For one of the projects I am working on currently, I participate in a weekly Hangout. The team meets using the Google service in order to talk and share materials. We don't archive the sessions or publish them to YouTube. It's an easy service to use and if you have never participated in a Hangout, it's worth experimenting with someone to see how it might be useful in your teaching or research.
Google has a lot of help materials online - support.google.com/plus/answer/2553119 will give you a start on using video Hangouts and Hangouts on Air directly from your Google+ Page.
Yes, this does require you to be part of the Google+ world that they have created and are both expanding and centralizing. ("One + to rule them all.")
The short directions are: Log in to your Google+ account and click Pages. Select the Google+ page for which you'd like to start a Hangout. Click Manage this page and the click Start a hangout.
With Hangouts On Air, you can broadcast live discussions and performances to the world through your Google+ Home page and YouTube channel. You can also edit and share a copy of the broadcast. This is a bit more involved as you will need a YouTube channel that is connected to your Google+ profile or page. (Newly created YouTube channels are automatically connected to Google+. If you have an existing channel that is not connected to Google+, you can connect it.)
Once the broadcast is over, it’ll be posted to your YouTube channel as well as your Google+ homepage. From there you can edit it, and the edited version will be available to anyone you share it with.
There can be issues with the content you can and cannot play in a Hangout On Air - for example, using clips from films or television news and other programs. You can check out the restrictions at the YouTube Copyright Center
Recently, I became aware of a small project (4-person team) based at the MIT Media Lab to have people create Unhangouts. The unhangout.media.mit.edu
is an open source platform for running large scale online un-conferences.
The term "unconference"
goes back to 1998. It was meant as a way to have a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured program of events we are used to at a "conference."
Unhangout uses Google Hangouts to create as many small sessions as needed, and help users find others with shared interests. Their site says to "Think of it as a classroom with an infinite number of breakout sessions. Each event has a landing page, which we call the lobby. When participants arrive, they can see who else is there and chat with each other. The hosts can do a video welcome and introduction that gets streamed into the lobby. Participants then break out into smaller sessions (up to 10 people per session) for in-depth conversations, peer-to-peer learning, and collaboration on projects. UnHangouts are community-based learning instead of top-down information transfer."
Unhangout is an open source project. (The code is in their repository on GitHub
.) The team offers to help get this set up on your own servers and may even be able to host your event on their installation.