Content: The Once and Future King

October was quite a busy month. For me it started in Chicago with The HR Technology Conference and ended in Orlando with Masie’s Learning 2016. And for such vastly different events, I noticed a common recurring theme: content. frog-1591899_1920

For years, technology providers have been hard at work developing slick, modern, intuitive platforms that incorporate features for all kinds of learning: video, informal, social, collaborative, experiential, etc. There has recently been a renewed focus on the user experience as well, as providers try to deliver the same type of technology experiences at work that people are used to at home.

But what goes inside all of these shiny new “experience” platforms? The one thing that may have been left behind is perhaps the most critical. Much of the content companies are dealing with isn’t designed for these types of experiences. Very often they are SCORM packages, ILT courses, or some other clunky, proprietary format.

The sense I get from attending these two conferences and meeting with providers and client companies alike is that while people are struggling to solve the way content is built, there is a shift in the way we think about the entire concept of content.

Traditionally, learning content was something that was either built with your standard authoring tools, or purchased off the shelf from just a handful of places like Skillsoft. But now companies are starting to realize that the world is full of great content and they just need a way to access, curate and deliver it.

Take a look at some of the buzzier providers right now:

Each of these platforms does more or less the same thing, yet somehow almost completely differently from one another. The common thread among them is that content comes first. These tools provide companies with access to a wealth of knowledge and information from a vast array of sources, helping learners to curate and filter to get what they want and/or what they need.

This shift is coinciding with the major desktop authoring tools becoming more nimble and, well, less desktop. The idea is to allow designers (as well as people who may not be full-fledged designers or developers) to create content more quickly and deploy it in more places. There is a coming convergence where external and internal content will have a very similar look and feel, making for a more seamless user experience.

Even compliance content is getting an overhaul. Older, static, uninspiring compliance material is being updated and recreated to fit this new reality. Just because learning is regulation based, does not mean it shouldn’t be as agile and engaging as other learning material. Especially since compliance training is typically the first learning experience employees have. If they find it boring and stale, it becomes that much harder to engage them as learners later in their careers.

In the end, content remains king, even though it may have been ignored for a little while. But without it, none of the other stuff even matters. The coolest, most social mobile delivery platform cannot make up for outdated content.

David Wentworth, Principal Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group



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