How to use your tablet and Google+ as a remote training tool

Brandy Courtade thinks tablets are a great remote training tool. Find out how to video conference on both iOS and Android tablets with Google+.

Over the years, video conferencing has gained traction among professionals of all kinds, from executives to consultants. Providing more screen real estate than a smartphone, but with more mobility and easier accessibility than a laptop, tablets are perfect for this function. While there are several applications for video conferencing, I'd like to focus on using them as a remote training tool.

First, you'll need to choose your application. The flagship program for the iPad is FaceTime, but that only works if the other person has a compatible Apple device. If you want to start a conference with an Android or PC user, you have a couple of options. Skype is popular because it's universal, device-wise. However, Google+ has gained considerable popularity, and it recently updated the iOS App so you can start a "Hangout" from Messenger (you could previously only join a Hangout with an iOS device). This is especially appealing because you can train more than one person simultaneously, provided you and the trainees have Google+ accounts, of course.

If you have an iPad, here's how to start a video conference with Google+:

  1. Download the free Google+ app from the App Store (if you already have it, make sure you've installed the latest updates)
  2. Accept the terms
  3. Navigate to the home page, where you should be able to access Messenger
  4. Open up a chat with a trainee
  5. Click the video recorder icon
  6. Invite any other trainees, or have them join (this might be easier, since you'll likely announce the session ahead of time)
Figure 1

Here's a screenshot of the Google+ app for iOS.

The Google+ app is available for Android as well. Let's walk through that process:

  1. Download the free Google+ app from the Android Market
  2. You'll be asked if you want to enable Instant Upload, which just uploads pictures and videos as soon as you take them
  3. Click Continue
  4. From the home page, follow the same steps as listed above
Figure 2

As you can see, the Google+ app for Android looks very similar to the iOS app.

Let's compare that to a dedicated video conferencing app, Polycom RealPresence Mobile, which is also compatible with both iOS and Android tablets. One drawback is that you need the RealPresence infrastructure, since it runs on their RealPresence Platform. Still, this app deserves an honorable mention because it allows for HD video conferencing, supports VPN clients for added security, and allows you to view 12 streams at once. It's ideal for showing training presentations remotely, where other apps might obscure finer details. If you're running RealPresence already, it's worth a look. However, to date, it doesn't work well with Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich).

Ultimately, you may already have a favorite video conferencing app, and that's fine too. If you're conducting a remote training session because an employee is sick and can't come in to the office, you can still toggle between the rear and front-facing cameras on your tablet to easily show the trainee the work space and provide commentary without having to reposition. This is extremely simple; once you're in the video conference, clicking on the video icon that has two arrows encircling it will allow you to toggle between cameras.

Now, there's the issue of presenting a Web-based work platform or special work-related applications remotely. Since there's no word of opening the "Screenshare" feature in "Hangouts" from Google+ mobile, let's reverse the situation. When a new employee is on the go and needs to undergo training remotely, he or she can still access a video conference from a tablet and view your screen if you use the Google+ desktop version. Here's how:

  1. Log in to Google+
  2. Open a chat
  3. Tap the video recorder icon to start a Hangout
  4. Click on the link at the bottom that says "Hangouts with Extras"
  5. Tap "Screenshare" at the top of the screen
  6. Select the window you want to share
  7. Click "Share Selected Window"

This is indeed another handy feature, though reversed in terms of who's using the tablet, for training remotely.

What other applications have you used for remote training on a tablet? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.