As you might know, my career in education technology started on the consumer side as an online language tutor (I use the term coach) back in 2008. Skype was fairly new and had not hit the mainstream, Flash-based virtual classrooms were all the rage, and in hindsight, no one had a plan of how to make all this work.
Today Skype is already perceived as dated and new standards like WebRTC are poised to give live online education not only a new boost but finally push it to every desktop or mobile device. But there will be a huge difference between live online lessons in 2008 and those in the years to come.
For a couple of weeks there have been rumors about a new Google service based on the Hangouts infrastructure. Called Google Helpouts the service offers live video interaction with experts who can charge the caller through Google Wallet. Google is apparently taking a 20% cut.
This reminds me of a similar service Skype offered back in the days when it still belonged to ebay. Through a so called Skype expert directory educators, trainers and consultants could charge for Skype calls by the minute and then got paid via PayPal which, conveniently, also was (and still is) owned by ebay.
Needless to say that this project went nowhere, especially after ebay sold 70% of Skype to an investment group in November 2009 and the rest to Microsoft in May 2011. But what is Google up to?