Users of the Google Meet, Enterprise for Education video-communication service (formerly part of G Suite) will soon be able to divide meeting participants into Breakout Rooms.
The feature, which started its gradual roll-out on 8th October will allow groups of students to split off into smaller groups for discussions which Google says is a way of offering more engaged distance learning.
Moderators move between the different breakout rooms to monitor and participate in discussions but (in a similar way to walking into a physical classroom) they won’t be able to the see chat messages that were exchanged when they were not in the room.
The event creator can create breakout rooms during the call and although call participants are then randomly and equally distributed across the rooms, event creators can also manually move people into different rooms.
Google says that 100 breakout rooms can be created in a call and that anyone with a Google account that is joining (from the web or through the Meet app) can be a participant.
Instructions for using the new feature can be found on Google’s website here: https://support.google.com/meet/answer/10099500
At a time when Zoom (especially) and Microsoft Teams have experienced huge new daily user numbers because of the remote working required during the pandemic lockdown, distance learning has become a necessity. In the UK for example, with jobs being lost and the Chancellor suggesting that people ‘retrain’ there has also been a push to promote adult education. In addition to localised restriction in parts of the UK, there is now the threat of further winter lockdowns. High profile competitor Zoom also offers a breakout rooms feature, albeit for up to 50 separate sessions.
It is against this backdrop that Google has found a way to compete with online video conferencing rivals and make a timely release announcement for this feature, which is likely to be in demand in many countries facing the same educational challenges that COVID-19 has created.
Google Meet, which is now a free video conferencing service for all, announced back in April that it was getting 3 million new users each day, had seen a thirty-fold increase in usage since January, and that there were 100 million daily Meet meeting participants. Zoom, for example, has grown its daily user numbers from 10 million before the lockdown to an estimated 300 million.
For Google, this announcement is a way to raise the profile of ‘Meet’ and differentiate its service by focusing on education and offering more breakout rooms than Zoom at a time when there is fierce competition in the video-conferencing market. This competitive move builds upon Google’s April announcement that it would be making its ‘Google Meet’ premium video conferencing service free for everyone rather than leaving it as part of its paid-for G Suite.
For educators, this feature may add value and make the Google Meet platform more attractive and for larger businesses especially, this means that there is now even more choice for video conferencing options.