Q: Will this work for an organization like mine?
A: We serve organizations of every known shape, size, location, and budget. We have built the platform to add value for organizations 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: I haven’t got time for my current responsibilities. How could I possibly add something new?
A: Many organizations we work with are being asked to accomplish more with fewer resources. It’s a frustrating reality. It’s one of the primary drivers in our development of Niche Academy.
Niche Academy dramatically reduces the amount of overhead required to deliver effective training for both community members and staff.
Q: The solution you describe seems complex. Is there a simpler solution we could try?
A: You’re absolutely right. Addressing the real needs of library patrons and library staff is a complex business. Wherever we can, Niche Academy tries to absorb the complexity for you. We keep our tutorials up to date, we provide comprehensive support for widget implementation and place no limits on the number of support requests you can submit, we’ve created a community of problem-solvers all across the world sharing the training they’ve created... In the end, though, all we can offer is a process we know will work. In the real world, circumstances sometimes prevent individual libraries from implementing the full process. Not all libraries fully use the staff training. Not all libraries get the patron-facing widgets implemented. Experience has shown that even in those situations, there is still solid value in the parts they are able to use.
Q: I’m already seeing good usage for our eResources why would I need Niche Academy?
A: If you’re seeing good usage and not using the Niche Academy process, imagine what your results might be if you did! Also, the value of a Niche Academy subscription goes way beyond increasing eResource circulations. Niche Academy is a full professional development tool that enhances the impact of almost everything else your do. The Niche Academy tutorial marketplace includes professional development training on every aspect of professional librarianship customer service, sensitivity to trauma, professional ethics, and diversity and inclusion, just to name a few. Niche Academy is also a powerful platform for dramatically increasing participation in library programs by making them available asynchronously and online.
Q: How many organizations are using your service?
A: Currently (Mar 2021), over 900 organizations or every size use Niche Academy including libraries, parks & recreation departments, IDD service providers, and more.
Q: How many state libraries are currently using your service?
A: Niche Academy is currently (Nov 2020) in use at 28 State Libraries including 2 US protectorates and the District of Columbia.
Q: Why should I trust you?
A: Until you get to know us, we ask that you rely on the word of our customers. We invite you to speak with any of our customers. Ask them how we take care of people. Ask them whether we honor our commitments. Over the 6 years we’ve been in business, we have a 95% renewal rate. We believe this speaks to the value we provide.
Q: Do you have a recording of a demo that we can watch?
A: Yes. There are a number of demo videos available on our website. If there’s something more specific you’d like to see, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to get you what you need.
Q: What if I already have staff that can create this training in-house?
A: We do occasionally encounter organizations with funding enough to create the training and maintain it with their own resources. We’ve found, though, that even these organizations choose to work with us because we can reduce the cost so significantly. This allows them to redeploy resources to high-value projects like training for their maker-spaces, cultural building, and partnerships with other local organizations.
Q: How do I sign up?
A: Contact your area partnership manager and they’ll help you schedule a setup meeting. If you don’t know who your area partnership manager is, reach out with the phone number or the contact form on our website and we’ll get you started.
Q: How do we connect with other Niche Academy subscribers?
A: The Niche Academy User’s Group on Facebook is a great way to post questions and make connections. If you’re interested in connecting within a specific geographic region, see this map to find a customer near you. If you need to find a contact at a specific organization or an organization with specific attributes, reach out to our support team and we’ll hook you up.
Q: How much does Niche Academy cost?
A: Niche Academy uses a tiered pricing method based on the number of people served by the organization. The pricing tiers vary based on local currency. Contact Niche Academy to get a quote for your library.
Q: Why should we pay for this when we can have a YouTube channel for free?
A: YouTube makes money from advertising. When you use YouTube for free video hosting, you choose to also present your users with the video ads that Google determines will be most interesting to your users. Experience has shown that these video ads are a significant distraction and often deflect people from ever getting to the experiences you provide. Niche Academy presents no ads and the only branding your users will see is your own. Additionally, YouTube does not provide the organization-specific training available on Niche Academy, nor does it include a learning management platform for training staff and volunteers.
