Reflections on #lrnchat: Content Curation

Image use courtesy of lrnchat and Kevin Thorn (@LearnNuggets)
Each week that I am able to participate in #lrnchat discussion I post a summary of the discussion to my blog. I do this both for my personal development as well as sharing with the Learning and Development Profession at large. This summary is based on my own interpretations of the chat; others who participated may have differing opinions or interpretations of the discussion. I welcome those that do to add your ideas to the comments.
The topic of this week’s #lrnchat session was Content Curation”. 
I always find looking at the questions that are used to loosely guide the chat as a nice way to see the overall theme of the chat. Here are the discussion questions that were presented to the group:
Q1) What makes someone a successful Content Curator? How is this measured?
Q2) How is content curation similar and/or different than content creation?
Q3) How has this age of information changed the scope of curating content for learning?
Q4) What stage in the design process does curation happen? Why there?
Q5) What is the difference between content curation and content scraping? (ethics?)
Q6) What tips can you share for effective curation?
There is a growing shift in the learning profession. Historically, content has been pushed to learners from the designers and training managers.  The training department decided how, when, and what content learners had access to.
More and more, learners today are taking control of their own learning.  Not only are they taking a more active role in what they learn about, they are also increasing deciding how they want to access it.  This is a fundamental shift in focus for the learning professional.
In an environment in which the learners are developing or compiling content on their own, where does the learning professional fit in?  That’s where Curation comes in.
There seemed to be some confusion during the chat as to what exactly ‘curation’ is.  That makes sense, curating skills is a somewhat new and growing competency in the learning profession.
I think understanding what curation itself is can be easier if we understand it in a more traditional environment: a museum.  The museum curator is usually not a painter or  sculptor.  They take the various works of other artists and decide how best to position them within the framework of a museum.  The curator takes into consideration common themes, popularity, and creating a flow to the exhibits, as well as other things.  The curator may not be the artist of the exhibit, but he or she provides an incredibly important role: structuring the art in a way that museum visitors can easily access what they want, when they want, as well as building relationships between different pieces of art that may be related in some way.  These efforts help to create and enhance the visitor’s experience.
A learning curator is very similar.  In a world of user-generated content, the learning curator brings the content together, ensuring that it is easily accessible.  They also build links between individual pieces of content that can be leveraged into context-sensitive relationships that enhance overall learning.
This week’s #lrnchat discussion explored the idea of Content Curation, and how it will be an increasingly important skill for today’s learning professionals.  The chat started with a discussion about what makes someone a successful Content Curator, and how this success could be measured.
A content curator needs to create some semblance of order to the chaos that can exist from ever-growing sources of content creation.  The curator needs to organize the content in a way that can be easily located and consumed by those searching for it.  The curator must also keep a finger on the pulse of the organization, and on the individuals that make it up.  Discovering what resonates with the group is important, as it helps to position it correctly.
The curator also needs to be able to recognize and build connections between two seemingly unrelated topics.  Doing so provides learners with an opportunity to extend their knowledge beyond the expected.
Measuring content curation is a little more difficult.  One possible metric could be the usage of the chosen repository for content.  For example, if your content is on a corporate intranet, how often are the pages accessed?  If infrequently, it’s a sign that the pages are not of value in some way, be it in context or accessibility.
Another related metric for web-based curation could be the amount of time users spend on a page. If a user visits 13 pages, but spends less than 8 seconds on each, theres a good chance that the user is having difficulty finding the information he or she is looking for.
From there the discussion moved on to what the similarities and differences are between content curation and content creation.  The lines between creation and curation are somewhat blurred.  After all, if the whole built through curation is greater than the sum of the individual pieces of created content, would not that be the creation of something new?
Ultimately though, both content creation and curation require an understanding of what the learners desire and need, so the writer or curator can deliver to that.  One of the main differences is that curation uses filtering to enhance relevance of content.
Sometimes there are tweets that stick out for me and very much ‘hit the sweet spot’ as a response to the question.  In the case of this question, there were two:
Content is created to be Curated” (via @ZaraLynnKing)
“Creators are all the authors writing all the books in the world. Curator is bookstore owner who presents careful selection.” (via @OpenSesameNow)
From there the discussion moved towards how the age of information has changed the scope of curating for learning.  This is an interesting question, simply because the advancement of curating tools will likely never keep up with he speed at which information grows.  It becomes increasingly important that curators be able to filter the seemingly limitless amount of content, so that what learners have immediately accessible is the most relevant and impactful content.
Another skill curators will need is the ability to utilize search engine technology and learner generated tagging.  Giving learners the ability to assign their own tags to content that is searchable by all users will be huge.
The chat then asked the question: At what stage of the design process does curation happen?
Because of the overlap that exists between creation and curation, where curation starts starts can vary.  As a general rule, I think once someone starts considering where new content fits in with the overall knowledgebase, curation has begun.
Of course, every situation is unique, and the path from creation to curation is rarely a straight line.  More often, the relationship between creation and curation is more of a cycle.
Looking back at the museum example, curation generally begins when the museum administrator receives a painting and decides where to display it in the museum.  But curation does not end there.  Curation continues as new content is added.  Sometimes, curation also brings to light areas and topics that need additional resources and content allocated, which needs to be created, and then curated into the whole.
The discussion then explored  what the differences are between content curation and content scraping.  This seemed to cause some confusion as many participants were not exactly sure what ‘content scraping’ actually was.  I see content scraping as two specific issues: Copyright and Relevance.
Copyright is difficult in the details, but easy in concept: Give credit where credit is due.  Curating often involves using external resources.  When that happens, curators must ensure that the content is properly referenced and attributed to the author of the content.  Not doing so is an ethical violation.
The relevance issue is sometimes less obvious, yet critical for effective curation.  Curating adds the value of additional context to content. Scraping from this perspective is just copy and paste, without adding additional context or value. 
The discussion concluded by asking what tips participants could share for effective curation.    First and foremost I would recommend that we not make the same mistake we made with learning, and look at curation as a continuous process, not an event.  If creation of content never ends, then neither does curation.
Also, visit libraries and museums often.  When you do, look at it through the  eyes of the curator, asking yourself questions about why the curator made the choices that were made.  There will be applications for learning curation that you can leverage.
Lastly, continue to work within your organization to break down, or at least permeate, the IT firewall.  After all, you cannot curate something that you cannot access.
In an environment where learners are creating their own content at an ever-increasing pace, the skill set for learning professionals is evolving. A big part of this evolution will require learning professionals to attain and utilize curation skills more and more. 
Will you be ready?

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