Wednesday marked our first group virtual meeting with fellow OLE participants (thanks again, Jay. #GoTeamAdams) and my first experience with appear.in. I’ve used Google Hangouts many times before (faculty meetings, open discussions for class, individual student meetings) but, aside from trying Skype a couple of times, I’ve never thought to go beyond Google for virtual work/class purposes–an “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” kind of mentality.
What I found valuable with appear.in was how easy it was to set up and execute. Google Hangouts aren’t too difficult, but it’s not intuitive. Students have had trouble getting set up for virtual meetings just from not having much Google+ experience, even though it seems easy to get everything running. With appear.in, they really just need the link and a camera/mic setup. Additionally, the feel of the “room” was the closest to office hours I have experienced: causal and fluid. Hangouts and similar online meetings seem to suffer sometimes from criticism that they are “artificial” (i.e. “weird”); Appear.in seems to be a strong platform to alleviate this worry. Everyone is visible at the same time–whereas Hangouts and other programs focus on the speaker as default–adding to the fluidity (or non-weirdness) of the conversation.
In short: It feels casual, because it is.
This is definitely not an urge to adopt appear.in over other platforms. Though, while meeting our group for the first time, I couldn’t help but think that appear.in may be the first alternative to brick and mortar conferences with students that would be functional, easily utilized, and something they may actually take me up on.