Google sees an opportunity for Helpouts in education, volunteering


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, 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.

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