Gale Launches New Online Adult High School Program for Public Libraries

Gale, part of Cengage Group, on September 8 announced the launch Gale Presents: Excel Adult High School in partnership with Excel Education Systems. With accreditation through Cognia, the nonprofit NGO that serves more than 36,000 schools globally, the program, a successor to Gale’s previous Career Online High School, is designed to enable adults to earn a certified high school diploma entirely online.

Gale Presents: Excel Adult High School recruitment page, with a photo of a graduation ceremony and a profile shot of a woman standing in a cap and gown in the foreground.Gale, part of Cengage Group, on September 8 announced the launch Gale Presents: Excel Adult High School in partnership with Excel Education Systems. With accreditation through Cognia, the nonprofit NGO that serves more than 36,000 schools globally, the program, a successor to Gale’s previous Career Online High School, is designed to enable adults to earn a certified high school diploma entirely online, preparing them for college and the workplace. This will be Excel Adult High School’s first partnership with a library vendor, Rod Clarkson, CEO, Excel Education Systems, told LJ.

The Missouri State Library is an early adopter, and will make the program available to libraries throughout the state. After noting in an announcement that more than 600,000 adults in Missouri don’t have a high school diploma, Missouri State Librarian Robin Westphal told LJ that the organization had been interested in making a program like this available to state libraries for a couple of years. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need, she said, and funds made available through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) had enabled the state library to launch the program.

When K–12 classes were forced to switch to remote learning with little preparation during the 2020–21 school year, many students faced difficulties, and Westphal predicts that this could have a lasting impact. “Folks decided that whatever was going on with their high school was not going to work for them,” she said. “I think in the next few years, the dropout rate is probably going to increase.”

Westphal added: “The reality is, a lot of adults [previously] quit school and didn’t get their diploma for a reason. Some of that has to do with things that were going on in their traditional high school, whether it was bullying, or even just the time of day that school is, and it interfered with the fact that they had to have a job to survive. There are lots of reasons why a traditional classroom did not work for someone. The great thing about an online program like this is that it allows those adults to make this work with their schedule.”



Excel Adult High School features a 21.5-credit curriculum, and previously earned high school or GED, HiSET, or TASC credits can be applied. The program is flexible and self-paced, but most students complete the program in 12 to 18 months or less, Clarkson said. Success coaches/counselors keep students on track by helping them select from more than 100 core academic and elective online courses, as well as offering career guidance or information on college admissions requirements, scholarships, federal student aid, and more.

“Excel has a full gamut of standard high school courses that are required to meet graduation requirements by the [U.S.] Department of Education, which would be the standard algebra, English, history, chemistry…but we also offer other courses like psychology, music appreciation, computer engineering, digital photography, forensic science, sports medicine, life skills, coding. We’re constantly launching new courses,” Clarkson said. “We’ve found through the years that if students are working through the core courses, learning maybe isn’t always as fun or interesting. So, we try to really pair that other interesting courses…that will keep students engaged and thinking about what their career is going to be.”

In addition, live one-on-one online tutoring through Train the Brain is available and built into the platform, as well as MyPlan software to help students explore potential career interests. And the platform features built-in tools for English language learners, including courses in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French, Italian, German, and other languages, translation tools that enable students to take courses in English and read the chosen language translation simultaneously.

Courses also feature a built-in audio reader function for students who want content read aloud. About 20 college-level, American Council on Education (ACE) credit courses are also available, enabling students who are interested in further education to prepare themselves for college coursework and eventually save some money on tuition.

“Regardless of the age [of the students], it’s our goal to keep students excited in what they’re doing,” Clarkson said. “We do that by bringing in a lot of engaging content…multimedia resources to keep students engaged—not just reading. There are video lectures, there are games, there are different activities going on within our courses.”

And if a student’s progress appears to be lagging, the platform will notify their success coach/counselor to check in on them and see if they need help.

“It’s a two-pronged approach,” Clarkson said. “It’s the human element. Even though we’re online, we are still people, and we have great people here who are making constant connections with our students.”

Diana Doetzel, national sales director, public library adult education for Gale, said that the company believed that this level of support would make Excel Adult High School a good partner for libraries. “Adults that have been disengaged really do need that support,” she said. “They need someone to tell them that they can be successful.” And while libraries are not required to provide additional in-person assistance in order to offer the program, Doetzel added that “libraries are such a safe haven for these types of students—they trust libraries…and they know that they’ll have another level of support through the library.”



Potential students are required to take a short prerequisite course “to really gauge how successful they’re going to be as an online student and as a student overall,” Clarkson said. “We really want these students to be successful…so there are controls and parameters in place to be sure that a student will be a good fit with this type of program.”

Following the completion of this initial course, libraries can choose to apply additional prerequisites, such as an in-person interview, before enrolling the students in the program using an online dashboard created by Gale. Once enrolled, students can log in to the program and work toward their diploma anywhere with a computer and an internet connection. If a library chooses, the dashboard can also be used to monitor each student’s progress. Gale will offer training for libraries interested in a hands-on approach, as well as advice on fundraising and assistance with marketing and outreach for the program, Doetzel said.

In Missouri, libraries that are interested in offering Excel Adult High School should reach out to the Missouri State Library, Westphal said. “We’ll get them connected with Gale…and Gale will build them a customized website that allows them to show their patrons what it will look like when they enroll in the program.”

While the ARPA funds are sufficient to get Excel Adult High School launched in Missouri, Westphal said that the state library is anticipating that Friends of the Library groups, library foundations, and local and regional businesses will help sustain the program over time by paying the seat fees for students. She has already heard “that there are some industries in some of our rural areas that would be interested in sponsoring some of their employees.”

Gale’s previous adult education program, Career Online High School, was offered in partnership with Smart Horizons Career Online Education. That program eventually resulted in more than 4,000 graduates earning diplomas with the help of more than 150 public libraries, but Smart Horizons did not renew its agreement with Gale at the end of 2020.

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Matt Enis


Matt Enis ( is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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