By Reuben Tozman, Chief Learning Officer, edCetra Training
I have been writing about ‘structured content’ in some form or another for years. I’m not sure I have ever answered the question ‘Why does Training and Development NEED structured content?’ I have talked about what instructional designers equipped with the ability to create structures look like and I have talked about structured content in my latest book. But I’m not sure I’ve tackled this as a ‘need’ and frankly, I can’t imagine the future of training and development without structured content.
Training and Development professionals are responsible for (and worry about) employee training and development. They create courses and produce corporate learning programs. Ironically, they are also one of the first departments to feel the sting of budget cuts because they operate in some ethereal universe where the goals of the business are rarely accounted for. They are most often considered a line item expense and they generally take orders from business units who are ill-informed about the potential for employee development.
Most employee development activities happen outside the normal day-to-day routine. Employees might attend a class, login to a Learning Management System (LMS), or get shuttled to some remote location for off-site training. While common learning activities, these approaches don’t make a lot of sense when you realize that much of what employees actually need to know gets learned on the job. So I ask, why isn’t more time spent on getting the right training content to the right people while in their work environment doing their jobs? Isn’t it about time we figured this out?
When this gets figured out, when training and development figures out that they need to become operations people, making people more effective and efficient while performing their job (which is where they learn anyways), then what they will need is content that understands its applicability to a specific context. They will need content that can be delivered in multipole ways, through multiple devices and be parsed, diced, filtered to meet the needs of a specific user. They will need structured content.
From my own book: “Structured data are ‘really data…..organized in a structure so that it is identifiable’” (Tozman, 2012) For our purposes, ‘identifiable’ should be understood as identifiable by machines. Structured content is just another data type so putting this all together what I’m suggesting is that the content we distribute to users to help them ‘learn’ what they need to do in their jobs, should be identifiable by the systems that currently support employees. Its hard to imagine that today’s company is purely analog and hasn’t used technology to enhance employee productivity in some capacity. As web services and api’s become the norm for those systems, having structured content for learning also should become the norm. If it doesn’t become the norm, then training and development will become even more siloed than it currently is.
Training and development needs structured content so that it isn’t a burden to the system but a part of the system.