Developing a strategy for learning content

Gretyl Kinsey / Content strategy, DITALeave a Comment

stack of textbooks

Learning content is any material used for educational purposes, including e-learning courses, training guides, instructor guides, instructional videos, and more. This might represent the bulk of the content you produce, or it might be just one part of your overall content set. Either way, it’s important to develop a plan for creating, updating, and delivering learning content as efficiently as possible. Here are some tips for addressing learning content as part of your content strategy.

Assessing your learning content

Evaluating your current learning content is a good first step in determining how to handle it going forward. 

What kind of learning content do you have? Some types we typically see:

  • Educational curriculum materials, such as textbooks or published research
  • Supplemental materials for instructors, such as presentations, activities, or assessments
  • Instructions or tutorials that help customers use your products
  • Materials for on-boarding or training new employees

Your company might produce multiple kinds of learning content for different purposes. If this is the case, does any of this learning content get higher priority (for example, customer-facing content over internal-facing content)?

Another important area to evaluate is content delivery. What delivery formats do you use for your learning content, and how do you get it to the right people? Some examples include:stack of textbooks

  • Printed books, workbooks, and activities
  • Text-based tutorials delivered electronically
  • Instructional videos delivered electronically (either on their own or embedded in text-based material)
  • Modules for guided e-learning
  • Slide decks used during instructor-led sessions

Aligning learning content with other content types

Once you have a solid understanding of the current state of your learning content, the next step is to think about how it aligns with the rest of your company’s content.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • How much information is shared between the learning content and other content types (such as technical publications, knowledge bases, or marketing materials)?
  • Do all content types follow the same style or branding guidelines for consistency?
  • How often is the learning content updated? (This could be determined by product releases, curriculum changes, new mandated guidelines for your company, or other factors.)
  • What mechanisms are in place to ensure that updating your learning content doesn’t leave your other content types out of date (and vice versa)?

Your answers will help determine how to handle your learning content in relation to the rest of the content across the enterprise.

Considerations for structured learning content

Depending on the type of learning content you have, you may need to consider the use of structure—an enforced, consistent model that gives your content semantic value.

To determine whether structured learning content would benefit your organization, ask the following questions:

  • Does your learning content follow a consistent template or pattern?
  • Are there manual processes involved in learning content development that could be improved with automation?
  • Could you streamline content delivery by producing different delivery types (such as print and electronic) from the same source?
  • Do you need to deliver custom sets of learning content to different segments of your audience?
  • Do you need to reuse information across learning content and other content types (and if so, is anything impeding you from doing so)?
  • Do you need to translate your learning content into other languages?

Answering “yes” to these questions indicates that your learning content may be a good fit for smart, structured content. If you decide that structure is right for you, you’ll need to determine the best content model and develop a plan for converting your existing learning content into that model.

The DITA Learning and Training specialization is a set of structures in DITA XML intended for learning content. This model can accommodate all aspects of a curriculum and can be used seamlessly with other DITA content, which may facilitate reuse. The courses on LearningDITA.com are examples of e-learning content in DITA.

Choosing the right learning management system

A major component in your learning content strategy is deciding on the right learning management system (LMS) for your content.

If you’re already using an LMS, it’s important to determine whether that system will work with the changes you’re planning for your learning content strategy and overall content strategy across the organization. If you don’t have an LMS, you’ll need to evaluate different options and choose the best fit.

Some factors to consider when talking with LMS vendors and participating in demos or trials include:

  • Is the LMS intended for the corporate or education market, and how does that align with the kind of learning content your company produces?
  • How does the LMS handle learning content development processes?
  • How does the LMS integrate with other content tools in your organization (such as authoring tools, content management systems, and publishing workflows)?

If you’re including learning content as part of an enterprise content strategy, it’s critical to involve content creators across multiple departments in the LMS selection process. (Similarly, it’s important for learning content creators to help evaluate other content tools.) This ensures that all departments can access the content they need to and prevents content from being stuck in silos.

Does your company need a strategy for developing and managing learning content? Contact us to talk about streamlining your processes.

About the Author

Gretyl Kinsey

Twitter

Technical Consultant. Content strategy, tech comm, and LearningDITA. Musician, cosplayer, and devourer of delicious desserts.

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