Content is not king
There is a common mantra in instructional design that “content is king”. Maybe it is time to challenge this idea.
It is easy to believe that the creation and dissemination of content will facilitate learning. If you produce and publish materials that explore everything the learner needs to know, you are distributing the necessary knowledge. Throw in a test, and you can assume learning has taken place.
But no. Because this is not learning.
Learning is not a test of understanding, nor is it a test of memory. Learning is the capacity to critically evaluate potential concepts and apply these in context.
I can watch a video about driving a car and understand the fundamentals. However, until I have driven a car, I cannot drive.
Content is the inspiration for learning. Without follow up steps, all this content will do is make you a knowledgeable fool. Wisdom, skill, talent, and character are nurtured through reflections on the experience or learning in the flow of living.
Content as inspiration
Producing high-quality content is still important. As a facilitator of learning, your role is to inspire the learner and encourage in them the curiosity needed to become better. Therefore, the depth of ideas within the content is less important than the engagement and prompt to ask questions to further the learning process.
During some continuing professional development, I was being asked to consider the role of a photographer during tragedies. I was given an image of a young child, massively malnourished next to a vulture, waiting for his inevitable death. I was given facts, such as the nearest camp, that was hundreds of miles away, wasn’t accepting new people, and that international support for the region was limited.
I was then asked the question: “Should the photographer have taken this picture?”
That was the extent of the content I was given. It was not the extent of the content I ended up consuming. I explored the politics of the region, the role of UNICEF, the ethics of photojournalism and a multitude of other topics that this image and these facts provoked.
I came to the answer yes, by the way. He should have taken a photograph. I wrote a letter to our government, asking for action, and to UNICEF, pledging support. I also hugged my niece and nephew a little tighter.
I will leave you to get to your answer with your curiosity.
What happens next…
The world is full of information now. We don’t need to be content repositories, and so assuming that our platform is the only place our learner will ever read about our ideas. Therefore, we should trust that accumulation of knowledge is covered.
When choosing to supply content, it should be the start of something, not the end. It should be a component in a machine of learning that explodes into action after the ignition is sparked by this article or video or podcast.
In short, the content is stimuli. It is not a matter of asking the question: what do they need to know? Instead, it is asking the question: what do we want them to do next?
Imagine reading a story from an ancient time of a man who meditated for 40 days and nights and was left with a sense of connectedness to something bigger than himself. He was inspired to speak of his connection with this higher purpose with many, many people, spreading a sense of belief and belonging among his followers.
It is a story we will have been told before in different forms, with spiritual and sometimes religious connotations. However, for us as individuals, the power of this story from an ancient time comes from what we do next.
We recognise that life is better when we are connected.
We appreciate that we are a small component of a larger design.
We see the power of standing up and speaking the truth to a crowd of people, helping them to the same realisation.
We might then decide to seek out our sense of purpose. We could even set up a group to promote our beliefs. We may find ourselves on a stage guiding people through the wisdom gained from our period of contemplation.
In short, the story inspired us to act to improve our way of living and our influence.
Our content strategy
Content is a single step in Entelechy Academy’s strategy. Our journey starts with self-assessment and feedback, then choosing what to learn, followed by content, then action, then reflection, and then assessment. Our journey can be completed in any order of the above. It is not linear, and it is not within our control to dictate that first, the learner does this, and then this.
Content is our hero, not our king. We have sourced stories from coaches, mentors, teachers, and those whose experience has delivered wisdom and insight. Our approach to content is to inspire the action that might come next or the further exploration and reflection that might work too.
We continue to work with our partners to find that spark that will ignite curiosity. This curiosity is the outcome we crave from our articles, videos, podcasts, images, and more – so much so, we assess the learners’ reaction to the content rather than what they have assimilated. We test what they did next, celebrating their desire to apply and extend the ideas presented. Imagine that!