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Summary:

Google is using Helpouts to help kids apply for federal student loans. The initiative hints at more possible Helpouts uses in education and volunteerism.

After launching its Helpouts video consultation marketplace three months ago with a focus on subjects like health and home improvement, Google  is now opening the product to a new audience: Kids who don’t know how to pay for college.

On Wednesday, Google announced a joint initiative with GetSchooled.com, Viacom and the White House that aims to give prospective college students better advice on how to apply for federal student aid. As part of the project, volunteers from GetSchooled are going help kids fill out their student aid applications through free Helpouts video chats.

It’s an interesting twist on Helpouts, which so far has attracted a lot of small entrepreneurs, many of whom charge anywhere from $10 to $300 per hour for advice on weight loss, better cooking and Windows problems. Google hasn’t publicly commented on the number of users for Helpouts yet. But the service’s Android app (Helpouts can also be accessed from the web), hasn’t been a huge hit, attracting fewer than than 100,000 downloads in three months.

The cooperation with GetSchooled, though, hints at some other opportunities for Google. Daniel Arnold, who heads the education category for Google Helpouts, told me that his company is in conversations with “schools, colleges and online universities” on how to use Helpouts for education.

Professors or counselors could use Helpouts for online office hours, for instance, but the student loan project also hints at another opportunity. Arnold told me that the system is set up to easily allow groups of volunteers to staff a particular Helpout, something that could be used by nonprofits to address all kinds of needs. “This unleashes a great opportunity for volunteering,” said Arnold.

  1. Just a note on Time Warner Cable: NBC stopped coming in over our antenna last night for some reason and I wasn’t able to fix it. I decided to sign up for cable just until the Olympics are over. You CANNOT get Standard Cable at the advertised $40 price without a cable box. This is in DIRECT contradiction to the advertising on their website, which claims $40 a month and that you don’t need a cable box on the same page. If you don’t want the $10 cable box, the price jumps from $40 to $80 a month. This is not stated anywhere on their site, not even in asterisk form. I opted for a $2.50 a month Cable-card instead, but then they called me to tell me those aren’t in stock anywhere near me. Hopefully it is worked out now where in less than 24 hours the TWC TV apps turn on and I never have to pick up the Cable-card. We’ll see. I’m just waiting for them to tell me I can’t access the apps without activating the Cable-card at my house. Because that makes sense.

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