Technology education provider Treehouse announced Treehouse Education Library Aid, a new pricing plan that offers small or demonstrably cash-strapped libraries discounts of up to 50 percent on subscriptions to its collection of step-by-step online courses on website design, computer programming, app development for Android and iOS devices, entrepreneurship, and other topics.
Similar to offerings by Lynda.com, Treehouse courses are taught via a series of short, professionally produced videos, with student comprehension tested using quizzes or “code challenges” after each segment. Lynda.com is pilot testing a library access model with the New York Public Library, but, for most libraries, it is currently only available through individual subscriptions on dedicated computers or kiosks. By contrast, following a successful pilot test with the Orange County Library System (OCLS), FL, this spring, Treehouse recently began offering a subscription plan to libraries that enables patrons to access courses from any library computer or from home by logging in with their library card.
Prior to the OCLS test, Treehouse dealt primarily in individual consumer subscriptions as well as corporate subscriptions for companies such as Twitter, Disney, and FourSquare.
With the new library subscription plan, “the market that we really want to affect are the people who need this,” said Chris Zabaleta, chief commercial officer for Treehouse. “Going through libraries gives us the opportunity to put Treehouse in front of people who really couldn’t afford the $25 per month [individual subscription] on their own.”
For libraries, standard subscription pricing is based on their total number of active cardholders. Libraries that are interested in these courses and believe they might be eligible for a discount can apply by contacting Treehouse and filling out a one-page questionnaire detailing their financial status and per capita budget.
“What it all boils down to is two things: Are you an underfunded library, and if you are, does your track record tell us that you’re going to make sure your patrons take advantage” of these course offerings to learn new skills? Zabaleta said. He added that 50 percent is the maximum discount, and while one system is already offering the service to its patrons under this rate plan, most applicants will probably qualify for less significant price cuts.
Treehouse is still very new to the library market, but Zabaleta said the company has already noticed significant funding disparities among different systems.
“We’re seeing a huge separation,” he said. “There are libraries that are well funded and have no problem with our subscription price, and we’re talking to other libraries where you look at their funding and their total expenditures and you see what it costs them just to keep the lights on. They’re never going to be able to afford it. And we want everybody to have access to this.”
The company’s technology training courses are geared toward teaching skills that will help users get jobs or earn promotions. And judging by the company’s work with corporate clients, many companies still struggle to find qualified developers and designers, Zabaleta said.
“We are a for-profit company, but at its core Treehouse wants to teach everybody new skills that we believe are absolutely fundamental for literacy in the 21st century,” he added.