DigitalLearn.org Year in Review
For Immediate Release
Public Library Association (PLA)
CHICAGO – Twenty-seventeen was a busy year for DigitalLearn.org, the Public Library Association’s (PLA) website designed to help consumers increase their digital literacy skills. DigitalLearn.org offers a collection of tutorials on a wide range of subjects through video-based learning modules with narration at a fourth-grade reading level, the majority of which are available in both English and Spanish.
The number of English language courses completed on the main DigitaLearn.org site increased by 17 percent from 2016, and visitor sessions were up by 19 percent. The five most popular courses in 2017 were “Getting Started on a Computer” (4965 completions), “Introduction to Email” (1763), “Navigating a Website” (1758), “Using a Windows 10 PC” (1247), and “Using a Windows 7 PC” (1186).
By the end of 2017, the cohort of public libraries who had created their own custom, branded DigitalLearn websites had grown to seven. They include Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (Penn.), Chicago (Ill.) Public Library, East Baton Rouge (La.) Parish Library, Kalamazoo (Mich.) Public Library, Nashville (Tenn.) Public Library, Pima County (Ariz.) Public Library, and Topeka & Shawnee County (Kan.) Public Library.
Here are some other important milestones from 2017:
In February, PLA announced a partnership with Cox Communications (Cox) to build branded DigitalLearn websites for libraries in three pilot markets—Tucson, Arizona; Topeka, Kansas; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana—while connecting low-income families with digital literacy training and resources. In Cox markets across the company’s 18-state footprint, Cox and the local libraries collaborated on digital literacy and internet adoption initiatives.
In May, PLA and American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy sponsored the Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide (PPDD) 2017 International Conference. The conference brought together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners for an extended, in-depth dialogue about key issues contributing to gaps in access to digital resources. PLA presented a session about DigitalLearn to an international audience at the PPDD conference and spoke at many other national events in 2017 as well.
In June, PLA presented a free webinar, now available on demand, to help more public libraries take advantage of DigitalLearn.org. The webinar highlighted how libraries can start the process of creating their own custom, branded DigitalLearn sites.
In July, PLA launched a new Digital Literacy Committee. Chaired by Monica Dombrowski, Director of Digital Services for the Gail Borden Public Library (Elgin, Ill.), the committee will help public libraries meet community needs related to digital literacy and use of technology, collect and disseminate information on digital literacy resources and provide channels of communication for sharing among public librarians about digital literacy.
In October, PLA celebrated National Cyber Security Awareness Month by encouraging libraries to develop classes focusing on the basics of cybersecurity, covering topics like computer viruses, antivirus software, safe web browsing, and strategies for creating and remembering effective passwords.
In November, a robust suite of resources and tools for library staff and other educators to use when conducting training in the community was incorporated into DigitalLearn.org. Covering 81 learning topics in areas such as hardware, software, social media, and more, these tools were originally developed as Gail’s Toolkit, a project of the Gail Borden Public Library District in Elgin, Ill. Available on DigitalLearn.org’s Tools and Resources for Trainers page, they include presentation slide templates, activity sheets, and other planning documents that make it easy for library training staff and even non-trainers to teach computer and technology classes.
Also in November, PLA added courses in budgeting and using mobile devices to DigitalLearn.org, bringing the total number of tutorials to 21. One new course was designed for first-time users of mobile devices running the Android operating system and the other focuses on Creating a Basic Budget with Microsoft Excel.
There is plenty in store for DigitalLearn.org in 2018 as well. Early in the year, PLA will work with the Digital Literacy Committee and DigitalLearn.org users to identify many new courses to be added to the site this year. PLA will also expand its support to libraries with personalized DigitalLearn.org sites, including by developing additional templates that will allow libraries to more easily create new course content.
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The Public Library Association's site, DigitalLearn.org, is an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant-funded project to create an online hub for digital literacy support and training. Launched in June 2013, DigitalLearn.org was originally undertaken in partnership with ALA's Office of Information Technology Policy and Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, along with representatives from national agencies, state libraries, public libraries, community organizations, and many others. In 2016, a new updated version of DigitalLearn.org launched in partnership with the Chicago Public Library, serving as the model for a growing number of library-specific DigitalLearn.org sites.