Q: What is included in the price?
A: Niche Academy subscriptions include all of the following:
Q: Do you charge extra for configuration or customization of the platform?
A: Configuration of customer academies and pre-population with tutorials from the Niche Academy Marketplace are included in the subscription price. There are no additional fees for support levels. Niche Academy does not create custom tutorials for individual customers, but we’re happy to support any technical questions that arise during the process.
Q: We have someone on staff that creates videos for us. Why do we need you? Isn’t that redundant?
A: Having a staff person that creates videos is a rare and valuable resource. Most of our customers who have a video creator on staff focus their efforts on other high impact creative projects. A Niche Academy subscription typically costs much less than the cost in staff hours and opportunity cost to recreate something Niche Academy has already created.
Q: What additional training is available for a fee in addition to the annual subscription.
A: Most of the training in the Niche Academy Marketplace is included with a subscription. A few professional trainers host their training on the Niche Academy platform and charge their own fee for access to their training. Examples of professional training that is available for a fee include:
Q: What evaluation or learning assessment mechanisms are available for training within Niche Academy?
A: There are two kinds of learning assessment available within Niche Academy: formative assessment and summative assessment.
Q: Will people actually watch these videos?
A: Our usage data says yes. Our tutorials have logged almost 2.5M views in this year alone. We build all our content following principles of sound instructional design to make sure they are well adapted to the needs, interests, and vocabulary level of our target audiences.
Q: Why are widgets important and how do we add them to our website?
A: Widgets provide a consistent way for community members to get instruction within your website. Experience has shown that they are a key factor in dramatically increasing views and participation. They also allow you to reach people who are reluctant to reach out in person or over the phone, and they are able to reach people who are curious outside of your regular operating hours.
Q: What happens if someone who has shared a tutorial leaves the platform?
A: While we’ve never actually encountered this situation, we can tell you what our policies indicate. Because people retain the intellectual property rights to the tutorials they share on the platform, they would, in theory, have the right to change or remove what they have shared. If they have allowed people to make copies of their tutorial, any copies made would not be affected.
Q: What if I don’t have time to create tutorials?
A: This is very common. Most of our customers are in this situation. Even many who begin with the intention of creating tutorials often find that life gets in the way. This is why we create tutorials and why we created the marketplace where people can share the things they create. In addition to the tutorials Niche Academy provides, people have been generous with their work. There are over 1000 tutorials in the marketplace on a wide range of topics. If you don’t have time to create your own tutorials, you can use what others have created.
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: How can we get closed captioning for the tutorials we create?
A: The administrative interface for uploading videos in Niche Academy includes a place for you to upload an SRT file (the text file with timestamps that goes along with a video). We use a company called Rev.com to create our closed captions. We’ve been happy with their quality and their price is very reasonable.
Q: What kind of process do you have to curate the content on the Marketplace?
A: Currently, we don’t curate content on the Marketplace. Our Copyright Policy relies on reporting for enforcement. As the range of content available has expanded, we’ve had a number of requests for a rating and comments system in the marketplace, so we’re currently exploring that possibility.
Q: How big can videos be on Niche Academy?
A: We currently impose a 2GB limit for video uploads.
Q: Do you have any free tutorials?
A: Most of the training available in the Niche Academy Marketplace is available to all subscribers at no additional charge. The Marketplace also includes tutorials that have been created by professional trainers who sell their training on the Niche Academy platform. These trainers set their own prices. There is a toggle within the marketplace to only show tutorials that are freely available to all subscribers.
If you don’t have a subscription, there are a few entities who use the Niche Academy platform to make training freely available to anyone who needs it. One example of this is the Reopening Lives Academy that many volunteers collaboratively created to help handle common questions emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: Do you have tutorials in languages other than English?
A: To date we have a limited number of tutorials in Spanish, German, and Arabic (as well some regional variations in UK and Australian English). We also offer a number of non-English subtitled tutorials where appropriate. We prioritize tutorial creation based on customer requests. As we expand our presence beyond English speaking world, we anticipate creating more non-English tutorials. We track tutorial requests in the Niche Academy User’s Group on Facebook. Please let us know what tutorials you’d like to see.
