In the past year and a half, content curation has grown from an interesting idea to a true movement. There are talks at every conference and articles on every site. Everyone is talking about curating content. In this blog, we will explore why curation is so popular, how to curate, and some guidelines. Curation is not just some fad that people are using – it’s part of a top trend for learning and development predictions for 2019. More importantly, it’s a valuable tool to provide the best content and resources to your learners. And it requires a bit of art and a measure of science.
A simple definition of curation is to pick the best of the best to present to the public. Museum curators have an overwhelming amount of materials they can show in their museums. But their job is to find out what the public wants and select the best to show. It is the same for Learning and Development. Today, we are overwhelmed with content from our LMS, third party subscriptions, web resources, internal storage, experts, and informal sources. When we Google a question, hundreds of thousands of responses come up. We want to give learners the best of the best. Make it easy for them to find it and focus answers to what they need. This is the art of content curation.
We have the ability today to pull answers from everywhere. In some companies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) can pull answers from trusted sources for us. But the art of curation is finding those pieces that are the best of the best. We curate to make it easy for learners.
The Science of Content Curation
I have read many articles on content curation. I just read one that suggested twelve steps to curate. Twelve! Well, I cannot remember that many. To me, there are but three steps:
It all starts as we do with any instructional design project: the goals. Stating and refining your goals makes the best solution. Once you have goals or objectives, the task is to find content. This step gets easier the more you do it. One methodology is to aggregate a number of results. What are the key pieces of content? What sources will you trust? Is this a subject that a subject matter expert can offer some assistance? Remember to search through internal, external, formal, and informal sources.
Finding good content means watching the full video, reading the full article, understanding the goal of the piece of content. Know what their goal was. Keep a few guidelines in mind:
- Where possible, keep it short.
- Think of the flow of the material.
- Focus, focus, focus.
Just because you have 20 pieces of content, it does not mean you should use them all.
This is where step two comes in: Filter. To me, this is the most critical step. Measure each and every piece. Ask yourself questions: Does it meet the goal? Is it learning or knowledge? Is it useful? What was the purpose of this piece? Remember, less is more. Once you filter, go back to your objectives and do it again.
Lastly, blend the content. I find it helpful to use a spreadsheet to list the content, describe it, time it, and list the modality. Think about the flow. Not everyone will follow step 1 then 2 then 3, but develop a flow that builds concepts. Be sure to mix modalities. Blend in videos with text, articles with exercises, and think about a Learn – Do – Share pattern.
One caution that I will add. Do not over assess. Learners today are not into tests and nothing will turn them off quicker than over testing their knowledge. I realize this is a tool that we have used for years and it helps with our dashboards, but it will kill engagement.
Guidelines and Best Practices
Machine Learning software today is capable of doing machine curation. The guidelines that it uses are good guidelines for human curation as well. The key term in teaching a machine to curate is relevance. The greater the relevance, the more valuable the content.
Let me give you an example. I curated a pathway on growth mindset, a hot leadership concept this year. I researched content in YouTube, the web, and at Stanford University. I found several long videos, some of which were ads for consultants selling a class on how to develop a growth vs. fixed mindset. I eliminated those. I found a great infographic describing the attributes of both. I found a quiz to take to see which side you fell on. And I found a nine-minute video by Dr. Carol Dweck (the Stanford professor who created the concept). That is a bit long for me, but it was engaging and did better than any other video to explain the ideas and tools. Finally, I created a short animation of the key concepts. I altered the flow to start with the animation, then went to Dr. Dweck’s video, then the infographic, then the quiz, and ended with a short video. Short, to the point, and a great just-in-time resource for my audience.
Content curation, like any instructional design project, takes practice. Keep it relevant, focus the content, and blend your resources. Find, filter, and blend.