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Insight: Instructional Design and Curation – Evolution or Revolution


You may have seen the amusing exchanges between the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum via Twitter on #AskACurator day. On that day, the museums ‘battled’ each other to defend their curation knowledge.

When I saw this hashtag, it made me think about whether we, in instructional design, should join that conversation. What is our role in curating? Do we already curate or do we need to take this on as a separate role?

It has been mentioned that Instructional Design is on the decline and other roles have risen to take its place (e.g. learning experience design). In light of new technologies and the changing learner requirements in the workplace, it has been forecast that the role of instructional design could change entirely.

However, I believe that instructional design doesn't need to change completely and its ability to adapt to these changes is in progress. Let’s take curation as an example.

What Is Curation?
The Oxford Living Dictionary defines the verb ‘to curate’ is to:

“select, organise, and present (online content, merchandise, information, etc.), typically using professional or expert knowledge.”

With learners increasingly using internet searches to gain the information they need and the scope and quality of internet resources - this is where ‘curation’ is applied to learning and development.

Stacy Friedman, in her article Assembly Line: Instructional Designers as Content Curators, likens the actions as a ‘mad science to concoct the right learning solution’ and Karla Gutierrez, in her blog Conquering Content Curation: Best Practices for Instructional Designers, describes the role as the ‘scrapbooker’s approach to eLearning design.’

Essentially content curation for learning is adding value and context through selection, organisation and presentation to meet specific goals.

How Does Instructional Design Fit?
Doesn’t this description of content curation sound awfully familiar? Haven’t instructional designers already been doing this?

In my role, I select the relevant content from what is provided, organise that content into a flow or story and then map out the presentation of the content via a storyboard. I then add value to the content by indicating where context is required, condense content where required and even add my own researched information or thoughts. All of these actions are always focused on helping the learners to meet the intended goal and often results in an eLearning course.

Regardless of the method of delivery, whether it is an eLearning course made from SME knowledge or an aggregator that pulls from provided content, the actions of curation still remain the same.

Brent Schlenker, in his article Is Content Curation the Future of Instructional Design?, says it succinctly, ‘curation is not new, in fact, I would argue that curation has been always been part of the instructional design process.’

Where Do We Go From Here?
If curation is similar to what we have been doing all along, then how should we be adapting?

Adaptation lies with our ability to shift the method of delivery and the presentation of the curated content. Rather than a formalised course, we can focus on shorter and more concentrated courses. We can use systems to share content socially or present the content through aggregation.

Much of this shifting is already in motion, we are already adapting to changes in technology or delivery to meet learner requirements. There is always more adaptation to take place, however, the role of instructional design doesn’t need to change.

As instructional designers carrying out ‘curation,’ we may not want to take over the hashtag of #AskACurator. Although, maybe we should start our own #AskALearningCurator.


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