Curation 101

by Viv Cole on June 25, 2013

Just when you thought you had enough e-learning buzzwords, curation came along. For those who like definitions “Content Curation is the act of discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content that surrounds specific subject matter.” Content curation evolved as a digital marketing discipline to enhance search engine optimisation and then crossed over into the learning space. Essentially the aim is the same: get content that is useful, informative and fun in a format that it is easy for your target audience to find (search for) and apply. Inspired by Sam Burrough’s  talk at the eLearning Network, I thought I’d try curating and share my reflections.

Curation builds on skills that you probably already have if you’re in L&D, so don’t think that just because it’s trending, you have to abandon your existing common sense; clarity over target learners and topic are still essential. I chose learning basic Photoshop for photographers (a close to home example as my wife will soon be embarking on this learning journey as part of teaching photography). I used Scoopit and found it fairly intuitive, and produced this page of resources in 2 hours including research time.

From my first experience of curation, here are my top five curation issues to think through:

1. Do you need to be a subject matter expert to curate effectively?

Maybe. In the same way as for instructional designers, being fresh to the subject helps you address questions that typical learners would have. However, having subject expertise means that you know which resources are the most trustworthy and highest quality so you can filter and sift more effectively.

2. Does the curator need to comment on every resource they have included?

Yes. I find it helpful as a learner to know why I should invest my time in a resource and part of the curator’s role is to add value to the content. This starts the conversation and makes it easier for people to make future comments as they have something to agree/ disagree with.

3. What kind of resources should you aim to include?

The basic hurdle for digital content is to be at least two out of useful, informative and fun. Then think about context – how are learners going to use the content and what other learning content does the curation sit aside. Then think variety (and learning styles could be a useful metaphor/ prompt). In my example I included:

  • Video as well as websites (though ideally the video would have been in shorter chunks)
  • Tipsheets/ cheatsheets (things like keyboard shortcuts seem particularly pertinent to the subject of Photoshop as many novices will find the level of mouse control required takes some getting used to)
  • Examples for inspiration (even though these are more complex than the basic level, these provide some practical examples of what is possible and provide stimulus that learners may use to set their own goals)
  • Sources of further information (to encourage people to be responsible for finding out things they need – the curation aims to save time for learners, but it can’t realistically cover 100% of needs for 100% of learners)

I have also assumed that the learners will be learning by trying things out in Photoshop.

4. What if the content you want is not available?

Inevitably, some contexts specific to your own organisation won’t be covered by publicly available information. Also the quality or cost of information may not be acceptable. This is where ‘traditional’ formal learning comes in. For the Photoshop example I would have liked to include nuggets that cover the top 5-10 real life tasks that my target audience would be doing so I would commission these/ build them myself.

5. How do you know when you’ve curated enough? There is no shortage of content out there so you could go on for ever. Part of the answer is how long you intend learners to take going through the resources you’ve curated (bearing in mind that most will not read 100% of them). For some topics you’d want this to be a 5-20 minute one-off experience, whereas for others you’d want learners to come back to refer to a larger compilation of content. Often you’ll want learners to add their own favourite content so it may be appropriate to aim for 80% comprehensiveness rather than 100%.

Happy curating!

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