Think about it: Companies have been collecting training for decades. They have purchased off-the-shelf training, developed their own instructor-led training (ILT) and eLearning, and reworked their training programs for leaders and front-line employees numerous times to keep up with the latest and greatest industry standards. They have PowerPoints, virtual learning, ILT, eLearning, mobile learning, and even audiovisual training. The end result? Companies have a lot of learning content and are getting bogged down. There is so much information available in this day and age that most companies can’t keep up with it all.
What is Content Curation?
What do you do with all that information? You curate it. Companies need their own version of an internal library, and content curation allows them to take a minimalist, “less is more” approach to L&D. Employees are saying, “Just give me what I need and make it easy to find,” but SMEs are becoming a rare asset for content development. They have full-time jobs, and often have already documented their expertise. Some research has shown that up to 81% of L&D professionals are adding content curation to their skill set. They are, in many ways, modern-day librarians.
Just as the curator of an art museum pulls together various pieces of art to present to the public, a content curator pulls together various pieces of content to present to the learner. Content is identified, scrutinized, grouped together, displayed, and offered up for learners to review. The art of curation is an ongoing process. Just take a minute to think of the amount of information that is being created every day. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to quantify. Therefore, curation is continuously evolving and requires succinct grouping of information.
Utilizing Content Curation in Training
Content curation is changing the landscape of learning and development. Every year, more companies are finding that they are swimming (and often drowning) in information. Getting their employees the right information at the right moment is becoming more challenging, and due to the mountains of information they have amassed, they rarely have the time or know-how to effectively aggregate the content into meaningful buckets.
Don’t panic! There are some simple tried-and-true steps that can help you organize information for your audience.
6 Steps for Curating Quality Content
- Prepare to Dive In. Before you start curating anything, you need a starting point. An art museum curator isn’t going to throw random pieces of art together and call it a Renaissance collection — could you imagine? Define what you’re looking for and get as clear as you can. For example, if you’re working in a call center and the biggest obstacle new hires have is handling objections, then that process is your jumping off point for finding content. Or maybe your company is planning to adopt the AGILE methodology throughout the organization — then AGILE becomes your starting point. Find out if your company uses competencies, KPIs, etc. to evaluate performance. These are great jumping off points to help you organize information. Remember: Pretty much every company has some type of process or procedure you can use to dive in. You may just have to ask!
- Cast Your Net. Determine where to look for the content and then begin your search. Where you look will depend on what you defined in Step 1 and what the technological landscape of your organization is. You might look outside your company for videos, web articles from reputable journals, or blog posts from popular and reputable sources. You can also look within your organization for white papers, online content, eLearning, manuals, videos, audio files, etc. The size of the net you cast will depend not only on what is available to you during your curation process, but also what end learners will be able to readily access once this process is completed!
- Filter and Refine. In this step, quality is key. We’ve all seen content that isn’t up to par or doesn’t meet the mark. The writing is poor, the facts are falling short, the “flow” is off, or the examples and premise are antiquated and have become irrelevant in this ever-changing world. When you filter and refine, you need to put on your detective hat. Your mantra shifts to, “Quality Curated Content.” Before beginning this process, make a check list of the conditions the content must meet. Then filter each piece of content through your list to determine if it meets your standards. Finally, keep only what you think will appease your audience’s curiosity and intrigue them to dig deeper into the topical area. I always have one filter on my list — “Will this make people want to learn about something they may not be interested in?”
- Organize and Archive. Next, you need to organize, tag, and archive the information you’ve curated. Cluster it into main and sub-topical areas, just as you do when developing learning. Try using your “Prepare to Dive In” work to inform this step. For example, you may have a main topic titled “Product Knowledge” and sub-topics that list the main company products. Then, under each sub-topic, you could have links to white papers, videos, eLearning, PowerPoints, etc. Keep it simple!
- Set It Free. Release the content for your learners to consume. You may need to put your marketing hat on, or partner with others in the organization to make sure you get the word out. You want to tell the learner base that your “curated art exhibit” is open to the public! Talk to others in your organization and determine the best way to let your audience know you are open for business!
- Listen and Revise. As with anything, you need to get feedback from learners. Evaluating feedback is critical and, of course, you must be clear on what you’re evaluating here…or you could easily get overwhelmed with feedback that may not assist you in making valuable updates. For example, some learners may say they don’t like a video you linked to because the names of the characters were distracting or because they thought it was outdated. But when you look at the video, you realize it has the best quality information regarding the product and the dialog about the product was still valuable. Always use your “Prepare to Dive In” and “Filter and Refine” lists as your evaluation tools!
Content Curation Best Practices
- Lead by following. When you get relevant feedback from your learners, follow their lead. Make changes to your list of curated content when learners tell you they’d like more information on ABC or the information about XYZ was too much. Again, it’s crucial to have specific parameters for feedback or you will feel like a kite without a string on a windy day! Set parameters for evaluating feedback, then listen, listen, listen!
- Incorporate the curated content everywhere you can and wherever it makes sense. You can embed it in eLearning, create links on online resources, and place it on internal or external sites. The more often we hear something, the “stickier” it becomes. Sprinkle it everywhere!
- Content curation, in a way, needs to become somewhat self-evolving. This is a bit trickier. On the one hand, you want people to share their ideas. On the other hand, you still need to look at quality of content. Social feeds — both internal and external — are great platforms for self-evolving content, as people use them to share ideas and resources. Many companies use social media to get ideas on how to improve products or processes. However, you, or someone in the company, will need to determine which ideas should be seriously considered.
Content Creation Tools
We are seeing an influx of technologies in the marketplace that could assist you with different steps of the content curation process. We have not evaluated these but recommend that you look into them and others that are out there!