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On October 27-29th, CountryReports attended the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our staff looks forward to this conference over all others in part because it is held every two years, but also because so many of our members from around the nation attend. It is a great opportunity to visit, catch up on local developments and to solicit feedback for future product development.

This year the conference did not disappoint. Numerous school librarians came to visit our booth, some from as far away as Alaska, Hawaii and even Poland. While economic circumstances have impacted both schools and vendors, the conference was still a great success. It was noticeable that vendors gave less away in the form of books and attendees had less money to spend. This is just the way it is at this time in American history. Several thanked us for keeping our prices affordable. CountryReports has not increased membership costs for over three years.

Minneapolis was a great city. It was most interesting to see how the city makes use of a network of skybridges. One can walk the entire city without ever leaving the skybridges that run throughout the city. This system combined with public transit and a subway system impressed our staff. The downtown district, unlike many other US cities, was full of activity as a combination of retail, residential and commercial made for an interesting mix of people. The locals that our staff interacted with were most friendly.

Our United States Edition, which is written for a younger audience, profiles Minnesota should one want to explore Minnesota further.  Just click here.

In March 2011, CountryReports provided a QR Code for access to CountryReports using a bar code scanner or smart phone.  In July 2011, we launched a Countries Widget which allowed one to select a country profile from outside the CountryReports web site.  Now, CountryReports is pleased to provide additional tools that make access easy.

Our new Search Widget allows content to be searched remotely without  the need to actually visit CountryReports.  Simply, insert code into your site and begin searching CountryReports!   Below is an example search widget:

CountryReports Search Widget

In addition, we are providing custom URL’s that will automatically log students into CountryReports.  This tool is found within the “Manage your Membership” page which is accessible to account admins.   Simply use the embedded URL  provided by the student access portion of the admin page.  This tool is great for students which are logging into a secure school web site from home and need access to resources purchased by the school.

The QR code, search widget and countries widgets all can be found on the “Get Your Widget” page.  Find the tool that works best for you and enjoy access made easy!

Customer satisfaction is key to any business relationship.  At CountryReports, our products and services are developed primarily from the feedback we receive.  In other words, the content you see within CountryReports has been derived from the user feedback we have received over the years.  We recently conducted our annual customer satisfaction survey and will now share some results.

Overall members are quite satisfied with CountryReports and feel their subscription is a very good value.  100% of elementary, middle and high school members are somewhat likely or very likely to recommend CountryReports to their peers or colleagues, with 89% being very likely.  Only 2% of customers were somewhat unlikely to refer a peer and no member indicated that they were very unlikely to refer someone.

Over 90% of members are somewhat or very likely to renew their subscription.  Even though the CountryReports online database contains over 35,000 pages of content on countries, the one thing respondants wanted more than anything else was more content.    The world is a big place, but you can never have enough information about it.  We will continue to add new content as we too cannot get enough “of it” ourselves!

High schools were the most satisfied with 83% being very satisfied, followed closely by elementary schools and middle schools.  Not a single customer gave CountryReports a dissatisfied rating.  The number one reason why a member elected to not renew was due to budget constraints.  We recognize that these are difficult economic times and thus elected to freeze our prices again during 2011.  A single school can still obtain access to all our products for under $150 making it among the most reasonably priced educational resource on the Internet.

We appreciate the 100 plus members that took the time to give feedback.

This summer has been a busy time for our staff.  A semi-annual content review was completed where among other things, demographic, government and economic data was updated.  While we conduct updates throughout the year, we do an exhaustive review at least twice a year to ensure that our content remains current.   The world is a big place, but we strive to keep abreast of the changes that occur.

In addition to content, we are pleased to inform our members that our Customer Admin area now has several new features that have been in demand.  First, one may now view and create their own usage reports.  An admin may also manage student access, add products, renew their membership and obtain a handy “Widget” that can be inserted into their own web site to make getting to CountryReports even easier.    Click Here for our Admin Page.

Below is an example Widget.  Click on it to obtain your insertion code:

In an effort to constantly improve our product offering, we sent a staff member to attend the “AASL Top 25 Web Sites for Teaching and Learning” seminar which was held at the American Library Association (ALA) annual convention in New Orleans.  The day long seminar demonstrated what school librarians need in the way of online resources and what features they considered best.  The actual list of web sites reviewed can be found here.

Tour boat in New Orleans

In a nutshell, we discovered that schools are looking for ways to migrate away from the traditional “posterboard” and instead use online tools that permit students to collaborate on projects and share them with other students in the classroom.  The other interesting aspect was that most of the web sites discussed were not content providers, but use content in order to function.  For example, a storyboard or timeline feature would need content to populate a given program.

This is where CountryReports comes into play.  With over 35,000 pages of usable content, schools can insert our content into various web site tools as students generate reports and complete assigned projects.  One popular feature we offer is for students to use country recipes and photos within their projects.  While the Internet continues to create fun new ways of learning, content remains key to a students success.

The CountryReports new website is now live!  The new website improves navigation, enhances how one learns and provides a simpified format.   We think you will find the new site a significant improvement.  Now that our site is live, you can anticipate additional enhancements as we continue to implement new content and features.  Take a look and tell us what you think:

http://www.countryreports.org

 

CountryReports will unveil its new web site at the Texas Library Association (TLA) meeting on April 13-14th, 2011.    We look forward to getting feedback from our Texas friends before we launch the site for the rest of the world.  Among other things, the new version improves navigation, provides new ways to view content, gives the user more control of their membership and overall provides for a better experience.

We love being in Texas and look forward to seeing our friends at TLA in Austin.

Mobile devices and bar code scanners can make it easy to access online media.  CountryReports is providing a QR (Quick Response) code that one can use for fast access to our online content.  Below is the QR Code for CountryReports.org which you can insert into your own web site or print it and use it in other ways.  Additional QR Codes will be available at www.countryreports.org as they become available.

QR Code for CountryReports

Scan Code to access CountryReports.org

Schools across America are trying to manage budgets like never before.  CountryReports has received many inquiries about pricing for the 2011-2012 school year.
 
CountryReports prices will remain the same through 2011.  This will mark the second year in a row CountryReports has been able to hold our prices.  Our mission is to provide quality content at an affordable rate.
 
With our dynamic new website, coming by April, your students will continue to benefit from an exceptional resource for less than $75 a year.

It was 1981 and our founder, David Driggs was attending Evergreen Junior High School in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Here Mr. Stelter, a social studies teacher, taught David about the world and kindled a desire to learn more.  Mr. Stelter instilled in his students an interest in current events, history and the world at large.  In 1983, Mr. James Felt, a U.S. History teacher at Olympus High School  made learning about history compelling and David learned how the world impacted local events.  These experiences, and a fondness for playing the world conquest game Risk over and over as a youth, provided a foundation for interest in global issues and events.

Years later in 1997, when the Internet was in its infancy, our founder published the initial version of the web site on the countries of the world.  For many years he would “tinker” with the content, continually adding new features and material.  During the first seven years, access was given free of charge.  In 2004, in order to improve the site beyond his personal ability and to add even more unique, hard to find information, a small nominal fee was enacted. 

The CountryReports.org you read today is the culmination of new content and features being added year after year.  We anticipate further enhancements in our efforts to “pass the torch” ignited in 1981 with our members around the world today.

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire” – William Butler Yeats