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Futurecasting: Content Creation or Curation?

In last week’s Leaders in Learning Design podcast with Leo Blankenship he recommended that as instructional designers we get prepared for some fundamental shifts in the future of learning development. The most startling of which for me was the need for learning consultants and instructional designers to get strategically better at content curation.

We need to be seeing ourselves through the lens of responsibility for aggregating, synthesizing, and bringing [it all] together… If we don't [respond to the workforce demand for on-demand, task centered learning], then consumers will deviate around us. (Leo Blankenship)

At Blue Consulting and Resourcing we are always on the lookout for thought leaders who have insights into how the world of instructional design may change, identifying trends, and what new products and services may be needed as a result. Our conversation with Leo Blankenship got me thinking about the old instructional design paradigm that valued original content creation above all else. Whereas the new trend towards customized content curation has grown out of a desire to reuse existing materials and reduce duplication of effort – even across companies.

Are you surprised at the growing need for skills in content curation? If so, you’re not alone! Unfortunately, traditional Instructional Design programs are still heavily focused on original content creation and are not yet preparing new designers for the reality of increasing amounts of curation and reuse. So even newly minted learning designers are likely to be caught unawares and find themselves playing catch-up in this growing area of development.

However, curation and reuse are not entirely new concepts, of course – they’ve just taken a while to mature. Approximately twenty years ago, when the first Ag PhD program was being created across several western universities, they documented some of the advantages of sharing and reusing resources – the most obvious at the time, was the elimination of multiple versions of basic research methods courses in the combined program. These statistics courses were the same at almost every university and frequently even used the same textbooks. In the new program they curated the best resources across universities and reused them in a single course for greater effect.

Fast forward twenty years and content curation and reuse have somewhat matured and now come in several flavors that extend well beyond the occasional opportunity for reduced duplication of design/delivery effort.

Want to give curation a try but you’re not sure where to start? We recommend that you leverage a freely available online minicourse. Learning professionals, like those at BCR, respond to content curation needs by creating “course wrappers that contextualize these generic resources for more meaningful internal consumption. Your company may already have internal access to large content libraries like LinkedIn Learning or Skill Soft. Large content libraries like these are attempting to reduce the duplication of basic skills courses across companies.

Any course that is ~80% standard content and ~20% (or less) customized application can benefit from “course wrapper” curation.

We’ve found that any course which is ~80% standard content and ~20% (or less) customized application can benefit from “course wrapper” curation. Hence, content curation leverages your talents as a learning designer to handpick the best online content available and give it context within your organization for maximum added value.

Strategic insight like this, gives learning professionals an advantage because it helps you focus on what's coming next, not what’s happened in the past. Content curation leverages your talent as a learning professional to evaluate the best online content and give it context as you reuse it within your organization for maximum added value.

The skill of finding and appropriately resharing powerful content has never been in such high demand. Learning consultants and instructional designers of the future will need to get strategically better at content curation, if they are to thrive.

If you are looking to expand your skills in this area, please consider joining our network of exceptional instructional designers. Or, if you want to discuss ways to harness the power of content curation and reuse within your company, then please email us now for a free consultation at

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