Everyday, millions of pieces of content get created online. So, if you were looking to “learn” more about a particular subject, is going through all those millions of bits of information really the best way to do so? That’s exactly the challenge that eLearning course designers and developers face. And more often than not, content curation is the best answer to this challenge.
Assimilating eLearning content
So, in the context of eLearning, what does it take to offer great content to your learners, and why should eLearners not go straight to the source – content creators – instead of reaching out for your curated content?
Before we highlight why content curation is an essential part of eLearning, consider these facts about content creation first:
- According to Smithsonian Mag (a site owned/operated in partnership with the renowned Smithsonian Institution), there are over 1.8 million articles and research papers produced every year
- The same source cites that most of that originally-created material is read by (on average) just three people!
- 90% of such content, which could potentially serve as the basis of eLearning content, is never cited
- Another reputed source, Science Mag, makes the point that content citations are growing narrower (fewer citations by even fewer sources) as more content gets published online
And then, you should add in some more numbers: 500 million Tweets generated each day (6,000 every second!; 100 million hours of Facebook video consumed daily; Over 95 million Instagram photos posted on a daily basis…and the list of original content keeps piling up!
Without great content, eLearners might not get what they are looking for from an online course. Conversely though, without high-quality content, course designers and developers would never be able to create equally high-class courses. But here’s the challenge:
Since most eLearning courses are invariably based on previously created content (albeit reformatted or regurgitated to fit the needs of specific learning audiences), how can learners and trainers navigate the deluge of daily content that’s available online – from researchers, social media or news outlets?
This is a real challenge for both eLearning content assimilators and consumers, and the answer lies in judicious content analysis and curation.
ELearning content curation essentials
As discussed earlier, the world is flooded with millions of pieces of freshly created content daily. As eLearning course designers, there is an implicit responsibility to base your courses on authentic content – information that’s genuinely valuable to your learners. And, unless you plan on spending a lot of time and money conducting your own research and creating original content, your best approach is to carefully curate content that’s already out there.
Here are five guidelines to help you do just that!
1. Curate – don’t just aggregate
Good eLearning courses are created not by “compilation” of huge amounts of data, but by careful curation.
When assimilating content for your eLearning courses, it’s important to be discerning about what content you integrate into your course. Simply grabbing every piece of content out there, about your particular course, and offering it to your learners will not work.
There are many content aggregators online, but they can not fulfill the needs of eLearners. That’s because learners will be overwhelmed (and confused) by content overload. So, before you integrate or adapt content into your eLearning modules, be discerning of it and include only information/sources that further the objectives of your course.
2. Choose carefully – don’t just cite vigorously
With so much content available online today, it’s often easy for eLearning developers to cite (or include) selective content into their courses. However sometimes, even if the content used (or cited) furthers the goals of the course, it (the cited content) might not be appropriate.
Therefore, you should be careful about choosing which content to include as part of your course, and which to stay away from. As a rule of thumb, stick with originally created content from credible sources, instead of third-party sources that may have vested interest in putting our certain content.
3. Add value – don’t just reference
So, why should eLearners flock to content curators, rather than turn to content creators? That’s because eLearning course creators have an opportunity to offer more value than content curators!
By adding value to previously generated content, you can make your curated content more helpful for eLearners than the original content itself. You can add value by simplifying previously stated facts. Value-add can also come from adding context to curated content. And finally, you can distal and filter the mountains of content and summarize it into relevant segments for your learners – which saves them lots of time and effort.
4. Trust…but verify
And that brings us to the next very important pillar of eLearning content curation.
Just because you build your courses using research materials or data that you came across from a “trusted” source, does not always mean that information is authentic.
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With the proliferation of “fake news” today, even some of the most (hereto) credible sources have been discredited!
Because you are taking the onus of passing that information to your audience of learners – who trust you to teach them what’s right – you should go the extra mile to validate everything that goes into your course.
5. Use multiple sources
The temptation for many eLearning course designers is to gravitate towards one or two “credible” sources when building course materials. Usually, those sources have been used previously, and found to be “adequate” for their purpose.
We recommend that you go above and beyond that traditional approach. Before curating specific content as part of your course, check to see if you have other content available out there that also supports the narrative of your course. In using content curated from multiple sources, you’ll be able to offer your eLearners a broader array of thoughts and ideas on the same topic – something that most eLearners will appreciate.
Targeted content curation
In today’s information-driven world, building unique eLearning courses from well-curated content is no easy task. This is especially true if the subject matter (Technology, Investing, Bio-science) is itself a product of very short information lifecycles – often 24-hours or less. So, in such a dynamic and fluid world of content generation, how can eLearning content be uniquely curated?
The best way to do that is to understand WHO your learning audience is, and WHAT they are looking for. Unless you have an intimate and in-depth knowledge of who consumes your courses – and WHY – you won’t be able to curate helpful content for that audience.
And finally, you need to understand HOW your audience intends to consume that content. For instance, spending a lot of time curating text-based content from authentic content creators will be a waste of time, effort and money, if your audience is looking for video-based eLearning content to consume on their mobile devices!
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