Leadership, Innovation, Strategy for Higher Education
Instructional content in higher education used to be a simple matter: the Instructor selected a textbook (or three), maybe put together a set of badly photocopied readings, and added his or her own course notes.
But as all-things-digital washes over higher education, the issue of instructional content has become increasingly complex. Options now include ebooks, OER, self-publishing, LMS-based content, digital textbook supplements, freemium textbooks, digital course packs, print-on-demand, library subscription services, custom-publishing, and the still complex nature of Internet copyright laws.
The choices we make for instructional content can have a significant impact on the cost and quality of learning, but also on the institution’s administrative costs and service quality. How quickly and at what price, for example, can we get instructional content into the hands of our students and at what costs to the institution?
Decisions about instructional content for courses have traditionally been handled by Instructors. But it’s not always feasible for the Instructor to know all of the possible options available. Nor do they often have the capacity to determine if there are benefits to coordinating their content needs with colleagues in other parts of the institution.
It’s time for a more coordinated, institutional approach to managing instructional content. The field of “Content Strategy” – while currently focussed on marketing – offers a good starting point. Content Strategy, according to one its evangelists, Kristina Halvorson, is “the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” The field tries to bring order to a under-appreciated, often uncoordinated set of practices that includes editorial, search-engine optimization, content management, metadata strategy, financial management, content distribution channels strategies, and more.
I believe the field of Content Strategy can be retrofit to instructional content and provide a framework that will lower costs, improve services and increase quality.
As a first step, I recommend taking an inventory of current practices and resources: how are we currently producing, acquiring, managing and distributing instructional content within our institution?
With a better grasp of the big picture, you’ll start to see opportunities to share resources, identify leading practices that should be emulated, and recognize potential risks. More to come.
For more information about the field of Content Strategy, check out the following sites: