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Southern Housing Group and Google+ Hangouts

Rahima Begum, Community Regeneration Officer for Southern Housing Group, talks about how Google+ Hangouts have been helpful for communicating with both staff and volunteers.
Tell us a bit about yourself. (Your job, organisation, and your technical ability!) 
I'm no techie but I get by!
Why did you look for this tool in the first place? What did you need help with? 
The team and I were looking for a more effective way to communicate with each other because a lot of the time we were all in different places. Also, as a supervisor for Digital Champion Volunteers, my role requires me to stay in regular contact with volunteers, but having many volunteers at different locations makes it challenging!
How did you find out about the tool? 
A lot of people at work use msn messenger via web cam or Skype as tools for communicating, but increasingly people have started to use Google Hangouts. After hearing many good things about it the team and I tested it out.
What is this tool mainly used for? 
Google Hangouts is used to video chat and group chat with a maximum of 10 people in real time. It allows you to share what is on your screen with others who join the hangout, as well as collaborate in Google Docs and view documents. This tool can also be used on a mobile phone.
What do YOU use it for? 
We have staff meetings on Google+ Hangouts and often we have virtual brainstorming sessions using this tool. We also share documents and presentations and discuss them live, sharing ideas and opinions. I have communicated with volunteers via Google+ Hangouts to have catch ups and to listen to any concerns or ideas.
What have been the benefits of using this tool? 
Google+ Hangouts has been brilliant in terms of saving time and it’s very convenient. The video and audio quality is great. The team and I can have virtual brainstorming sessions very productively. It’s a browser based tool so almost anyone can use it and it’s very intuitive. Important group decisions have been made using this tool because of the video conference feature as it allows us to have in-depth meetings. What’s more, up to 10 people can join at a time, which means we can include everyone.
Is there any cost attached to using this tool? 
No, it's completely free.
Are there any online tutorials available? 
There are some tutorials on the Google+ website: www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/
Did this tool need much of your or a colleague’s time to set up at the beginning? 
It takes roughly 30 minutes to create an account and invite others to a hangout to get started.
Are there any limitations to using this tool? 
First time users may have to update plug-ins and restart the browser, but this would only be required once. Also, some people may find the fact they have to ‘invite’ someone to hang out a bit inconvenient.
Do you have any top tips for using this tool? 
Give yourself enough time to set up Google+ Hangout the first time you use it
Do you have any other recommendations of digital tools you use, and what you use them for? 
Skype is quite similar. We've used Skype to demonstrate video chats to new learners because it is a little simpler than Google Hangouts. However Google has many integrated features, which has been really useful for the team. For example, we share documents in Google Drive which allows all that have access to a Google Docs to make changes and we are also able to share the Docs on Google+ Hangouts because all Google features are synced.