I’m sitting in a session at Google, listening to Daniel Arnold (Marketing Manager, Google Helpouts), talk about the vision behind Google Helpouts. The concept is simple. Create a way for people to have one-on-one video chat to “help out” with a question that they might have about a pertinent topic: a student struggling with math homework, a new parent with a question about changing diapers, a person starting a new business and seeking help on where to start, a person with flu symptoms seeking quick advice, or maybe someone wanting a few tips on a hobby.
My first experience with Google Helpouts was on December 16, 2013. I wanted tips on how to host my first Edcamp. I was delighted to see that Kristen Swanson was part of the pilot phase of Helpouts. So, I set up an appointment with her on the 15th, and chatted with her the next day. It was short, simple and straightforward; much like meeting for a Google Hangout. Kristen fielded my questions, shared a few tips and we disconnected. I”m not the type to have video chats with strangers, but this was a surprisingly natural and informal experience.
Listing to Daniel, this resonates with my ongoing reflection about student-initiated blended learning (what I’ve called self-blended learning in other posts). While educators and schools are embracing blended learning at a rapid rate, some students are already there; designing their own blend of face-to-face and online learning experiences to meet their learning needs.
From this perspective, Helpouts is likely to become another tool in the student-led blended learning toolbox. Are you struggling with a concept in a course and not getting what you want or need from a teacher? Find someone on Google Helpouts to provide free or inexpensive help? Do you have a high-stakes paper due soon and your teacher is not providing substantive feedback? What if you could connect with a different English teacher or an editor who would walk through the paper with you in a short 20-minute video chat?
Of course, this is possible apart from Helpouts, but this might be the tool to make connecting with experts easier and more accessible. I look forward to seeing how this plays out in the upcoming 12-18 months.