An Oasis in the Digital Divide

Megan Knapp   / 

Technology Skills You Can Take to the Bank … and the Next Job Interview

Libraries partner with Oasis Connections to provide essential technology skills for older adults

These days staying on top of technology trends is not only critical to career success, it also helps us connect with family, friends, and the wider world. But if you don't have a computer, or you are new to using a particular device, the experience of working with technology can often be intimidating or downright frustrating.

Libraries today offer an important service to communities through access to technology equipment and training to overcome tech barriers, but they can't always do this alone. As budgets shrink and resources are spread thin, maintaining a rich course curriculum -- and even sourcing and training the volunteers needed to teach technology classes -- can be challenging. In the recent Amp Up Your Technology Training webinar, facilitators discussed approaches to adult education, and the unique benefits of partnering with subject matter experts at Oasis Connections, to provide technology training in the library environment.

Amy VanDeVeld, National Connections Program Manager, explained that Oasis began with a mission to "bridge the digital divide" for adults. As fewer people retire from the workforce, the lack of current technology skills puts on-the-job employees and job seekers at a disadvantage. Even beyond employment skills, studies now show the connection between social media engagement and improved cognitive performance. Using the Oasis Connections Facebook curriculum, for example, a recent study noted that training participants performed 25% better on tasks to measure their working memory. By providing training content and materials to access technology and master tech skills, Oasis strives to supply older adults with the tools and learning they need to confidently use technology at work or at home.

Oasis partners Hayley St. John-Ayre at the Broward County Library in Florida, and Mary Bush at Multnomah County Library in Oregon, shared powerful statistics on how Oasis training is currently used in their library systems. They pointed to flexibility and accessibility -- both in terms of content and account management -- as key Oasis assets. Both St. John-Ayre and Bush were looking for consistent and regularly updated course content across branches, and they found a positive solution with Oasis Connections.

St. John-Ayre emphasized the importance of acquiring and maintaining a great volunteer base to provide training. In addition to a variety of participant courses, from online safety to digital photography, Oasis provides helpful train-the-trainer options through monthly instructor webinars on adult learning needs and best practices in instruction. Bush also highlighted the Oasis evaluation forms and database for tracking training statistics. In a data-driven culture, Oasis Connections tools help libraries tell their training success stories.

Webinar chat questions centered on Spanish-language course offerings (Oasis does have Spanish-language courses and survey materials available), and pricing. Libraries are encouraged to contact Oasis about pricing, and facilitators noted that support from library partners like Friends organizations, or in some cases grant applications, can help offset costs. It was generally agreed that the annual license fees were very reasonable, especially for the value offered to partners and course participants.

As libraries look to train adults to keep current at work, or to stay in touch with friends and loved ones at home, Oasis Connections delivers excellent resources to amp up any technology training. Perhaps the best proof comes from training participants themselves. People like Mary Ann Gomillion, of Dallas, Texas, who said, "I used to be in front of the desk, filling out applications. Now I'm behind the desk, working on the computer. I learned everything from ground zero in the Connections class."

To learn more about Oasis Connections and older adult technology education offerings, visit the webinar page.