Since I started as an online tutor, I have always used Zoom. I used Google Hangouts and Skype a little for non-business activities but I never got to feel comfortable with either one. But recently, with so many teachers and tutors moving online due to stay-at-home orders and closed schools, I’ve had the opportunity to compare Google Hangouts Meet with Zoom.
They both offer videoconferencing with one or more people and the ability for people in the meeting to share what is on their computer screen with the meeting attendees.
Anyone can use the free version of Zoom to host unlimited 1:1 meetings or multiple-participant meetings up to 40 minutes. Google Meet was only part of GSuite and institutional Google accounts into recently, but it was just rolled out as a feature for all Gmail users! Google Meet costs less than a monthly subscription to Zoom (about $15 as of April, 2020). So if you are looking for a way to host group meetings inexpensively, it’s worth considering.
One key feature for tutoring that Zoom has, and Google Meet lacks, is the ability to give mouse control to students so they can interact with activities on your computer screen. This isn’t a total dealbreaker, though, because the mouse control options in Zoom can be replaced with interactive tools like Google’s Jamboard (a free online whiteboard that multiple users can interact with in real time), Google Docs and Slides, and interactive remote options for other apps, like hellosmart.com for Smart Learning Suite.
Besides, Zoom’s mouse control function only works when students are using Macs or PCs, and some newer iPads. Everyone else, including students on many iPads and all Chromebooks, can’t take mouse control anyway, so this feature is wasted on many of my students.
Security is another big concern for people using videoconferencing, especially those meeting with children and/or conducting confidential meetings. Zoom got a lot of negative publicity in the first few weeks of the stay-at-home orders and distance learning this spring because of “Zoom-bombing,” which is when an unauthorized person enters a Zoom meeting for the purpose of disrupting or causing harm. Some offenders showed inappropriate or disturbing images via screen-sharing, said inappropriate things, or posted harmful links to chat. Teachers also experienced the problem of other (anonymous) users joining a meeting with a screen name that matched a student in the class, and then causing problems after being admitted.
As a result, Zoom introduced or highlighted several security features, including password protection, a “waiting room” feature that allows the host to admit only the users they know to a meeting, and the option to disable chat, and disable users’ screen-sharing. I have used Zoom for several years with no problems, so in my opinion, the recent problems with Zoom were more a result of people taking advantage of an overwhelmed system and a lot of new and inexperienced users. I continue to use Zoom and recommend it as my platform of choice.
Google Meet has similar features that help keep unauthorized people out of the meeting, including the fact that people are identified by their Google email addresses as being from inside or outside of the organization, and Google calendar invitee lists are used to verify whether people belong in the meeting. For teachers and tutors meeting with groups, it seems like Google Meet makes it easier to manage attendee lists because it is better integrated with Google Calendar.
Whether you choose Google Meet or Zoom for your videoconferencing platform for tutoring, it’s helpful to know what other options are available. If one service goes down, or is unavailable to one of your students for some reason, it’s a good idea to have other options in mind. This can be as simple as conducting your session over the phone or it can involve moving to Skype, Google Hangouts, Webex, or FaceTime if it is a better fit for your student.
Whatever you choose, I recommend conducting a few practice sessions. Either invite a friend or family member to a meeting and try out the different options, or log in yourself from both your computer and your phone or tablet, to get a sense of your students’ user experience. The first few meetings on a new platform can be clunky and feel awkward, but soon logging into Meet or Zoom will just be a natural part of “getting to work.”
What do you use for video meetings? What works and what drives you crazy? Comment below and let me know.
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