How Utah State University's Library Presentation Views Went From 1,300 to 35,000 in Just 1 Year

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Who is this for?

If you are an academic librarian who believes in the value of the library within the broader institution, but you see that value declining in the eyes of other higher education leaders…

If you want to make a direct and measurable contribution to student success…

If your priorities are shifting from collections to services…

...this is for you.

 

The ACRL Academic Library Trends and statistics survey shows a decrease in the average number of presentations to groups from 2018-2019, as well as in the ratio of library staff to student FTE.

Finding more effective ways to deliver library instruction is the only way to reverse these trends and demonstrate the value the library has to offer.

The Core Concept

It is possible to dramatically increase the number and quality of library presentations and make meaningful and measurable contributions to student success, but most academic libraries don’t get those results because they make students go out of their way to access library instruction.

Conventional library instruction methods require that students come into the library, be in a specific place, join a session at a specific time, or simply know where to find it. Making immediately relevant library instruction available asynchronously online and as a seamlessly integrated part of discipline-specific courses will overcome those obstacles and produce dramatic results.

Niche Academy is the only company providing an end-to-end solution for this.

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Our Story

Niche Academy Founder & CEO, Jeromy Wilson, didn’t choose the library life. It chose him. Jeromy was only 4 years old when his father, Jim Wilson, helped found Dynix, a software company responsible for the integrated library system that replaced the need for physical card catalogs. Growing up, he tagged along to countless library conferences and events, before eventually taking a job at Dynix after graduating. But after a few years, as the world was going digital, Jeromy began to notice a problem: despite the increase in available online resources, they just weren’t being used.

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Jared, Jim, & Jeromy at PLA 2018

So in 2013, Jeromy set out to find a solution, and that’s where the idea for Niche Academy was born. He started out on his own, adding to the platform in his free time and taking advantage of the industry contacts he’d already made, but he soon realized that he wasn’t going to be able to do it alone. That’s when he decided to recruit the help of former Dynix co-worker Jared Oates. Together, they were able to get Niche Academy off the ground and it wasn’t long before they found a whole team of people who believed in their idea. 

Seven years later, we are now a team of 22 (and counting!), and are trusted by over 800 library systems (including state libraries, local libraries, and consortia) all across the world. 

After getting our start with just a few short library tutorials, we’re now helping to build the future of online resources and e-learning. 

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A Better Way

Old Approach

Training is live, either in-person or online.

New Approach

Library instruction is always available asynchronously online.

Old Result

Learners must show up at a specific time, and often in a specific place to receive the training.

New Result

Students always have access to high quality task-specific library instruction.

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Learners get the most value out of library instruction when it is continually available for reference and delivered in bite-sized chunks.


Old Approach

Library instruction requires learners to go out of their way to receive it. It's presented as an appendage to the regular instruction for a course and usually limited to a few specific intro level courses.

New Approach

Library training is embedded as an assignment directly into regular online course material within the campus LMS.

Old Result

Library instruction is usually an anomalous single event in a student's academic life. Knowledge retention is limited, only a few topics are covered, and the perception of the library as an essential learning resource is limited.

New Result

Library instruction becomes an integral part of the academic experience from introductory level classes through to graduate level research. The library is able to offer a broad range of instruction including information literacy topics, guidance on specific databases, and highly focused support for discipline-specific research.

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"Marketing" library instruction becomes a non-issue when it is integrated into regular course material throughout the institution.


Old Approach

Library instruction is one-size-fits-all. There is little adaptation across disciplines and almost never from course to course.

New Approach

Library instruction is tailored to the needs of individual faculty members and in support of specific courses. Course-specific instruction can include introductions to specific databases, research techniques, citation best practices, and essential information literacy skills.

Old Result

Faculty within disciplines perceive library instruction as a marginally relevant offering rather than a direct support for their own course-specific objectives.

New Result

Faculty from many disciplines collaborate closely with library staff to provide students with focused, high quality instruction that directly supports course-specific objectives. The perceived relevance and value of the library increases dramatically.

