First curate, then create

Sharing your knowledge through an e-learning course is a great initiative, but it only adds real value if you have something new to say. So, before creating a course, the first step is to check whether any resources already exist that cover the same topic.

By Kasper Spiro on Jul 13th

e-learning content curation

As an expert in your field, you probably read a lot about your area of expertise. Sharing links to what you have read can be a valuable knowledge-sharing activity for your colleagues. However, sharing alone does not add any value and only becomes meaningful when you add your own knowledge and context to show the relevance and usefulness of the links. This is what we call “curation.”

What’s in it for you?

Content curation involves finding, grouping, organizing and sharing the best content on a specific subject or domain. By curating and sharing the most relevant and thought-provoking content, you establish yourself as an authority or thought leader in your area of expertise.

Learn from museums

The term “curation” originates in the world of museums. A curator is the manager of a museum’s collection who selects and arranges the various pieces to be exhibited. Often, he or she borrows works from other museums or private collectors. How does a curator decide what to select and how to organize an exhibition?

Curation: The search

Let’s assume you are the curator of a museum and you are creating an exhibition of Rembrandt paintings. Imagine you have been asked to exhibit every existing Rembrandt painting. If you put them all up side by side, you would end up with something like this:

This is not curation. It’s more like a search result! (like a Google Images search, which is where this picture actually comes from).

The first step in curation is to select the works/pieces to be displayed. Selection is carried out with a reason: there are criteria or rationales behind each choice. As a Rembrandt curator, you need to identify your selection criteria and tell a story based on that.

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Curation: What are your criteria?

Rembrandt is famous for his innovative use of light in his paintings. You decide to use that as a criterion for selecting which works to display. This provides a theme for the exhibition. The selection criteria create a story and add context to the selection. If you do a Google search for the combination of “Rembrandt” and “use of light,” you get the following example as a possible selection:

Curation: What’s your context?

As a curator, you now have the opportunity to add your knowledge to the selection by telling the story of Rembrandt’s use of light in his paintings. You can organize your exhibition according to a timeline, showing (and explaining!) how Rembrandt’s use of light developed throughout his career. Alternatively, you can select ten key examples and dive deeper into each of them by comparing Rembrandt to other artists or telling how he innovated painting. There are many possible angles you can experiment with to tell this story and share your knowledge.

Curation: Links in context

Selecting links/resources based on clear criteria and adding your own context/story to the chosen links enriches the quality of your course. By putting links into context, you realistically share essential knowledge that enhances your learners’ knowledge. This is crucial for effective training and it saves you from having to create all-new content from scratch.

Typically, learners (your colleagues) want handpicked, curated content, because curators are considered experts in their fields and learners value the content that experts share.

Putting curation into practice

Here are some basic rules for putting curation into practice:

  1. Continually collect links on a certain topic or domain of your expertise.
  2. Identify your purpose and define selection criteria. For each resource, evaluate its usefulness in relation to these criteria. This helps you refine your collection and select the most useful pieces of information to share.
  3. Write an introduction to your curated collection, explaining your selection criteria (why the information is relevant). This helps readers to determine whether the collection is useful to them.
  4. For each link you share, explain why you added it to your collection and what’s in it for others. This helps your readers to determine if they want to read the article or not.
  5. Add another dimension to your curated collection of links by organizing them along a timeline or into a collage.

Read the next article as part of the e-learning best practices blog series: “Share your knowledge and experience

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About the author

Kasper Spiro is the CEO of Easygenerator and a recognized thought leader in the world of e-learning. With over 30 years of experience, he is a frequently asked keynote speaker and well-renowned blogger within the e-learning community.

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