by Stacy Tomaszewski
Online Learning platforms – products that allow individuals to gain skills through course work over the Internet – have become increasingly popular over the years. Many of our users are looking to their libraries to provide access for them. These products are a great fit for libraries as we love helping people improve their lives through learning.
Libraries want to provide high quality, affordable, safe learning platforms, but that can be challenging. With lots of choices and often confusing terms of service agreements, libraries are asking themselves, “What should we buy?”
Unfortunately, companies that provide library-oriented online learning solutions are comparably limited. While good corporate solutions exist, many are out of reach for libraries that have limited budgets and very specialized needs. Many companies have communicated that they don’t have subscription models that meet the needs of the library market. However, demand from libraries across the country is increasing and vendors are beginning to create these library-oriented solutions. The next few months and years are sure to offer many new options!
While it can be tempting to sign a contract right away with a new vendor, take the time to become familiar with the marketplace while also keeping in mind that new options may be on the horizon. It is very possible that companies that currently only offer corporate-focused products may soon have subscription plans for libraries. You can help by telling companies with promising solutions that you’re interested in them AND what you need from them.
There are currently several companies that do offer online learning to libraries. Below are the major products that are available in the library market now.
Gale offers more than 360 different courses. They use a more traditional model, with courses lasting six weeks. Users must enroll in a course and wait for it to begin. All courses restart in the second or third week of the month. Courses are instructor led and are taught by college instructors and experts in the field. Students are able to interact with each other and the instructor through forums built into the courses.
Classes focus on professional development, technology skills, and personal enrichment and are tied to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ fastest-growing occupations. Continuing Education Credits are available for select classes.
Gale offers three different pricing options:
Cost per seat – purchase a package from 50 to 1000 seats
Choose from 10 Bundles – Accounting Finance, Business, College Readiness, Computers, Design & Comp, Healthcare/Medical, Language and Arts, Personal Development, Teaching and Education, Technology
Unlimited: All classes, unlimited students, unlimited number of classes taken. This is based on service population.
Gale is a name that is known and trusted in the library world, making this an attractive choice.
KnowledgeCity offers courses in the categories of Business, Computers, Safety Compliance, and Finance. Courses are video-based and divided into short chunks that make it easy to dip in to a course when there’s free time. Pricing is based on service population.
Formerly known to libraries as Books 24×7, Skillsoft has recently upgraded to a new platform that offers eBooks and course material in subjects like IT, Programming, STEM, and Business. They have several different bundles to choose from.
Universal Class is similar to Gale Courses in that courses are based on enrollment and offer a traditional online learning experience. Students work through lessons and assignments, and can interact in the course forum. Students also receive feedback on performance and can earn CEUs (Continuing Education Units) and Certification.
Universal Class offers more than 500 courses in subjects from Business and Computers to Alternative Medicine.
Accel5 is a relatively new product that offers soft skills microlearning. EBSCO has been marketing it as a solution for internal staff development use and not as a public facing solution. The lessons are video-based.
There are several libraries that have subscriptions to Treehouse, but managing it is more hands-on than some other platforms. Seats must be managed manually, which can be labor-intensive in a library with many interested patrons and few staff members to manage it. Treehouse only covers computer and programming-related subjects.