Three responses to Flipped Curation

By Jono Endean and Toby Harris

4 minute read

It's been a few weeks since we proposed a new learning design model: ‘Flipped Curation’. 

(Reminder: Flipped Curation puts curation at the centre of the design process. It uses new technology - such as Filtered's Content Intelligence - to assemble the world's best resources on a topic quickly, so that learning designers can focus on tailoring that content to a business context. It's an alternative to rebuilding large courses from the source material.)

Just as hoped, the post and the infographic that we shared (see Toby's post, Jono's post) produced some thoughtful responses. And it's part of a wider conversation about content strategy which has returned to prominence with fresh urgency (some thoughts on that below). Below, we've picked out three comments and shared our thoughts in return.

55 minutes on the problem. Five on solutions.

Simon Taylor said: 'In my first job a wise person commented on an element of my work, "the information you get out, is as good as the information you put in, and that ain’t information." A simple statement, it has continued to act as a salutary reminder that time needs to be spent understanding and researching the problem. That Filtered has sped up this process, without compromising rigour, can be considered a major step forward.'

This remark gets to the heart of why we think Flipped Curation is so important. ‘Junk in, junk out’ is the obvious problem with half-hearted content curation. But Simon goes beyond that and recognises that, in our new model, curation is an essential part of the research process. You don't stop at your topic name and your immediate source content. You go out to assemble the world's best resources on that topic so you can return to the pathway or programme you're building with a better understanding of the business problem. 

In April's CLO Coffee Club, Jono picked out this Albert Einstein quote: 'If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions'. Flipped Curation enables us to think more about the problem we're solving via a much wider knowledge base. This makes learning solutions more intentional and effective.

A fair comparison?

Wes Atkinson said: 'I think the graphic presents the worst-case scenario on the left to bias what you are selling on the right. [...] There are some incredible learning courses built in the traditional way achieving excellence, where the expert is very happy without exhaustion at the end…' 

To which we say, yes, you're absolutely right! Flipped Curation presents an alternative approach to a challenge that designers and SMEs experience in certain circumstances. But not all designers, not all SMEs and not all circumstances. Indeed, there are many brilliant courses built in the traditional way - and usually off the back of great research and curation. 

In the discussion, Wes was also sceptical about a technology solution to curation changing behaviour: 'In practice if you’re still using the same people behind it without resolving issues first, it doesn’t matter where the content comes from or if you get an algorithm to present you with some good content.'

Yes, that's also right. Neither people nor tech are enough to make a change on their own. There is plenty of bad curation happening too, which is the reason for our new model. But there's an even bigger issue at stake here which flows from the people issue: the low impact of learning design. 

The benchmark for curation should not be achieving the same low impact as the average online course. And this is where technology comes in. If you can leverage technology effectively (and Filtered's Content Intelligence is only one technology in this arena - there are also tools like SparkToro, AndersPink, Google Advanced Search, and LXPs in general), you win back time to think about the problem you're trying to solve. That is the essence of Flipped Curation.

Captained Curation

David Tomlinson responded: 'I understand the thrust, but there are some dangers. If we don’t emphasise the importance of the SME’s guiding hand, there is a very real danger that content "feeds off itself". This can lead to myths and misconceptions becoming enshrined by repetition. Aristotle’s four-legged fly comes to mind. Devoid of thought leadership, it can also stymy innovation. As ever, the best results will likely come from a form of ‘Captained Curation’ based on a balanced approach grounded in pragmatism. No one ever sold a meme on that, though.'

We agree, and we love the notion of 'captained curation' - and yes, we think we can sell it as a meme :) 

The objective of this approach is to lighten the load on SMEs, not remove them from the process. Experts can absolutely 'captain' curation. Flipped Curation, enabled by Content Intelligence, gives them a ship to captain. In contrast, current approaches to SME engagement with curation more often resemble giving the expert a dinghy and a paddle. It's no wonder that the results aren't as impactful as they could be.

A case study in Flipped Curation

The responses we've picked out are a natural part of trying to figure out not just what this new idea of 'Flipped Curation' really means but also what curation itself stands for. When definitions aren't clear (and we’re a long way from accepted definitions in this area), examples are really useful. 

To help, we've elaborated on our original one-sentence summary of the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board's use of curation for learning. Steve at ECITB is taking an approach that strongly resembles Flipped Curation to pilot a new way of delivering a standardised qualification on digital safety and IT security:


There are many styles of curation for learning right now as best practice evolves. ECITB is curating high-impact learning in a high-consequence industry, so it's worth paying attention to as a model. And on this topic, keep your eyes peeled for a new email course on curating for learning which we are publishing emailing soon.

Why is learning content strategy so urgent right now?

Content strategy - and specifically curation - is growing in prominence as a topic. Recently David Wilson, CEO of Fosway, wrote: 'If you are hand cranking curation, you are well behind the times. Intelligent management of skills, together with curation and a personalised experience layer, is transforming the learning experience.' We couldn't put it better. The technology in Flipped Curation is not just a veneer that helps sell a new product. It's a new capability to go beyond 'hand cranking' curation without ‘compromising rigour' (as Simon Taylor put it). You gain control of content curation and get to start using it proactively, rather than treating it as an afterthought.

In partnership with Go1, Fosway is also launching a survey on content strategy. The introduction puts it well: 'For many organisations Digital Learning content, resources and courses has been a critical pillar of corporate learning for the last two decades or more. For others, large and small, they have been embracing digital learning approaches for the first time. Nearly all have expanded adoption. But two years into the pandemic, it’s time to reflect. It’s time to ask questions of our learning content strategy – so we can take our organisation’s learning strategies and people development to the next level.'

We agree: the reason that content strategy and curation has re-emerged is because, like everyone else, L&D binged on digital content during the pandemic and we're now living with the consequences. A digital hangover, if you will. The digital splurge had its place. But if we're serious about delivering the right skills, we need to make sure that we've curated the right knowledge to support them.

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