Learning content strategy prepares an organization for the future by keeping an eye on how we support the people who aren’t working there yet. That may sound amorphous, but many of us spend time attempting to extract tacit knowledge from the people who are in an organization to put in a format that can be shared with people who are coming into the organization. Just that process to extract and record is hard enough, now we have the challenge of abundance: technology that can help to distribute that knowledge to surface just the right pieces at the right times to a newer person who is struggling; technology to allow people to share information, ask questions and work together.
We know what Learning Management Systems do, but now we have tools that are social, community generated, adaptive, mobile performance support applications, and beyond. There’s no sign that the niche tool market is slowing down; rather, there are a lot of signs that using these tools well is hugely beneficial. That said, all of these emerging tools need content and how that content behaves and is supported is a paradigm shift from the LMS-only world.
When people talk about content strategy, typically they’re discussing it in terms of marketing. Such people research questions like… “Who is the audience?” “How does the company want them to spend their money or attention?” “How can the content be more usable?” “How can it more fully reflect the brand?”
While these aren’t all applicable to our challenge in helping people to learn and succeed in their work, there are many similarities. As we move away from a world where all of the content just gets put into an LMS without a second thought, we have a new set of questions. We’re not beholden to the restrictive standards that have ruled the LMS world. We’re not even just talking about formal content, because informal needs to recognized and supported. Content doesn’t have to be in one form and it doesn’t have to be saddled with communicating all of the data about a person’s interactions with it. So, “What form should the content take?” “What should be done with the existing, massive course library?” are new questions people in learning and performance must ask themselves.
Having done content strategy and analytics work on typical web sites, there a number of modifications I made to the typical content strategy process to make it more useful for learning. From my work on Tin Can API, my modifications have been informed by how the new standards will work. In a Tin Can world, the content should be wherever it needs to be. The content needs to conform to web standards, be accessible, be sensible in applications that are designed responsively, and be available to many different systems. The technology needs to take on the burden of communicating interaction data.
Working at Knewton, I’ve seen this in action. I’ve learned about the practices giant publishers use to manage their content. Most interestingly, they are the best at separating content from technology in a pure way. They have a CMS, filled with granular pieces of content. The content is well tagged and formed. When it’s dropped into a learning application, any one of many each publisher owns, the application knows exactly what it has and how to communicate data about interactions.
How do such applications know what content it has and what to share about it? Next week, I’ll be at ASTD TechKnowledge 2014 in Las Vegas. In my session on Thursday (1/23) at 3:15, together, we’ll dig through the details of a long-needed approach to learning content strategy. I’ll explain the typical web content strategy process and offer explanation as well as tools to support the future in learning content strategy. This session won’t present a final answer; rather, it’s the beginning of us all asking a new set of questions that will lead to making bigger, better changes in our organizations.