• Posted on November 6, 2013

Google Helpouts - Helping You Get Started

Have you ever needed hands on help with an issue or wanted to learn something new and the only thing holding you back where no local classes? Thankfully Google resolves this with their new service Helpouts by Google. Helpouts matches teachers and those who are skilled in a subject to the people who want to learn. The people who are teaching the content can teach for free or charge per Helpout or by the minute. The price is completely up to the teacher and they can change it any time they wish. Payments are all handled by Google Wallet, so you need one of those to participate in Helpouts, either if you are the teacher or the student.

How Helpouts Works

Before you end up spending some money on Helpouts, you should really understand how it works and be confident enough in your ability to learn from it. Some skills may be difficult to learn through a computer, such as swimming, but it can be done.

The first steps is to find your teacher. Helpout Teachers can either require a scheduled time for your lecture or the teachers are available at that second and you just start right away. At the launch of Helpouts, there are around ten to twenty classes in each category except for Computers and Electronics where there are over one thousand current classes. It could take some time looking through them all since Hangouts navigation doesn’t seem exactly up to par yet with filtering and other more advance search operations.

Scheduling a time to learn is your next task, unless it’s a class that is always available. When on the course page, you click on “Schedule for later” and a calendar appears with all the times and dates you can pick. With some changes to your Helpouts settings, Google will save this event to your Google Calendars and send you e-mail alerts before the Helpouts Session.

Google Helpouts

If you have questions about a course someone is teaching or the help they are offering, you can send them a message directly through Helpouts asking about what they know and can help you with. Or if you have a specific thing you need help with, you can check to see if they know about.

Your Helpouts Session is now active, and you will be in a live video chat similar to Google Hangouts. You will talk directly to your instructor one on one. Be careful what you do though since the session is recorded for Google’s use. You can opt to have the session not recorded, but this will forfeit your ability to get a refund from Google if the course ends up being a scam or whatever you wish to call it. Although if you do not record the session and are not pleased with the class, you can ask for your payment back from your teacher. They can of course refuse, but it’s worth a shot. Most people out there are well mannered, so if they also feel like the class wasn’t helpful they may refund you all or part of the amount.

Things to know about Helpouts

Before using Helpouts, there are a few things you need to know. Below is a list of some key points from the Terms of Service and Policies. I will continue to use the terms Consumer for the people who are attending a Helpouts that are taught by another user. The people instructing the Helpouts will be called Provider.

  • Consumers need to be at least 13 years old. If under 18, you need your parent or guardian’s permission.
  • Providers have to be at least 18 years old.
  • Providers can change the schedule and cost any time before you purchase a session.
  • Providers can decide if you can reschedule or cancel a Helpouts Session after purchasing.
  • If opted in, both the Consumer and Provider will recieve a recorded copy of the Helpouts. Google may also record it for quality assurance. If opted out and you report abuse, Google may start recording the Helpouts session even though you specified it not to.
  • Google may look at recordings, private messages, and other private information shared between the Consumer and Provider and to Google.
  • Providers have to respect the Consumers privacy and can only use their information for the purposes described by the consumer.
  • Providers cannot provide Financial help, Legal services, health services, alcoholic beverages, content restricted to minors or solicitation of funds.

Is Helpouts a Good Idea?

I’m usually very critical of sites such as Helpouts that you have to pay for services from people who may or may not know what they are doing. Google doesn’t check to make sure the instructors know what they are teaching, which can lead to some really displeased customers. There is a rating system in place, but that could just as easily be abused. And no one is going to trust a teacher with zero reviews. It’s like using a freelance website service. Great workers may never get hired while the poor workers have thousands of reviews and get hired a lot more often even though a large part of the reviews are extremely low.

If you want to try out Hangouts, there are some free lessons, courses, helpouts out there to check out. And for myself, I’m going to just stay away from the site for now. Helpouts is not a thing I will use, although I see the practical use for it. I can’t see what you will learn from a teacher that you can’t find and read online in a few minutes.