Q: Can we change the audio or closed captioning to another language? Add subtitles?
A: Yes. When you upload SRT files for your own videos, you have the option to specify a language. If you’d like to see a subtitle translation for a Niche Academy tutorial, please make the request on the Niche Academy User’s Group on Facebook.
Q: How do I upload my own content to Niche Academy?
A: To present your own content within Niche Academy, use the following process:
The following tutorial provides a bit more detail for the curious: Creating a Tutorial.
Q: Can I modify the content of tutorials in the Niche Academy Marketplace to meet my own specific needs?
A: When you add a tutorial from the Niche Academy Marketplace into your own academy, you can do any of the following to adapt the tutorial to your needs:
None of these adaptations will modify the original shared tutorial. For this reason, you won’t be able to modify the original text or the video content shared by the tutorial creator.
Tutorial creators have the option to allow other users to create a local copy of their tutorial. If the original creator allows copies, when you create a copy of a shared tutorial within your own academy, you are able to directly modify your copy without impacting the work of the original creator.
Q: Can I add content created by other users into my own academy?
A: You can add any content presented in the Niche Academy Marketplace to your own academy. Whenever users create content on the Niche Academy platform, they have the option to share that content into the Niche Academy Marketplace. Creators have the option to allow or not allow other users to create copies of their tutorials. The default setting is not to allow copies. Creators also have the option to require an additional fee for the use of their tutorials. If a tutorial requires a separate fee, users of that tutorial will only be able to make that tutorial available to enrolled learners that have been explicitly invited or authorized to use that training.
Q: Can I use my own branding within the Niche Academy user interface?
A: Niche Academy is a white-labeled product, which means that the only branding presented within the user interface is the branding chosen by the subscribing entity. Because we are assiduous about the quality of the user experience, we take a minimalist approach to branding. The logo or the name of the subscribing entity is presented in the top left of the user interface whether in mobile or desktop view. The primary color scheme of the academy may also be set to match the branding of the subscribing entity.
Q: How frequently does Niche Academy update the content it provides?
A: Niche Academy updates tutorial content whenever there are meaningful updates regarding covered topics. We typically turn around updates within a few weeks of becoming aware of the change. If the change does not require video updating, we can make them in a matter of days. In most cases we publish updates before our customers are even aware of the change so the transition is seamless from their perspective. If you’re curious about when the last update was published for any given tutorial, you’ll find a “Last Updated” date when you preview a tutorial within the marketplace.
Q: How often is new content added?
A: Niche Academy publishes new tutorials a couple of times a month. New content is added by other contributors on a daily basis. The marketplace features a “Recently Added” section showing the 50 most recent contributions. This makes it easy to browse for new material of interest.
Q: Can we request new content from Niche Academy?
A: Our tutorial creation queue is driven by customer requests. Priority is given to the most frequently requested tutorials. There is no additional cost for training that is added through Niche Academy’s content queue.
Q: Does Niche Academy support SCORM content?
A: No. SCORM is a legacy standard for sharing instructional content. Niche Academy currently supports the import of packages of HTML-formatted content using the xAPI standard. xAPI (formerly known as (Tin Can) is the current standard for sharing online learning content and provides a better learner experience than what is available with the older SCORM standard.
Q: Can Niche Academy tutorials be exported as files compatible with the SCORM standard?
A: No. SCORM separates content from the presentation and tends to provide poor learner experiences. Content extraction is also incompatible with our subscription-based business model.
Q: Does Niche Academy implement the AICC standard?
A: We don't support AICC. AICC, like SCORM, is a legacy standard for sharing instructional content. We're unlikely to implement it for a few reasons:
The current LTI standard is widely adopted and addresses the concerns listed above. Our intent is to continue to support the LTI standard.
Q: How can Niche Academy tutorials be embedded within my own website?
