There are many programs for video conferencing and virtual meetings, such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Zoom. In this post I explain the characteristics of each of them and what, in my opinion, are their strengths and weaknesses.
And in this post I have analyzed the main features of Skype and Zoom as well as the differences between them.
It has undoubtedly been the reference video conference program for many years and in 2011 it was acquired by Microsoft. It has desktop versions for PC and for Mac; versions for Android mobile devices, iOs and even Windows Phone, Windows RT and Blackberry, and some models for televisions and consoles. In addition, those who prefer it can install an extension in their Chrome or Firefox browsers.
Its main advantages are:
- Although to use it you need to have a specific Skype account or a generic Microsoft account , in my experience, the vast majority of people looking for classes online are already habitual users of Skype or at least are familiar with it.
- Skype has a desktop version that makes it more user-friendly on computers, especially when it comes to managing contacts, and offers very good use , just as smoothly as Google Hangout. Although with both programs I have had some problems from time to time.
- Skype allows you to share files and show your computer screen, essential for me in my classes to support my explanations with images or texts and to be able to show my digital whiteboard to my students.
- Skype is completely free , although it also has a professional paid version (at a cost of $ 2 a month if you do not have an Office 365 account). I tried this professional version a while ago but it did not work well for me, so, at least for the moment, I strongly advise against it .
- Recording of video conferences has been included in the latest version of the Skype. With this version you can start recording at any time of the video call and automatically all participants receive a notice that it is being recorded. After recording is complete, the resulting video is saved to the Skype cloud and appears in the call chat . There it will be available for 30 days to be able to download it at any time and save it in the computer.
Main drawbacks of Skype:
Skype offers less quality and has more stability problems than other video conferencing programs and sometimes the call does not work well or is cut (these problems have been significantly reduced in the latest versions).
It is the video conference system protected by Google. Both in Windows and MacOS it works within the Chrome or Firefox application , so it is necessary to download an extension from one of these browsers in order to use it. For their part, the operating systems for iOS and Android mobile devices have a specific application .
Main advantages of Google Hangouts:
- Google Hangouts provides a good quality of video conference , fluid and without cuts, although it is true that there are days when, as with Skype, I have had certain difficulties that you do not know where they originate due to the large number of factors involved in the video call (quality of the students’ internet connection, Google servers, etc.).
- Like Skype, Google Hangouts allows screen sharing.
- There are tools that can be installed in the computer version that allow expanding the functionalities such as, for example, labeling the name of each of the participants in the conversation or having control over the audio and camera of each one of them, what which is very useful if we hold group classes with enough students.
- Google Hangouts allows live broadcasts through, for example, YouTube , which gives you the possibility of organizing live seminars or classes with thousands of simultaneous views and without the need for all participants to join the conference.
- Google Hangouts is a completely free system .
Main drawbacks of Google Hangouts:
- In order to participate in a video conference, it is essential to have a Google account. Although the technology giant is undoubtedly one of the world benchmarks, in certain age segments and in a good number of countries it is not the reference email service.
- When you share the screen , the student only sees your screen and stops seeing you, so communication between the two is more complicated and colder.
- I don’t like that it doesn’t have a specific desktop application and forces you to use the web browser.
Although it can be recorded through YouTube , the process is not suitable for all audiences and in the end the video of the class is on YouTube, not on your computer. Anyway, it can be recorded using a screen capture program like Camtasia or its little brother Snagit , always asking for express permission from the person or people you are going to record.
It is a program designed for group video conferences in companies and for webinars (seminars or conferences on the internet). It has a desktop application and applications for mobile devices that work with iOS and Android. In addition, like Skype and Google Hangouts, it has extensions for Firefox and Chrome browsers for those who prefer to use it through this medium. It is a subscription payment program , although it has a free version with some limitations.
Main advantages of Zoom:
- Zoom offers excellent HD video conference quality without cuts and with better quality, in my opinion, than the other two alternatives, even in video conferences with about 30 people.
- Zoom has an intuitive and very easy to use desktop application that allows you to manage chats without problems
- You can schedule a chat , generating a conference ID that can then be e-mailed to invited attendees without them having to have a Zoom account. In other words, it is enough that the teacher (or the person who creates the conference) is a user of this program.
- No need for the person organizing the video conference is present . This is very useful, for example, if you want students to practice with each other while you record the conversation so that they can later correct the mistakes they have made.
- You can record the video conference on your computer or on a cloud service (if you have a plan other than the free one) that Zoom provides directly. Remember that to record someone else you need their consent.
- Just like the other two programs, you can easily share files during class or share the screen for use in explanations with the whiteboard.
Main drawbacks of Zoom:
- Video conferences between two people with free , but if you want to do group classes , you have to subscribe to one of their paid programs since in the free version group conversations cannot exceed 40 minutes.
- Unlike the other two, it is a program foreign to most users , so it is almost essential that our students install the desktop application or one of the extensions for browsers, and this is almost always a source. of problems if our students do not have a medium level of computer skills.
- You can get more information about Zoom and download the desktop application from its website . And, if you want to know more about how this program works , we explain it to you in this video from Your Spanish School .
In summary, from my point of view, none of these three video conferencing programs offers the complete solution for teaching distance classes, although you can find the ideal one for the type of classes you want to do. If you are looking for quality and stability , Zoom is your alternative. If you usually do group classes with many attendees , surely the best option is Google Hangouts . And finally, for individual classes Skype seems like the best solution because it is a familiar program for most of our potential students.