October 30, 2014

Orange County Library System Expands Computer Training Program with Treehouse

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Treehouse LogoFollowing a successful pilot with the Orange County (FL) Library System (OCLS), online technology education provider Treehouse Island has launched a subscription-based service that will allow library patrons to learn programming skills at home or on any library computer.

Prior to the pilot, OCLS already had a comprehensive computer training program in place for patrons, featuring  multi-part series on topics including basic computing, Microsoft Office, Photoshop, Quickbooks, 3D design, and website design using HTML5.

“The computer classes here have been very popular for a long time,” said John Douglass, assistant manager of the Technology and Education Center for OCLS. “People have been getting more and more interested in advanced classes. We’ve introduced more advanced Excel classes covering formulas and functions, pivot tables and creating macros. Recently we’ve also been creating some classes that touch on programming and classes that touch on mobile web app development, and we’ve seen early demand for those classes. So, certainly we think that the thirst for that advanced training is definitely out there.”

OCLS also offered access to Lynda.com kiosks for patrons who wanted to learn more. But recently representatives from Orlando-based Treehouse approached the library about developing a model that would enable an unlimited number of patrons to access similar online courses from any computer in OCLS libraries, or from home by logging in with their library card number.

“On their website, they cover more advanced CSS, which we touch on in our HTML5 series, and then they’re off to Javascript, PHP, Ruby on Rails, iOS and Android App creation,” said Douglass. “Those are all things that we knew people were interested in, but we didn’t necessarily have the capability to provide training in.”

Similar to Khan Academy or Lynda.com, the online courses are taught via a series of short, pre-recorded videos. Short quizzes and code challenges follow the videos to help ensure user comprehension.

The program was launched at OCLS in February, and after including information on their website and marketing the program with posters in the library, the service was already becoming popular by March.

“By March we saw a big jump in the amount of sign-ups,” said Douglass. “The video views we were counting jumped by ten-fold, and then in April we saw good numbers as well…. I think we’ll see steady growth over time.”

Treehouse emphasizes the role that its courses can play in job training. In an email to LJ, Chief Commercial Officer Chris Zabaleta described this as part of the company’s mission, noting that “we are very focused on getting our students into jobs or better jobs. “

And prior to launching the program with Treehouse, OCLS already had one in-house success story of its own.

After working through Treehouse courses on web development, part-time Branch Circulation Clerk Kristin Retaleato was promoted to a fulltime Web Design Specialist position at the Orlando Public Library.

“They have a big emphasis on jobs. As our patrons go and explore that certainly that’s going to be a huge appealing factor.”

Treehouse has begun offering libraries one-year contracts on similar terms, with pricing based on a library’s number of active cardholders.

Treehouse Map Marker lesson

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Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

Comments

  1. I have been waiting for treehouse for a while. My wife work in a library and our grandkids have been using it already. Excellent work. Online technology providers are growing like crazy now. It’s no surprise these tools will be a cornerstone of learning only a decade from now.

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