A: Niche Academy tutorials can be added to a website by means of a “widget”. A widget is a tiny snippet of code that is added to a website. When the code snippet is added to the website a new element appears on the web page. When a website user clicks on that new element, a tutorial is presented. The new widget elements may look like any of the following:
You can choose how you want the tutorial to be presented when the user clicks on the widget. The following options are available:
The code snippet for a widget consists of two parts: a script and an HTML element.
The script can be placed anywhere on the page and only needs to be added once, no matter how many widgets are placed on the page. The HTML element for each widget will need to be placed at the location on the page where you want the widget to appear.
Q: Can training or assessment created outside of Niche Academy be included within a Niche Academy tutorial?
A: Niche Academy supports content that is made to be shared according to the XAPI (Tin Can) standard. If you have created learning experiences with a tool like Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline, for example, you can export that content to an HTML format and then upload that content seamlessly into Niche Academy.
Q: Do you have the ability for the training content to be used synchronously as well as asynchronously?
A: The primary use case for our training is asynchronous. Learners can use our training on their own schedule and at their own convenience. We have a number of customers, however, who use the training synchronously, for example, as part of a live group meeting. We have added features to specifically support this use case such as a configuration that allows automatic flow from one lesson to the next without the need to click “Next”.
Q: Do you offer any guarantees or Service Level Agreements related to uptime or disaster recovery?
A: If individual customers have specific SLA requirements we are usually able to meet them. We maintain more than 99% uptime and our deployment process does not require any scheduled maintenance outages. We have a policy to proactively notify customers of outages and to be fully transparent about issues that arise. Our disaster recovery plans are outlined in our Information Security Policies.
Q: What web browsers do you support?
A: We support the current versions of the following web browsers:
We don’t support Internet Explorer.
Q: Does your platform support Google Analytics?
A: Currently, we don’t have built in support for Google Analytics. This is a feature we’re considering for the future, but, to date, we have been able to meet the usage tracking and statistical reporting needs of our customers with our native usage stats, learner reports, and tutorial reports.
Q: Does the platform provide a way to bundle training into a curriculum or portfolio that can be assigned to individual learners?
A: Niche Academy provides multiple mechanisms for bundling or grouping training to meet the needs of individual learners.
Q: How does an administrator assign tutorials to individual learners or groups of learners?
A: There are two basic ways to assign tutorials within the Niche Academy administrative user interface:
To make it easier to select groups of learners or groups of tutorials in either of the above scenarios, the administrative interface allows you to filter the list of tutorials by category and the list of learners by teams. Teams can be created to reflect a specific role or location. When dealing with large and fluid groups of learners, administrators also have the option to allow learners to assign themselves to teams. An individual learner can belong to more than one team.
Q: How do administrators track learners’ progress?
A: There are two basic progress reports within the administrative user interface:
Both of these reports can be downloaded as CSV files.
Q: What access levels of user access exist within the platform?
A: Niche Academy offers three levels of administrative access:
Q: Some content we want to make publicly available and some needs to be internal. What are the access control options for learners?
A We have 3 basic access levels for securing content hosted on the platform:
Administrators can also choose not to show a tutorial on the main academy page if they want to limit the visibility of a tutorial.
The "Private" designation can also be set at the academy level, rendering all tutorials within the academy effectively private.
Q: What reporting is available within the platform?
A: The following reports are available within the platform:
Q: Can you import existing learner data into Niche Academy?
A: Niche Academy can automatically create accounts for learners invited with an email address. Email addresses can be batch loaded as a comma-separated list. If training is created within Niche Academy that is a parallel to previous training offered outside of Niche Academy, administrators have the ability to manually mark that training as completed for learners who completed the training before it was added to Niche Academy.
Q: How long will it take from the time a contract is executed until the launch of the platform?
A: Niche Academy is typically ready for a customer to launch within 1 day of contract execution. The new customer onboarding process is as follows:
Q: How can learners track their own progress?
A: The Niche Academy learner interface has a “My Tutorials” view that shows a logged in user all the tutorials in which the learner is enrolled. For each tutorial a completion percentage is also presented.
Q: How do administrators and learners communicate within the system?
A: The following secure mechanisms are available within the Niche Academy platform to facilitate communication between administrators and learners:
Q: Does the platform provide learners with certificates of completion?
