Last updated: 21.10.18

Content creation vs content curation in e-learning

Content creation vs content curation in e-learning

We’re always looking at how people learn; whether this comes from peers, mentors, experience or books, people learn in different ways and these are constantly changing as the world and the technology we use changes too.

In order to adapt our e-learning to create engaging and relevant experiences for everyone, we need to ensure our content can do this too. Although it’s not a new practice, content curation is growing in popularity in the learning industry as a way to support bespoke content creation. But what is content curation and how is it different to content creation?

What’s the difference?

Content creation is the process of researching and creating your own content from scratch, based on your chosen topic, and presenting this to your learner as a unified, contained course. This is how many bespoke learning courses are currently developed.

Content curation is the process of gathering existing information like blogs, social media posts, videos and ebooks relevant to your chosen topic, filtering through to find the most accurate bits and sharing them with your learners. This is how bespoke learning courses are being adapted.

Put simply, it’s the difference between being an author and being a librarian. An author researches and writes a book for their audience. A librarian reads, sorts through and provides books from a variety of sources for their audience.

Why do we need to curate?

There’s a lot of information out there. According to live data calculated by internetlivestats, every hour there’s an average of:

  • 28 million tweets on Twitter
  • 3 million photos uploaded to Instagram
  • 5 million posts on Tumblr
  • 222 million searches using Google
  • 252 million videos viewed on YouTube
  • 208,000 blog posts written
  • These are only a handful of the sites or applications we use on a daily basis and they’re sharing so much information that we can’t keep up without experiencing ‘cognitive overload’. That’s where curation comes in.

    Did you know you’re probably already doing it, or at the very least experiencing it in your day-to-day life? The websites and apps we interact with have content curated to fit with our interests: Amazon provides suggested products based on your purchases, Spotify recommends music based on your tastes, and Netflix suggests films and TV programmes based on your viewing history.

    Some of us are also actively curating our own content: analysing pictures and posts before we publish them or carefully selecting information to share with our audience, making sure the content is always relevant.

    All these social and entertainment aspects in our lives are already being sorted and filtered to provide relevant experiences. So why not apply the same tactic to learning?

    Content curation in e-learning

    In a way, when instructional designers create bespoke courses they might already be curating. If content is received from clients or subject matter experts (SMEs), it needs to be filtered so only the relevant information is left. This information is then displayed in a way that takes the learner on a narrative journey, exploring the subject in a contextualised way.

    But we can take this one step further.

    More and more people are doing short bursts of learning in their own time; watching videos, reading blog posts, joining discussions. Learning is constantly evolving, allowing people to access the information they need, when they need it. So, instead of creating a single, bespoke e-learning course which covers everything on the selected topic, why not combine the curation in our everyday lives with the need for targeted, quick information?

    As mentioned before, this isn’t a new practice. You may already be familiar with the ‘compilation’ aspect of content curation – gathering and sharing a range of resources with your learners. But, in order to benefit the learner, curation needs to be more than that. The information you gather from articles, blog posts and dynamic learning objects should be inspected and validated for accuracy. Only then can you ensure your learners are making relevant connections.

    Now, we’re not saying to scrap content creation altogether. It’s still an essential part of the whole experience. In Ready, Set, Curate Ben Betts states that learning content should be ‘The trigger. The inspiration.’ to learning, ‘where content is used to start conversation, but learners find meaning themselves’.

    Created content should still be the foundation of the learning – the spark that ignites the fire. It might be the piece you use to ask the questions, or it might be an aspect or point-of-view which you find to be lacking in the curated content you’ve gathered.

    Curated content, on the other hand, should only be used as part of a well-rounded approach; aiding the learner in their ongoing journey by building on a sound foundation and encouraging self-directed research with validated information.

    Tips on utilising content curation

    So how can you get started?

    Christoforos Pappas, of The eLearning Industry’s Network, has helped break this down into 7 easy steps:

    1. Know what your online learners need.

    2. Focus your audience research efforts.

    3. Find reliable sources.

    4. Identify the ideal method for e-learning content curation.

    5. Create data groups and categories.

    6. Create an e-learning content guide.

    7. Double-check your data.

    There are a few basic things you could start doing straight away as part of your current bespoke e-learning. Why not provide a selection of curated links to videos, blogs or documents that a learner can access within the course or LMS? Or use a content curation tool to, in essence, build a social news site for further development?

    For some more practical examples, Karen Moloney, from The eLearning eXperts, has created an article highlighting 11 practical examples of how to use content curation as part of a learning strategy.

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