Grovo is not itself a tool, but provides training videos on many other web tools. Videos are short with simple but effective graphics (Not as simple as Common Craft explanatory videos, but the concepts are similar in many ways).
The topics Grovo covers are a wide variety of web-based tools. Registration for the site is free, though premium subscriptions are available offering more business-oriented tools.The top page lists the most recent courses and the duration of the lessons in that course. The page is a little misleading in that the courses listed are only the most recent ones added to the site and do not give a sense to the newcomer of the broad range of products covered. The top navigation bar includes a link to “Sites” which elsewhere is more descriptively titled “Product Directory”. Next is “Subjects”, and the subjects are Business Tools; Social and Communication; Productivity; Lifestyle; Entertainment; and Internet Basics.
Productivity? Ah, I knew that would get your attention! On the Productivity page there are (as of this writing) 25 topics listed. For each topic, there is at least one and sometimes more “courses”. Each course consists of “lessons”, which are the individual brief videos covering a specific task. Most of the topics are specific web services, but there are some, like “Online Research” that don’t fit this pattern. Topics on the Productivity page include Evernote (19 lessons), IFTTT (6 lessons), Dropbox (28 lessons), Box (35 lessons), Prezi (20 lessons), Slideshare (8 lessons), Google Docs (102 lessons), Google Apps (58 lessons), Firefox (15 lessons), Chrome (12 lessons), and several more.
You can enroll in courses, and after each lesson answer two multiple choice questions. Answer enough questions correctly and get a certificate for the course.
The broad subjects are a little porous, as some tools fit more than one category. So a lot of items are listed on business, social and communication, and productivity, and it is hard to know where they most belong. LinkedIn (78 lessons) is under business and social/communication, as is WordPress (56 lessons). The page for a topic lists the courses and the lessons in each course. Click on the course link and see all the lessons with the duration of the video listed (this is the best place to find how long each video lasts). Many videos are under a minute and almost all under two minutes.
Another feature at the top of each page is “Goals” – basically individual tasks. They have a list of goals, including Create a Blog, Get Started on the Internet, Find a Job, and more. If you select a goal you can personalize it by answering a couple of questions. It then gives you a list of lessons, the course they are in, your progress, and the lesson duration. I did not find the personalized goals particularly useful.
The lessons themselves are surprisingly valuable given how short they are. The ones I watched were informative, with good visuals that help in understanding the steps involved. All the ones I watched told me something I did not know before. It is easy enough to have a page or tab open to Grovo and another to the application, and go back and forth applying the lesson learned to the task, such as improving your LinkedIn profile or creating recipes in IFTTT.
Perhaps most applicable to academia is the course on Online Research, which has four lessons with a total duration of 6:03. The lessons are (1) What is Online Research (1:20), (2) Managing the volume of Online Research Materials (1:49), (3) Gauging the Authority of Online Research Materials (1:23), and (4) Gaining Access to Online Research Materials (1:31). How good is it? It isn’t exactly what I think librarians would produce, but it does get some important points across, such as not all sources are equal and pointing users to their local college or university library.
Premium subscriptions are $9 per month or $99 per year, and offers access to all content. Generally the items that have a cost are the ones aimed at businesses – for example, Expensify for Companies, Facebook Admin, etc. Some of these are useful in academia such as WordPress Posts, and some of the Facebook and Twitter courses. Universities and many nonprofits without a lot of cash to spare need to learn social media too! On the other hand, the site has to have a way of bringing in revenue in order to create and maintain content. Grovo does need to make it clearer which courses are premium content. Adding a $ sign to the icon for the course would help. Currently if you mouse over part of the icon for a course it displays the label “Premium”, but that is difficult to find.
Is this a product specifically geared to academics? No, but many of the tools are ones used in academic workflows. Overall, Grovo can help you better understand and more efficiently use tools you like or suggest possible new tools you have not tried before.