great for individual office hour meetings.  Whenever you create an entry on your google calendar, you can just select "Add conferencing." Then, a link is created on the calendar entry for you and your invitee(s) to click on and join.
    • It might not be an ideal option for large classes if only because it's not integrated with Banner or Blackboard, so you'd have to manually invite all your students.  I don't think that's a deal-breaker but I'm also not a huge fan of its display when there's more than a handful of people involved. 
    • Features live closed captioning, which is a great benefit to some. (Google Meet Only)
    • It has chat and does screen sharing but doesn't have a lot of features after that.  
    • For what it's worth, I do find that, personally, I use it the most out of all these but that's probably because it's so easy to use for meetings.  It wouldn't be my first choice for a full online class, though. 
    • View support information about Google Hangouts Meet
    • Note: if you research this one on your own, be sure to search for Hangouts Meet as opposed to just Hangouts. Meet is the newer version. 
  • Zoom ( and soon to be accessible from your Blackboard Tools)
    • It's popular!  I think a lot of folks find Zoom easy to use. Since so many businesses and organizations use it, you'll find a lot out there on it, too.
    • You can record the meeting, it has chat, and a few other nice features including Screen SharingWhiteboardingAnnotationBreakout RoomsVirtual backgrounds, and Nonverbal feedback
    • I like it, especially because people can dial in if they don't have an internet connection at the ready.  You can also choose to mute participants on entry, which is handy for larger group meetings. There are a few other mute options that can be handy in certain situations, such as choosing to mute all during the presentation if you feel you need to. 
    • Like Google, it creates a unique link for each meeting your schedule, which you can then distribute. 
    • The app is nice.  When using the system for the first time on a computer, though, users will be prompted to install a small program.  This can cause delays for everyone starting on time that first go-around. Not a huge issue but worth mentioning. 
    • It's not integrated with Blackboard here YET but that should be remedied very soon.  
    • Learn more about Zoom.
  • Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (located within Blackboard)
    • Probably the only one that's designed specifically for education and as such has the most tools for educators, including classroom polling and attendance reporting. It has all the features I mention above on zoom too (including dial-in)
    • It's integrated with Blackboard so you don't have to send your students elsewhere or use an additional tool if you don't want to. It doesn't require any special downloads. 
    • It has a variety of displays through a toggle button (presenter, group, etc).  I'm not sure how intuitive that is to most, though, as I fielded a few questions this past week from folks who didn't immediately realize the display options.  
    • Like Zoom, Collaborate sessions can be recorded, downloaded, and edited. This is a great option for reviewing, note-taking, and adding closed-captioning via uploading to YouTube to address Accessibility Concerns.  
    • Note: as with Google, if you do research this one on your own, be sure to search for Collaborate Ultra as opposed to just Collaborate - Ultra is the much better successor but many schools still offer the original Collaborate.