Historically, learning design has focused on creating content to support learners’ understanding of a specific topic or skill through formalized programs, e-learning assets or structured on-the-job tools. Yet, according to Bersin by Deloitte’s high-impact learning organization maturity model, the difficulty most learners have is not a lack of relevant content but, rather, navigating the overwhelming amount of content available. In a world where competition for our time and attention is fierce, learning and development teams are implementing content curation, a technique usually found in the marketing department. So, is curation just a new trend, or is it a fundamental shift in learning and development that will mean the end of content creation?
Content curation means, rather than creating content, continuously finding, filtering, rating, aggregating and contextualizing the most relevant content pertaining to the topics your learners need. Similar to a librarian who finds books rather than authoring them, a curator brings together other authors’ content that is of interest to his or her learners. Learning managers can apply the principles of curation to offline programs as well, helping learners access everything they need in one convenient location.
Content curation builds strong relationships with your learners by adding value to their experiences and cutting through the noise. To curate content well, you need to be truly learner-centric, delivering a range of content mapped specifically to their needs. Content curation allows for shorter development times, lower development costs, increased ease of use and participation for learners, and real-time feedback to assess the relevancy of the learning you are delivering. Curation cuts through the confusion of mass content, delivering trusted sources and information that can be easily adjusted as the organization’s capability needs change. With all these benefits, it is easy to see why curation is becoming a key part of many organization’s development strategies.
Here are four tips for effective content curation.
As with any learning design, it is important that your learners see how curated content is relevant to their needs. Make sure that you let them know “what’s in it for me,” how the content links to their goals and how it applies in their workplace. You may want to include some questions that are relevant to your organization’s culture and context so that learners can consider them while they are interacting with the content. Keep abreast of industry and social trends that may impact your organization, and deliver content created by thought leaders in these areas.
2. Blend Art and Science.
There are plenty of programs that will find and aggregate content for you, but the real value comes in seeing the connections that are not explicit. A curator at an art museum might put two pieces together that at first appear unrelated but, with further study, provide a rich and varied narrative with an original viewpoint. Similarly, learning managers can benefit from juxtaposing seemingly unrelated disciplines. For example, what connections can your learners make when you bring together behavioral economics’ principle of “nudges” and employee engagement? Or systems thinking and appreciative inquiry? The best curators blend art and science to create rich and novel learning experiences.
3. Make It Social.
Provide learners with the ability to create communities of practice around mutual interests. Encourage them to rate each other’s comments and insights, follow each other and share what they are excited about, and share how they have applied concepts and the impact that they are having. Learn from how the most successful social network sites create engagement, and adopt some of their strategies; for example, simply allowing learners to “like” others who have expanded on a concept or shared another relevant resource helps drive engagement.
Incorporating discussions, forums and chats for peer-to-peer collaboration facilitates strong relationships between experts and novices in your organization and encourages reciprocity. Additionally, you could use Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model as part of the rating system for your curated content. This way, you can collect valuable evidence about what might be impeding the desired behavior change and business results on the job – information that is far more valuable to your organization than creating content.
4. Keep It a Work in Progress.
Innovation and change are as important to content curation as they are to content creation. Curation strategies should be continuously refined based on learner feedback, organizational needs and best practice. Keep track of what’s happening in multiple disciplines, such as marketing, IT, art and design to ensure you continue to offer valuable and engaging content. Tag and archive previous content to help future users.
Curation is here to stay, as the agility it offers is paramount in our increasingly fast-paced world. Will it completely kill off content creation? Perhaps not in the short term, but with so many subject matter experts now easily able to create their own content, why would you want your learning and development team trying to replicate this content when they can harness it instead?