The term ‘information overload’ was first popularised in the 1970s when Alvin Toffler released his book Future Shock, and this overload has only become worse. Every 24 hours two million blog posts are written, 294 billion emails are sent and 864,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.1 Added to the sheer amount of information is the growing number of devices that we can use. So, not only do we get too many emails but they arrive via phone, tablet and PC, sometimes simultaneously.
Despite the fact that quantity does not always correlate with quality, there is unparalleled access to a wealth of material across a staggering range of topics. One only has to look at the learning channel on YouTube to see that learning is no longer the domain of formal educators. So, as professional educators how do we adapt to these changes? One role of an educator has always been to provide access to and context for relevant learning resources. This could still be in the more traditional way of directing learners to a particular chapter in a book, but will more likely be the modern approach of providing links to online resources (e.g. videos).
Sourcing, collating and arranging learning resources into something meaningful is known as ‘content curation’. Whilst this term has been historically applied to librarians or archivists, the concept of curation is moving into other fields that are adding value to resources and making them more accessible and appealing to the learner.
DeakinPrime recently worked with Deakin University to create the University’s first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), ‘Humanitarian Responses to 21st Century Disasters’. A number of innovations were trialled in the MOOC, such as peer credit and digital badges. In addition, a content curation strategy was used for about 90 per cent of the assets in the course.
The MOOC ran over a 12-week period and each week a short five-minute video was created to focus on the concepts for that week. The rest of the resources were then a mix of websites, articles, white papers, YouTube videos, an online simulation, TedX talks and learner-generated content from assessment tasks and discussions. Deakin received very positive feedback, which focused on the richness of the learning material and the range of views and perspectives provided by being able to bring together resources from all over the world.
With the development of DeakinConnect (Deakin’s open learning space through which learners accessed the MOOC) two of the biggest issues for sourcing relevant learning assets were copyright and accessibility. Dealing with information in the public domain, yet still under copyright, meant there was a variety of requests about how material should be accessed and displayed. The complications of how globally sourced material could be used were minimised by providing links to the materials in their original locations. This had the unexpected benefit of directing learners not just to the relevant resource but also to other related resources on the websites. In essence, this approach provided a validated and structured pathway for learning.
MOOCs are changing the way students interact with universities and this change will flow into the corporate world. Tim Bush, UK education marketing manager at Microsoft stated in 2012, “The power of the cloud and more consumer-orientated devices are going to make anytime, anywhere learning more commonplace and accessible to all. Furthermore, with access to free, or very cost effective, learning content now becoming ubiquitous, the role of the teacher is going to evolve and become more important than ever.”2 Rather than continuing to create new content, an increasing a component of our role as educators should be developing resource curation strategies that help learners to navigate and access relevant information.
2 Tim Bush, Guardian Professional, Monday 10 September 2012
For any further information on this article or around DeakinPrime's capabilities around content curation please contact Wendy Palmer.