A: When a learner completes a tutorial or a learning pathway, they are presented with a downloadable certificate of completion. The certificate of completion contains the following information:
Q: Is the platform mobile responsive?
A: All learner-facing user interfaces are built to be mobile responsive. Niche Academy was built on the assumption that use on a mobile device would be a primary use case for all Niche Academy training. A mobile responsive interface is one where the content is just as easy to use and interact with on a small mobile screen as it is on a desktop monitor.
Q: What information do learners need to provide to register with Niche Academy?
A: The Niche Academy learner registration interface requests the following information:
A learner can create an account on their own by going to the Niche Academy login view and selecting the option to create an account. If a learner is invited to Niche Academy by a subscribing entity, an account is created for them at the time the invitation is extended. The invitation includes a temporary password. The first time the learner logs in with that temporary password, they will be prompted to enter their name and choose their own password.
Q: Are there limits on the number of users?
A: No. One of the essential advantages of our cloud-based architecture is the ability to add resources (more memory, more processors, faster processors, more storage...) should the demand on our servers ever require it. We have active alarms in place to alert us if we ever begin to approach our usage thresholds. We keep our readily available resources comfortably above our observed usage patterns. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, we saw an eightfold increase in usage within a matter of days without any degradation in the responsiveness of our service.
Q: Are there limits on the number of administrative users?
A: We don’t charge any more when our subscribers add administrative users. Our licensing agreement does, however, preclude granting administrative access to users outside the licensing organization.
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: How long does it usually take for Niche Academy support to respond to a support request?
A: Niche Academy carefully monitors the amount of time to an initial response and the amount of time that elapses before an issue is resolved. In most cases, we’re able to provide an initial response within an hour or two and most issues and questions are resolved the same day they are submitted.
Q: Is there anything that is not covered by Niche Academy technical support?
A: Niche Academy support can’t create custom tutorials for individual customers and we can’t provide translation services for customer-created training. We can’t provide website design services.
Q: How often do you publish new releases and bug fixes?
A: The Niche Academy uses a disciplined development process that produces an extraordinarily low level of what we call “technical debt”. This allows us to support a steady rhythm of new feature releases that generally follow a 4-6 week pattern. Our process also allows us to address bugs with hotfix releases as soon as they are identified. Most reported bugs are resolved within a matter of days.
Q: What training do you provide for new customers?
A: Niche Academy provides the following training options for all new customers:
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:
Q: Does Niche Academy require any local installation or is it a hosted service?
A: Niche Academy is a fully hosted cloud-based service.
Q: Where are your platform servers located?
A: We use the AWS platform to host Niche Academy. Our primary backend servers are located in the US Oregon AWS region. In order to improve performance, the frontend of our application is replicated globally, on the AWS CloudFront network.
Q: What security measures are included within the platform?
A: Essential platform security measures, including product design, access controls, monitoring, physical security, and Incident Response are outlined in our Information Security Policies.
Q: Where is your data stored and how is access controlled?
A: Our data is stored on our dedicated AWS (Amazon Web Services) servers in the AWS Oregon region. Direct remote access to our production database is controlled by public-private key encryption and is limited to a small number of explicitly authorized IP addresses. Access logs are preserved and are available for forensic purposes should that ever become necessary.
Q: What are your policies for data backup and disaster recovery?
A: We take regular snapshots of our application database using the AWS RDS service. The AWS infrastructure also includes extensive safeguards against physical disc failure and natural disasters. These safeguards include RAID disc storage across multiple physical locations. We have an automated alarm system in place to guard against storage overflow.
Q: What personally identifiable information is stored on your servers?
A: Our production database contains limited personally identifiable information. This information is limited to a name and an email address. The only potentially sensitive information that can be linked to individuals consists of tutorial completion records for enrolled learners. No potentially sensitive information is stored for learners that are not enrolled.
Q: Do you use a third party hosting provider?
A: We use the AWS (Amazon Web Services) platform.
Q: Do you anticipate in the future using any combination of hosted and on premise hosting structure?
A: Our plan is to remain a fully cloud-based solution.