Implications of Google+ for Online Courses

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Dr. Jack Yensen
Chief Senior Editor

This article was made possible by an educational grant from
Chamberlain College of Nursing


Yensen, J. (June, 2011). Editorial: Implications of Google+ for Online Courses. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI),15 (2). http://ojni.org/issues/?p=588


With the limited release of Google+ on June 26th we may be seeing a real opportunity for anyone involved in online courses, either from the perspective of an instructor of from that of an online learner. Firstly, I will introduce the current functionality of Google+ and then explore some of the implications from the vantage points of a student and an instructor.

Current Functionality

In its current form Google+ is supporting four key functions, namely Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, and Mobile. Here are some features of each of these functions.


Circles are described here. They are private groups where the ability to add people to groups is simply drag and drop. This means that you can have selective sharing with either single members or everyone in the circle. This has implications for the formation of multiple groups serving personal and professional needs.


This is a sharing engine where you can indicate your interests and be automatically updated with a variety of feeds on those interests and then be able to share any or all of those topics with any of your contacts. This means that Sparks can act as a curation aggregator and disseminator and encourage conversations around a given topic.




Think of hangouts as a real time place to connect with friends, colleagues, patients or clients, or students. This is an interesting way to have instant video conferencing around any topic or project. This has implications for teachable moments, problem solving, decision support, and counselling of individuals and groups, along with supporting persons in crisis, or undergoing loss or making changes in lifestyle.


Mobile supports mobile phone users in doing 3 things:

  1. Instant uploading of pictures or video from your mobile phone
  2. Optional sharing of location for ease of getting together
  3. Huddle is a group messaging function that supports real time coordinating of events, meetings, and projects with anyone or everyone inside a given Circle.

Online Learners and Instructors

Anyone taking or facilitating an online course can take advantage of Google+ in several ways, as shown in the following concept maps.


Figure 1: Concept Map of Circles in Google+





Figure 2: Concept Map of Sparks in Google+




Figure 3: Concept Map of Hangouts in Google+



Figure 4: Concept Map of Mobile in Google+


I have described the current functionality of Google+ and shown how its current functions can be applied to teaching and learning in online courses. It is clear that many other applications can be derived from the current functionality. As Google+ develops, it will be interesting to see how students and instructors find new and creative ways to leverage its current and future functions in the service of enjoyable and engaging learning and teaching.





Jack Yensen has been involved in online education since 1970, when he first experimented with simulations on mainframes. When personal computers arrived he abandoned (almost) mainframes and time sharing and immersed himself in programming and databases. When networking started to happen, he got involved in very early email and telnet applications, and then realized in 1992 that he could enhance classroom courses and reach students globally using an FTP server to simulate a Web server, when the web first started. Now he has courses and servers and websites all over the place. Every year he visits many campuses and gives presentations and workshops on online or eLearning and shows faculty and staff how to extend courseware functionality (like WebCT and Blackboard), using Java, Flash, HotMedia, streaming audio and video and collaboration or groupware like Teamwave, Webex, & Placeware. He is also a management consultant in healthcare, assisting corporate clients to design and implement virtual universities. Jack has been involved in health and nursing informatics since 1975.

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