Google has a lot of ideas. Some of them are ahead of their time but I think Helpouts was a little too late. Helpouts was a service that you could use to find an expert to help you with some subject online for a fee. It didn’t really matter what you wanted to learn; there were experts in math, sign language, French, even a tutor for genetics and molecular biology. But Helpouts is shuttering down for good on April 20 because it just isn’t growing.
I have to wonder if a large part of that reason is because of Google’s other great learning tool, YouTube. It’s hard to compete with free, especially if you factor in having to sign up, schedule, and drag out your credit card. I think about all the times I’ve gone to YouTube for answers; I probably had them in hand in less time than it would have taken me to find a tutor and sign up. There is no doubt that Helpouts added value and a personal touch, but there are so many free alternatives including thousands of top quality college-level courses available online from leading universities – again, for free unless you want a certificate to put on the wall. So I’m sad for the Helpouts community of teachers and learners, but there are lots of alternatives – and mostly free.