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The most effective ways a library can support High Impact Educational Practices is by providing course-specific library instruction.


Old Approach

The training offered by the library changes very little between semesters and from year to year.

New Approach

The range of library instruction offerings is continually expanding and being refreshed. Database instruction is updated whenever there are user interface or functionality changes. Information literacy and research support instruction reflects emerging trends and innovations.

Old Result

The library offering is perceived as being stale and marginally relevant.

New Result

Library instruction becomes a timely, highly relevant, and indispensable resource for faculty and for students.

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Fresh, up-to-date training offerings show that the library is adaptive, innovative and relevant.

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To Dramatically Increase the Number & Quality of Online Presentations

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Options

In-House Creation

 

You can create all the necessary online instructional material yourself, either with in-house resources or by hiring a contractor. Once a core set of instructional material is created, it still needs to be assembled into custom tutorial experiences for each course and faculty member the library works with.

ResultTo do this in-house, you'd have to redirect resources to focus on training staff in effective instructional design and video editing, and you will need to purchase good sound recording equipment if you don't already have it.

Price: Niche Academy’s average cost for creating a single tutorial is about $1,200. In order to match this cost, you’ll need to have in-house writers, instructional designers, illustrators, video/sound editors, and an efficient process that will allow these people to work together. To get started with a meaningful offer, you'd need at least a couple dozen tutorials. The cost for an initial offer would be at least $28,000.

If you had to outsource the video creation process or contract it piecemeal, you could expect to pay $1,000 per finished minute of professional quality video, and if you include just 10 minutes of video in each of your 24 tutorials, you're looking at a cost of $240,000.

In either case, you'd need to have a staff librarian to manage and direct the project. Salary.com indicates that the average salary for a college librarian starts at around $60,000/year. 

Once you had the needed library instruction content, you’d then need to add it to specific courses. To do this by hand for each course, you’d need editing access to courses that belong to other faculty members. From a permissions perspective, this approach is usually a non-starter. A better approach is to use a content integration mechanism like LTI or an LMS-specific content commons that allows faculty to easily add the library assignments themselves, and you’d need to provide support for faculty and students using it. Providing a satisfying experience would require at least one dedicated support person available to field questions and troubleshoot. An employee with the necessary technical and interpersonal skills costs at least $30,000-$40,000 a year.

Finally, the cost of customizing the tutorial experience for individual courses is mostly a reflection of the labor required to collect tutorial content components for each individual course. These components may include information literacy training and introductions to specific databases. This can sometimes be done by interns or student employees working closely with library staff who are familiar with the resources appropriate for specific disciplines and can facilitate communication with faculty, but you'd need to factor in the time required to train those employees. Conservatively, the time requirement here would be around 4 hours per course, and if you're able to average out the cost per hour to around $25/hr, with just 20 courses, you're looking at an additional cost of $2,000.

Timeframe: With an efficient process and readily available people with the required skills, a professional quality tutorial would take about a month to produce. For 24 tutorials, the time cost for an initial offer would be 2 years, and the customization alone of the tutorials for 20 individual courses would take another several days.

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The Niche Academy platform makes it easy to assemble the needed parts for a customized course-specific tutorial from existing tutorial material, which may include introductions to discipline-specific databases, as well as research essentials like search techniques, source evaluation, & appropriate citation methods.

You can select training material from a continually expanding collection of high quality library instruction and tap into an enormous marketplace of training content maintained by a community of practitioners and library experts and, as a customer, you’ll also be able to influence Niche Academy’s content creation queue.

Result: The instructional design, video, and audio quality of Niche Academy tutorials are top notch and exactly matched to the needs of academic libraries. The tutorials are completely white-labeled for each institutional library. Faculty members can simply select what they need from a collection of available library training.

Using Niche Academy, the library can create the material once and update it on the fly, even in the middle of a semester, if necessary. Students don't have to log in outside of the campus LMS, and their progress & quiz results are automatically tracked within the system.

