Paul Skordilis, President & CEO
The global market spend on education is $6 trillion, but only less than three percent is spent on digital, as per a study by HolonIQ, an education market intelligence firm. While these findings were mere numbers just a few months ago, it took COVID-19 for the world to realize the repercussions. As teachers juggle with whiteboards, laptops, smartphones, headphones, student information systems, learning management systems, and even Amazon Echo, to access school resources and have their voice heard, students and parents look on agonizingly to carry on with education. Educators and learners have an immediate need for digital literacy, as shifting to online learning isn’t an easy task. When schools and school districts pivoted to online, it was a struggle. Everybody—teachers, students, and parents—needs training in digital literacy that includes social and emotional strategies and online instruction in an organized manner. At the same time, they need access to information anytime and anywhere. This situation begs the question: what does it take for educators and learners to have access to reliable, vetted, and up-to-date content—that aligns with the current standards and regulations—using remote learning tools? More importantly, how do you impart the necessary social and emotional learning strategies to thrive in the digital learning space?
Answering these questions is a 100 percent digital learning solutions company, Infobase, that has walked into the COVID-19 era well prepared. Aware of the inherent challenges in migrating to online learning quickly, Infobase has developed flexible and secure technology that delivers educational content, aligning with state and national standards, in digital multimedia format. “With a simple platform and engaging content, Infobase enables personalized learning for both educators and learners,” says Paul Skordilis, president and CEO of the company.
For more than 75 years, educators have relied on Infobase to create learning experiences that promote information literacy, lifelong learning, and social and emotional learning. Founded in 1941, the company has a long history of publishing award-winning and highly acclaimed resources for K–12 schools, academic institutions, and public libraries. In the early 2000s, it started digitizing all of its print titles and began selling eBooks and databases. Soon after, Infobase launched its first video streaming solution and eventually decided to stop publishing original print titles, pivoting exclusively to digital. The company is an award-winning provider of technology-enabled solutions for educators and learners, with 33,000 customers and 160 million users accessing its platforms globally and consuming 500k videos and 1.7M articles. This has placed the company at an advantage incurrent pandemic situation, where digital learning is the need of the hour.
Creating Engaging and Powerful Content
Infobase offers a wide range of essential products to empower educators and learners to thrive with the digital learning process through its Media Cloud and Learning Cloud. The company has entire streaming video collections specially made for academic institutions, high schools, K-12 and districts, and public libraries. Thousands of educational videos cover subjects including history, technology, arts and architecture, biology, language arts, and more. Educators can easily select the videos relevant to the topics they are teaching. For example, if a teacher wants to teach history and has a lesson plan, he or she can map that topic to Learn360's library and choose the relevant video to support the lesson.
In addition, students have access to a plethora of educational and how-to videos to enhance their knowledge and skills. “We provide content, much of it proprietary, that is authoritative and citable and improves comprehension and retention for learners of all ages and learning levels,” adds Skordilis. Similarly, the company offers a range of reference databases with curated content and a variety of learning assets to encourage research and stimulate interest. Infobase databases also cover a wide range of subject areas from history to science to current issues. They are ideal for engaging and informing students and for helping them think critically about their world.
Our strategy is simple: Listen to the market and understand the challenges our customers face and deliver solutions to help solve those challenges
“Our library of streaming videos and databases is designed to align with the evolving needs of teachers and learners,” says Skordilis.
Teachers and educators can also use Infobase’s The Mailbox® School & District (Pre-K to Grade 6), which offers over 52,000 ideas, activities, and worksheets that teach essential skills. The solution is loaded with new content every month, all planned and edited by experts and able to be searched by various state and national standards. The Mailbox School & District equips educators with strategies and tips for classroom management and builds grade-level skills. The convenient Lesson Plan Builder allows educators to create and save personalized lesson plans—comprehensive plans with activities that introduce a skill, sheets to practice it multiple times and in multiple ways, and an assessment that checks for understanding, plus extra practice to ensure that all learners get it or to reteach the skill.
Infobase also provides educators with professional development and training solutions that include over 1,600 courses across more than 50 topics, including digital literacy. The content fully supports each individual specification of all national and state standards and is aligned to all 50 states’ teacher evaluation standards. Infobase’s learning pathways are personalized and in-depth professional learning opportunities that make for more effective teachers, engaged parents, and prepared students. These groupings of individual modules guide learners through a well-rounded and comprehensive study of a specific topic for credits or training. Some of the pathways include professional growth to improve instruction, strategies for systemic support for students, leadership strategies, and more.
