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Why Content Curation Beats Aggregation in Learning

Roberta Gogos
Feb 24 2021

Content curation is key to providing relevant content, at the right time

If you’re a regular blog subscriber, you’ll already know how much I’ve been enjoying my conversations with Fuse Product Director Rhys Giles. He’s not afraid to tackle the big, or the controversial subjects in corporate learning. Whether it’s explaining why LXP’s content aggregation approach to skills is not working to close the skills gap, or how Fuse trumps LXPs when it comes to aligning with how people actually learn, he’s certainly got the answers that many L&D managers may be racking their brains for in the face of subpar performance metrics.

Today, we’re carrying on with where we left off, and focusing on content aggregation versus content curation. Why? Because the terms are often mis-used, or used interchangeably, and there’s a lot of confusion in the industry as to the value of each. And while aggregation arguably has its place, it’s content curation, which is one of the fundamentals of the Fuse way, that is helping people to find content to perform their roles better, and to improve company performance. 

With that in mind, enjoy part III of our series, and if you have any questions, remember that we’re free to speak any time you like.

Q: Can you give us a brief overview of content aggregation versus curation from a learning platform point of view? 

Rhys: Sure. So, aggregation is the collection of related content items (which is often automated) that can then be displayed or linked to. It’s rooted in efficiency, however, on its own it can cause what we call ‘choice fatigue’ (think Netflix) because it may return too many results because it simply collates content into a library. 

Curation on the other hand is the action or process of selecting, organising, and looking after items in a collection or exhibition. It’s a thoughtful process and one that shouldn’t be automated. Unlike aggregation which can often be automated, in learning platforms, curation is usually performed by humans. 

It’s this marriage of humans and automation that we believe leads to really positive outcomes in learning, and the end result is relevancy, which is ensured by delivering content in context. In Fuse, we curate content through our community structure - communities are the purposeful intersection of content with audiences.

Q: We’ve spoken about content aggregation extensively in the first two blogs, and how aggregation on its own can return a massive pool of content that is too vast to be useful. So, can you help us to define what content curation is in terms of learning platforms? 

Rhys: Sure. We know that aggregators, many of which are AI-driven, may have connectors to third party libraries like LinkedIn, Ted Talks, and Udemy. Often they are just returning too many (think hundreds of thousands) results to be helpful to a learner who just wants to learn in the flow of their daily job, and who needs quick answers. 

Content curation is the next level, and it’s something that Fuse is very focused on. Whereas aggregation may produce results, curation filters them down, and provides the context to make them useful. 

Think of it like this - what do curators in museums do? They don’t just spend their careers obtaining an endless supply of artifacts. They build up collections for exhibits, often in specialist areas. This makes it easier for visitors to interpret the exhibitions. This is exactly how we view content curation in Fuse. 

It’s extremely important, because as an industry, we need to be focused on making it easier for people to be able to find the content that’s really relevant for them. We need to be able to quickly get the right content in front of the right people, at the right time, so that it’s relevant and so that it helps them to perform in their role. Content aggregation on its own is not going to do that, whereas a content curation layer does. 

Q: But surely AI is intelligent enough to do this, right? To add the context we need to and filter based on an individual’s past history, and preferences in order to present them with the right content, at the right time?

Rhys: It’s not really about whether or not AI is intelligent enough. It’s about the fact that most LXPs are not forcing AI to do more work beyond simply aggregating the content. It’s AI without the human element. What LXPs are doing with AI is using it to aggregate content and then filtering by top-level skills or competencies. But ultimately, users still come back with far too much content, most of which is generic, and which takes a lot of effort to filter through in search of what is useful. 

It’s an approach that is certainly scaleable, but it’s not actually valuable as we lose relevance with the app.

Q: So break down how curation works, particularly in Fuse, and why it’s better. 

Rhys: When you curate something, there is a thoughtfulness at play. We have a range of tools that enable users to curate content. First of all, we use communities. This is the blending of users with content that is relevant for them. Let’s say you have a sales leadership community. Here, you’ve got a specific community and only the people within it will have access to the content in that community. So even if there are half a million pieces of content in the application, you may only have access to a small percentage of them. 

Q: Where does the human element come in for curation? 

Rhys: Many of our customers spend time going through the libraries of content and curating it to bring the best through to certain communities. But there is also the social layer that sits below that as well, where people are able to consume content and share it into communities as well, so you’re taking the best from peer-to-peer learning and the things that people find interesting, and pairing it with the right audience. 

However, there’s a big distinction to be made here between explicit (or expressive) knowledge and tacit knowledge. Wikipedia describes explicit knowledge as “knowledge that can be readily articulated, codified, stored and accessed. It can be easily transmitted to others. [..] Explicit knowledge is often seen as complementary to tacit knowledge.”

Explicit knowledge is what gets aggregated from third party platforms, while tacit knowledge is an organisation’s internal expertise and which is ultimately going to be much more valuable than any third party content. This is an integral part of the ‘humans in the loop’ that is fundamental to Fuse. 

When tacit knowledge is delivered in a business context, it is extremely powerful because it is formed in a way that takes into consideration the right processes or concepts that underpin business values and operations. However, it’s not just the act of delivering or sharing tacit knowledge - it’s the power people get from creating it. Fuse makes it easy for users to build content (like videos and articles) and curate it across communities. This creation and curation together make for a powerful corporate brain. If you want to read a bit more about the power of tacit knowledge in learning, check out our blog Tapping into the Superpower of Tacit Knowledge with Peer-to-Peer learning.

Q: It sounds amazing, but is it scalable? Surely for small L&D teams, the appeal in the idea of aggregation is its scalability across an organisation? 

Rhys: There’s no point in scaling something which isn’t resulting in engaged learning and improved company performance. We always encourage our clients to focus on understanding the needs of the business and building out high-impact learning experiences that solve for those. When clients curate from all aggregated knowledge they build experiences within communities that are contextually relevant to the user. The more relevant it is, the more likely they are to engage now and in the future. Audience management is another tool we use, which means you can create dynamic rules that allow people to be exposed to different communities at very specific times. Fuse is a customisable platform that allows companies to set up rules that work for them, and which are demonstrably encouraging curation at scale. 

Q: Our time is nearly up, but I wanted to ask you about the idea of ‘in-flow’ learning and how it relates to content curation. 

Rhys: It’s pretty straightforward. In-flow learning refers to learning that is a natural part of your day to day work - something you do on the job, and which is immediately relevant to the job. If you have to stop and filter through aggregated content for an hour to find answers, and then take a 40 minute course, it’s hardly in-flow anymore. Curation solves all that by providing relevant content, at the right time. Flow is about instant access to information, and removing the barriers. The learning should be invisible: it’s just knowledge after-all

I think we've made a fundamental mistake in how we approach learning. We design for a monthly / quarterly learning event, but true learning happens all day, every day. It is an answer to a question, the next part of a process, seeing how an expert does something so you can try it out on the job. Ask yourself, which is likely to result in an impact on performance? What we want is learners to get access to that knowledge, and we want people to be successful, and for businesses to perform. And so our belief is that we need to get that knowledge to where people actually are. With Fuse we are accomplishing that with our customers, and the end result is that we’re seeing the creation of engaged learning cultures, where aggregation plays its part, but where curation is truly igniting people performance.

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