Conquering curation in corporate L&D

Since curation is such a hot topic, not just in the academic world, what is it?

Written by Emerald Works
Published 21 August 2014
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Conquering curation in corporate L&D

A major report in 2014 identified content curation as a trend which was fast "becoming mainstream." What are the implications for L&D?

What Is curation?

While digital curation - the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection, and archiving of digital assets - tends to be the realm of archivists, librarians, scientists, historians, and scholars, the term "curation" is now applied to interaction with social media including compiling digital images, web links and movie files. Content curation has come to mean the act of sorting the vast amount of content that's available on the web and presenting it in a coherent way, organized around specific topics. It's a job which L&D professionals are increasingly called upon to perform.

The issue of curation - and the concomitant issue of ensuring that only the most relevant parts of all the information currently online is presented to learners' is made more complex by the growing popularity of such things as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Your Own Device At Home (YODAH), and even Bring Your Own Content (BYOC).

BYOC is the ability for learners to source, select and consume their own learning materials when and where they choose. These trends are proving disruptive and challenging, not just for L&D departments but also for organizations' entire information and communication technology (ICT) policies.

Creating and sharing content is placing increasing emphasis on social learning- with the learner being more and more responsible for his or her learning journey rather than being a passive recipient of pre-selected learning materials.

In turn, this places new responsibilities on L&D professionals - including those of using their skills, experience, knowledge, and familiarity with their organizations and its business objectives to sift through the sizable amounts of available information, making connections and thinking laterally in order to find information that may not be obvious but is nonetheless relevant; evaluating that information's importance; putting it into context for a specific set of learners, and making it easily accessible to those learners.

Aggregating content

There's more to curation than simply gathering content. Compiling content from different sources is known as "aggregating" - and some people think they're curating when, in reality, they're merely aggregating.

Curation involves putting relevant information into context. It requires discrimination, making judgments and making connections between seemingly unrelated things, as well as knowing enough about the needs and objectives of the learners' organization to be able to identify information that's relevant to them.

David Kelly, of the E-Learning Guild, believes that "taking all the information available digitally and making sense of it for people is now a "critical competency" for L&D professionals because "it's about providing resources that help people to grow." He identifies three types of curation:

  • Aggregation.
  • Filtering - making the information more specific to a particular audience.
  • Elevation - putting the information in context and deciding on its importance.

While technology can carry out the first two levels of curation, only human beings are competent to cope with the "elevation" level.

So, being an able curator means knowing your audience. It doesn't mean building a prescriptive path but, rather, giving people options and variety to enable them to understand the topic.

Would-be successful curators of L&D materials need 10 things:

  1. Commitment and dedication to the task.
  2. A passion for the topic(s) about which they're gathering material.
  3. Curiosity.
  4. Time to devote to curation.
  5. An ability to navigate the Internet.
  6. The technical skills needed to use curation tools.
  7. An understanding of the audience's needs.
  8. An understanding of the organization's objectives.
  9. The ability to make learning engaging.
  10. The ability to measure how learners have engaged with the curated content (for example, through the number of "hits" on the material, the comments people leave, and, of course, how the organization has achieved - or moved closer to achieving - its objectives).

How to start curating content

A good place to start developing your curation skills is reading blogs and signing up for RSS feeds which can keep you abreast of the latest thoughts on relevant topics. That enables you to aggregate material. To help with filtering and elevating information, you need to talk to people about their situations and what they need. You should also understand their organization's strategy, objectives and the challenges it faces. This provides the context that will enable you to "elevate" the information.

There are no courses teaching you to be a curator -and you should probably be wary of anything purporting to do this. However, if you want to develop your curation skills, you'll need to find, become familiar with, and use one or more online social and collaboration tools.

Among the most popular of these tools for curation purposes are Diigo (a social bookmarking tool), Pearltrees (a visual and collaborative curation tool), Scoop.it! (which enables users to curate content by setting up "topics" that are like magazines, containing information about specific subjects), and Curatr (a tool to create online learning using a combination of social learning, gamification and curation).

What are your experiences with content curation in L&D? What tools and strategies do you use? Leave a comment below to join the discussion.

About the author

Emerald Works

Emerald Works

At Emerald Works, we’re committed to helping individuals and organizations around the world realize their full potential by using evidence-led learning solutions that work.

We work together to build learning cultures that empower people to bring about real change for real impact.

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