The company also touches upon social and emotional learning (SEL) by offering a special 6-session workshop with practicing SEL experts with an emphasis on K–12 schools and districts, whether they have on-site, remote, or hybrid instruction. The workshop consisted of six live, interactive webcasts where participants learned bite-size, actionable strategies they could use immediately, with accompanying blog articles that enhanced and built upon the material in the sessions; the webcasts and blogs are still available on the company’s website. In addition, Infobase offers comprehensive SEL packages across all markets with accessible content for educators, students, and parents that addresses SEL concepts and competencies—including training courses for both students and educators; database and video products for the users’ well-being and research; career guidance tools; and much more.
Infobase also provides a “college and readiness” product through which students can learn about colleges, scholarships, and professions that suit their educational background. “Through our database, students can take assessments to see which professions might align with their skill sets,” says Skordilis.
Today, institutions like The Wharton School, NYC Department of Education, and LA Unified School District use Infobase’s solutions for content and tools related to professional development and training, social and emotional learning, informational literacy, racial literacy, college and career readiness, digital citizenship, and more. The success story of Allen Community College in Iola, Kansas, perfectly demonstrates Infobase’s solutions’ efficiency. The college was looking to provide information literacy to its students to help them identify and use credible, authoritative sources to access high-quality information. While some students had been away from formal schooling for so long that they had forgotten how to find authoritative sources, some had never even learned this skill. Allen Community College engaged Infobase’s Films On Demand for streaming video and Credo Reference for full-text reference articles to empower its students in the research process. One of the many aspects their students like about Credo Reference is that its encyclopedia-like search interface is familiar to them from using Wikipedia.
Credo Reference and Films On Demand not only help with student research but are also exceptional teaching resources. Instructors can embed video clips from Films On Demand and reference content from Credo Reference directly into their course pages within their learning management system. Films On Demand and Credo Reference gave Allen Community College instructors the ideal tools to supplement their teaching, and students, the authoritative sources to begin the research process. Also, the sudden shift to remote learning during the pandemic showed the value of having high-quality online resources to support teaching, learning, and research.
Creating a Way Forward
Infobase is all in for skill-building and bringing fresh content that its audiences want to learn about as part of their education. “Our strategy is simple: Listen to the market and understand the challenges our customers face and deliver solutions to help solve those challenges,” says Skordilis. To that end, the company has introduced the “voice of the customer” initiative that helps it to identify trends and changes in how users are consuming and sharing content and to build better product roadmaps. Whether it’s gamification technology, assessment tools for better student outcomes, or integrating or enhancing its products, the company is always ready to listen and act. Through this program, Infobase has created a new catalog of unbiased, informative content related to racial literacy in the wake of the recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign. “In addition to the content acquisition team, we have a large editorial team writing and updating content to that end,” says Skordilis. Infobase has also invested in product insight software to understand usage patterns better and figure out problem areas within its applications. “Our head of product is working on a unified system to allow our customers to submit feedback, vote up that feedback, and help share product innovation at Infobase,” he adds. What’s more, the company recently hired a CTO, Alexander Pereira, to identify, articulate, and map out future innovation and tie it to company growth. The CTO also helps the company keep students and educators secure while exploring its media and learning platforms.
To maximize the adoption of its solutions, Infobase completes the customer onboarding process in just two days through automation and dedicated support teams. Built on the latest security authentication standards, Infobase’s platform integrates with the customer environment’s learning system, be it a school, university, or public library. “We are not a public-facing application, and we operate behind a firewall, so there is no room for breach of information for our customers or their students,” says Skordilis. The company provides APIs and direct access to library systems, Google Classrooms, or any LMS platforms. Moreover, because the company is integrated into standard LMSs such as Blackboard, Google Classroom, and Canvas, users can access the collaborative tools built into their LMS for internal communication. Also, Infobase is on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which consists of a secure infrastructure to support and protect the company’s solutions.
"With a simple platform and engaging content, Infobase enables personalized learning for both educators and learners"
As a company that stresses lifelong learning, Infobase has acquired an online-based professional development and training platform that teachers can use to learn about Google Classroom or other tools, achieve continuing education credits (CECs), and access vast training material for professional development. Skordilis highlights that learning is becoming more meaningful daily, and soon there will be little reason for a one-size-fits-most approach. Infobase focuses on personalized learning and prepares teachers for its delivery. “Like Netflix, the idea that students can consume content 24/7 safely and securely, is exciting. But we also know educators need to perform to standards and deliver secure assessments. The art of discovering and discerning content is a critical life skill in and of itself, and Infobase truly supports both educators and learners.”
Infobase aims to provide an extraordinary user experience. "If we remove barriers for our educators and learners, allowing them to unleash their greatest assets—educating, inspiring, and staying curious throughout their lives—then we've done our job," adds Skordilis.