This past February, Tim O’Reilly brought me into an email thread with the White House with a straightforward but urgent request — could Safari provide the delivery mechanism to make all of O’Reilly Media’s titles available to every K–12 student in America? Commitments to the President’s “ConnectED” program were lined up from a number of software, hardware, and networking companies, but connected devices would be much more useful with content included. We’re proud that we were able to say yes to something so important — and on such short notice.
It made sense for Safari to deliver on O’Reilly’s commitment, as our business is providing online access to thousands of the best books and training courses to companies and organizations of all sizes. But as we started unpacking the particulars, we uncovered more complexity than we expected. For example, there are tens of thousands of school districts across the country, each with their own IT infrastructure. It simply wouldn’t scale if providing access to every student also meant working directly with every school or district. Compliance with a set of regulations designed to protect children’s privacy (known as COPPA) meant that we couldn’t simply open up our standard platform to students.
Constraints can be wonderful in focusing attention, and fortunately the outstanding team at Safari was up for the challenge. By September 1, we had quietly opened up a beta site where any high school student could apply for access to the full collection of O’Reilly books and videos.
In conjunction with today’s White House event promoting “Future Ready Schools,” I’m thrilled to say that we have delivered on the pledge to make the full catalog of O’Reilly books and videos available for free to any K–12 student in America, more than a month ahead of our original January 2015 promise.
Our first partner in providing access is Edmodo, which is already used by tens of millions of students and teachers, and we’ll be adding support for other authentication providers soon. Any teacher with a verified Edmodo account can instantly access Safari for Schools, as can their students and parents of those students.
Basic access to the content is a huge step forward, but we know there’s lots more to do, and ConnectED has a timeframe measured in years, not months. We’ll be working with a number of large districts and key non-profits that support schools and students to help them make the most use of their access to Safari for Schools. We’ve also heard from several other publishers eager to include their titles in the program, and expect to announce more participants in the months ahead.
Jamey DeOrio, one of our engineers who worked on the project, said via HipChat recently, “I tell my friends/family that Safari for Schools is the coolest thing I’ve had a hand in professionally,” and I know he’s not the only one here at Safari that feels that way.
Every single one of us here at Safari is proud to be a part of this initiative and the opportunity to help tens of millions of students and teachers learn the technology skills they need to succeed. Find out more at safaribooksonline.com/connected.
A version of this post was originally published on the Safari blog.