With the proliferation of so many excellent bits and pieces of learning content available through the Internet, some companies have gone the unfortunate route of what might be called “unlimited content.” They pack the company LMS with articles, videos, podcasts, courses and other resources that seem at least marginally useful in some way. And then they wonder why nobody is looking at any of it. No one in their right mind is going to waste valuable time trying to figure out what’s in there that they might actually need. You’ve created a monster that scares people away. The problem with this approach is the classic quantity-quality dilemma. If you err on the side quantity, then your learners will be too overwhelmed. You need to balance quantity with quality in what you make available to learners. The way to do this is through eLearning content curation.
eLearning Content Curation Defined
Curation is a method or practice to thoughtfully research, gather, vet, and share resources to serve a specific need. Thanks to the Internet, there has never been so much content so easily accessible as there is today, but weeding through it to find what will best meet your needs is the tricky part. Curation is different from aggregation. Anyone can gather a mind-numbingly huge collection of resources, but that’s merely aggregation that leads to the unlimited content problem mentioned above. Curation means evaluating what you gather to sift out what doesn’t meet your needs so you have a short-list of content that does meet your needs.
Curation is similar to what you had to do when writing academic papers in college. You had to gather sources on your topic and then go through those sources and judge them in terms of their relevance and efficacy, then analyze how they contribute to your understanding of the topic or thesis. A lit review in grad school is the kind of curation process I’m talking about. What you’re judging is whether or not the content is a reliable source for what you need. And the reason you’re doing it is to share the best of what you find with your learning audience.
The Key to Content Curation is Defining Your Purpose
The best way to avoid the unlimited content problem that overwhelms learners is by starting out with a very specific goal in mind. In a business, the goal is to create learning experiences that help your employees become better at what they do in ways that contribute to your company’s success. The place to start is with your company’s business goals. Based on past performance results, you have a set of goals for your business. There is a gap between where you’re at now and where you want the company to be by the end of the year (or quarter). If you don’t do anything to close that gap, you probably won’t meet the goal.
The next step is to figure out why the company is where it is and what would have to happen to reach the goal. This process explores who is involved in the work that directly impacts the goal, drilling down into what the performance gaps are prevent improvement, and then the learning that needs to happen in order to close the performance gap with better knowledge and skills. In the industry parlance, you’re essentially performing a learning needs analysis (LNA) or training needs analysis (TNA). For more information on doing this right, see my previous article, Business Goals Examples for Employees: Better eLearning.
When you get to the point where you know what you need for learning content, you’re faced with the challenge of coming up with the content. If your company doesn’t have the in-house expertise or resources to create original eLearning content, eLearning content curation is your next best option. After all, there are probably all kinds of resources out there that might fit your needs. You just have to find them and vet them.
Be Highly Selective with Content Curation
As you explore what the Internet has to offer through your favorite search engine, you might come up with an initial list of as many as 50 different potential resources that address various aspects of your learning topic. But when you’re done with a thorough curation process, you might only have five left that are truly worthy. Your vetting process needs to be very careful and thorough to ensure you end up with the highest-quality content in your final mix. It’s not enough to just read the first paragraph of an article or watch the opening bits of a video or listen to the first couple minutes of a podcast. You need to carefully review the entire piece to make sure it is accurate (free of errors), reliable, reputable, and so on.
If the resources you need come in a variety of formats, that’s all the better for your learners, who will undoubtedly appreciate the variety. You might assemble a short course on selling techniques your salespeople need to learn that includes an article, a video, a podcast or (if you’re really lucky) a fully assembled eLearning course you can just purchase. With a prefab course, you just need to buy access for your learners to take it on the site where it’s available or add it into your LMS if it’s available for download. If what you have are a variety of source materials, you’ll have to assemble those into a course format that allows your learners to link out to read, watch or listen to the various bits of content.
Consider Copyright Issues with Curated Content
If you’re paying for access to a course or module, you have nothing to worry about. But if you’re assembling your own course with various pieces of content you’ve curated from across the Internet, then you need to make sure you use them correctly with violating copyright. The safest way to avoid issues is to let your learners link out to existing content that is freely available on the platform where you found it. But if you need to reproduce the content within your course, you’ll want to get permission from the author or owner. Some will never respond to your request, others will say no. In those cases, move on to the other resources on your short-list that can serve the same purpose. You don’t want to find yourself or your company the subject of a lawsuit.
Smaller businesses often don’t have the internal capacity to create all the learning and training programs they need to meet their company’s goals. Knowing how to engage in effective eLearning content curation is one of the best ways to get the content you need without creating it. Many learning management system (LMS) vendors also offer a selection of eLearning content and courses ready-to-use. eLeap, for example, gives you access to its library of 850+ video courses on a variety of business topics. And you can sign up for a free 30-day trial to see if it’s the right LMS for your company!