3 things to understand about curation in learning

Part 3: How does digital curation work for learning?

Posted on Oct 11, 2017

Learning strategies

In parts one and two of this series on digital curation in learning, I looked at its history and the role of the curator. In the final part, I examine why digital curation works so well in the field of learning and suggest some great tools to try.

Digital curation for learning: From small seeds…

When curation was first suggested as relevant to learning, many in the L&D world were sceptical. But the initial work done by Robin Good showed just how powerful it could be for social engagement and discussion – check out his content curation tools super-map.

His work led to early commercial experiments by the likes of Ben Betts, Jane Hart and myself, who all took those same principles that Good had used for marketing, and applied them to social and distance learning experiences. Sharing their experiences with the industry attracted interest and further developments that have resulted in what we know as curation for learning today.

Stephen Downes and George Siemens are two notable academics who also identified the link between curation and learning. Downes’ OLDaily emailed newsletters are a notable example of an individual expert using curation to do the three key things a good curator does: filter content, add value and provide a place to access his collections.  

So what makes good curation for learning?

The concise answer is this: The ability to curate content from multiple sources and mix them together to offer a wide range of trusted resources that learners can use to learn about a subject.

A single article or video viewed might provide a basic understanding of a topic, but what if the learner needs to go deeper? And what if the search engine results or a search of the corporate databases fails to return useful and relevant content?  This is where curation comes in.

Curation for learning forms an intermediate layer that collects digital artefacts on topics that are relevant to the development needs of an organisation’s employees.  The artefacts are collected, labelled and presented to the organisation in a searchable manner to facilitate learners in gaining information more quickly and effectively than roaming the web and corporate databases, hunting for the right content themselves.

Organisational curation can clearly signpost artefacts’ relevance to a particular project or corporate theme, and direct learners to materials that will take them deeper into a subject, addressing all levels of development need.  The ability to supplement and augment internal materials with web-based materials from expert sources provides the learner with a much richer learning experience that covers both internal and external data points to ensure a rounded view of the topic.

In addition, curating publicly available content from the web can save an organisation from having to create some learning artefacts themselves and ensures that their staff are using appropriate publicly available sources.  Of course, copyrighted materials must be respected and sources acknowledged, but the cost savings can be significant.  

Social Collaboration and curation

With the rise in social collaboration within businesses, employees are now actively sharing information, knowledge and experiences on social collaboration platforms.  This benefits the business because it allows the organisation to curate the knowledge and experience in the business for the business, using active curation to identify the high-quality content and repackage it for wider dissemination across the business.

The problem is, that often organisations have social collaboration platforms but have no idea how to make curation work for them to gain these particular benefits for learning or in general. 

Organisation data needs to be carefully managed. Hyperlinks are notorious for changing, and data in some organisations will regularly expire and be replaced by new versions, particularly in highly regulated compliance environments.  Curators therefore need more than just a deep knowledge of their organisation. They also require the skills to organise the information so that it remains relevant, up to date and accessible. 

Try these…

There are a wide variety of curation tools that are free to individuals who want to curate web-based content. Examples are:


If you'd like further advice on the best way to make learning curation work for your organisation, get in touch

Ask an expert

Julie Wedgwood, Head of Learning Strategy, Sponge UK

Julie Wedgwood heads Learning Design at Sponge UK, leading an accomplished team to bring modern, effective learning design.

She has extensive experience in digital and blended learning design, online environments and the design and development of elearning simulations and learning games. If your learning strategy needs expert input, get in touch.

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