As an added benefit of using the Niche Academy platform, the library has automatic visibility into usage stats for library-provided training. This means real-time reports on the number of asynchronous library presentations, which make it easy to demonstrate usage of library material and the value of the library to student success.

Every Niche Academy subscription includes unlimited access to Niche Academy technical support experts. You can rely on their extensive experience to help troubleshoot technical questions and to support your setup.

The Niche Academy platform lets you create course-specific tutorial experiences with a small fraction of the effort, and the library tutorial marketplace lets you select, adapt, and customize material for your own library to continually offer fresh training options.

Price: Subscriptions starting at just $1,200.

Timeframe: Academy setup takes less than 2 hours.

Niche Academy is for academic librarians who want to contribute to student success.

Case Studies

 

“Your customer service... the service that you provide when there are issues or when I want something new... we've had a problem solving kind of relationship... It has been really superior to any other product that we have at USU. That's been really great.”

 

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Library tutorial usage in the 2018-2019 academic year totaled 1,362 views. In the same timeframe from 2019-2020 there were over 35,000 tutorial views.

Utah State University

USU first began working with Niche Academy to train staff in the fall of 2014. 

In 2018, they also began to use Niche Academy to provide library instruction to the broader campus community. This was Teagan Eastman’s focus.

Before Niche...

Prior to Niche Academy, instructional material created by the library was not getting used by the people who could benefit most from it. USU had LibGuides to help people become familiar with Library resources, but most students and faculty did not seek out and use the information there.

With Niche Academy...

While the USU Merrill-Cazier Library continues to use LibGuides, Niche Academy allowed them to dramatically expand their instructional offerings and present them in new contexts: embedded in library web pages and within their EBSCO user interface, for example. 

The Big Change...

Over the last year, Niche Academy has also allowed them to make library tutorials available within the campus LMS so faculty can include them as regular assignments in their own online instruction. Usage is no longer a problem. The library doesn’t have to go out of its way to market the instructional material it creates, Library tutorials are getting used because they’re a part of the regular workflow of university courses and they live at the point of need. 

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Niche Academy Helps You...

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Dramatically increase the number of online presentations you can report

 

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Obtain measurable evidence of the library’s contribution to student success

 

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Deploy precious staff resources more effectively and serve more students without increasing the burden on staff

 

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Strengthen the library’s position as a dynamic, highly professional, and indispensable resource within the broader institution

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How It Works

Professional Quality Training & Tutorials

The instructional design, video, and audio quality are top notch and exactly matched to the needs of academic libraries. The tutorials are completely white labeled for each institutional library.

LTI Integration Within Campus LMS

The library can create material once and update it on the fly, even within a single semester if necessary. Students don't have to log in outside of the campus LMS. Student progress is automatically tracked. The library has automatic visibility into usage stats for library-provided training. Faculty members can add Niche Academy tutorials as assignments within their own courses by simply selecting what they need from a collection of available library training.

 

Customized Library Instruction for Individual Faculty Members

The Niche Academy platform makes it easy to assemble the needed parts for a customized course-specific tutorial from existing tutorial material. The existing material may include introductions to discipline-specific databases as well as research essentials like search techniques, source evaluation, and appropriate citation methods. The Niche Academy platform lets you create course-specific tutorial experiences with a small fraction of the effort.

 

Continually Updated Training

Using Niche Academy, you can select training material from a continually expanding collection of high quality library instruction. You can tap into an enormous marketplace of training content contributed by a community of practitioners and library experts. As a customer, you’ll also be able to influence Niche Academy’s content creation queue. The Niche Academy library tutorial marketplace lets you select, adapt, and customize material for your own library to continually offer fresh training options.

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The Value of Niche Academy

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Niche Academy did not increase prices in 2020 due to COVID, but we expect a price increase for new customers in 2021.

Our Policy: No price increase upon renewal. 

If you subscribe before the new year, you’ll be locked in and will not see a price increase.

 


 

COVID has created a focus on eResources. This is an opportunity.

Our Guarantee: If you implement Niche Academy and work with non-library faculty to integrate library training in their courses, we guarantee results. If you’re not completely satisfied with your results in the first year, we’ll credit you a full year’s subscription.

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Questions?

Q: Are we limited to a certain number of training and support hours?

A: No. A Niche Academy subscription includes unlimited professional support. See the answer above on what’s included in the price.


Q: What’s the process for reaching Niche Academy support?

A: Niche Academy support specialists can be reached by phone, by email, or through questions submitted within the platform itself. In addition to the live support, Niche Academy provides a searchable knowledge base and a collection of self-paced help tutorials covering basic administrative tasks and the process for tutorial creation.


Q: What maintenance and support is included with a Niche Academy subscription?

A: Niche Academy provides live technical support during business hours. There is no additional charge levied for Niche Academy support and there are no support tiers. Small customers get the same thoughtful attention as everyone else.  

All aspects of initial onboarding are included in the Niche Academy support offering including:

  • The creation of customer academies and initial population of appropriate tutorials from the Niche Academy marketplace.
  • Basic configuration of tutorials within each customer academy including invitation of learners, the addition of custom links, and showing or hiding available tutorial elements appropriately for the intended audience.
  • The creation of website widgets and their integration into a customer’s website. When a customer doesn’t have administrative access to their website, we work directly with the third party who does to ensure efficient communication. In many cases, our customers provide temporary administrative access to Niche Academy support staff in order to maximize the efficiency of widget implementation.
  • Live training calls with all customer staff that need to learn how to use Niche Academy.


Q: How long does it take for Niche Academy to update tutorials when resources change?

A: Depending on the scope of the change, Niche Academy can turn around an update within a few days to a few weeks. Because we actively watch for new and upcoming changes, we’re often able to make the updates before most of our customers are even aware of the change. In some notable cases, we’ve made updates even before the vendor sales staff knew the changes were coming.


Q: Are accessibility features available?

A: Yes. Niche Academy is compliant with the WCAG 2.1 standard at the AA level. This is something we work hard to maintain as we continuously update the platform. If you spot anything that’s slipped through our testing, please let us know. A thorough enumeration of our compliance level is available in the Niche Academy Accessibility Conformance Report.

Q: What if I can’t afford this?

A: Each library needs to determine for itself the value of increasing circulation numbers and program participation rates relative to other priorities for limited library funds. We do make an effort to keep the cost of Niche Academy very low relative to the value we provide. Over the last 6 years, we have increased pricing for new customers commensurate with the increasing value of the service we provide. It is our policy, however, not to raise prices for our existing customers. Libraries are renewed at their original subscription price. Libraries who subscribe at our current pricing will pay less than libraries who start later on. This policy is one factor contributing to a renewal rate of over 95%.


Q: Will this work for a library like mine?

A: We serve libraries of every known shape, size, location, and budget. We serve small libraries with just a few staff as well as the largest systems with many hundreds of employees. We serve libraries that are almost entirely staffed by part timers and volunteers as well as libraries with highly specialized professionals. We serve libraries located on inner city streets as well as on rural routes. We serve libraries with thriving and secure budgets as well as those facing serious cuts. We have built the platform to add value for libraries that can create unique and extensive in-house training, but also get results as a plug-in solution that can work with near zero administrative overhead.


Q: If my state library subscribes to Niche Academy, why does my local library need it?

A: If your state library’s subscription includes a subscription for each local library, you won’t need a separate subscription. If your state library’s subscription does not include a subscription for each local library, you’ll be able to access training that the state library provides, but you won’t have the ability to do any of following:

  • Add widgets to your own website.
  • Create your own local academies.
  • Assign and track training at the local level.
  • Create your own tutorials.

The most significant gains in program participation and eResource usage come when widgets are available within your local library’s website and patrons are connecting to programs created by local librarians.

 

 

 

More questions? Check out our FAQ page.

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