In a fast paced world, learning content typically have just about the same shelf life as that of a banana. Learning designers and trainers are embracing sophisticated authoring tools to chrun out content quickly. Rapid content development is a necessary strategy for enterprises. However, it will be a fallacy to assume that the rigor and the effort that goes behind building learning content the traditional way is a waste of time. Just like we have fast food chains and restaurants co-existing, we will continue to have specific needs that will drive rapid content development in addition to the regular content development methodologies.
Let’s start off by dissecting the virtues of fast food joints: They offer a limited menu, food items are inexpensive, food items are designed to be consumed on the go and everything is designed for speed and fast turn-around. Rapid content development seeks to deliver the same benefits to learners. Some of the key points that enterprises need to keep in mind when embracing rapid content development include:
1. Ease of Use: Fast Food joints keep the food preparation process very simple and require minimal training. Rapid content authoring tools should allow SMEs to create content on the fly. If using the content authoring tool requires a 1-month training program, its a clear warning sign of what to expect when you throw the tool at the SMEs.
2. Delivery Medium: For here or to go? Irrespective of what the answer is, content should be created in small easily digestible packets that can work with reasonable consistency across mediums such as Desktops, Smartphones, and Mobile devices. Even the biggest whopper or double cheeseberger can be consumed on the go. Does your authoring tool consider mobile publishing as an afterthought or is it tightly integrated into the product?
3. Cost: You will not loose your shirt even if you decide to go on a fast food binge. It’s because fast food is cheap. The cost of authoring and delivering rapid content should be cost effective otherwise you are missing the point. This is a key requirement for rapid content development because one of the primary reasons for rapid content development is the small shelf life of content. Your ROI will go for a tailspin if you have an expensive tool that is primarily used for rapid content development with low shelf life.
4. Self-Service Capability: There is nobody waiting on you in a fast food chain. You get the napkins, sugar, and the ketchup and you clean your table after you are done. The popularity of social media tools allows every employee to become a publisher of information and content. Many a times, just getting the employees to collaborate with one another eliminates the need to create learning content. Wikis, microblogs, discussion forums, Linkedin type profiles and connections offered by enterprise social collaboration tools like SocialText and Yammer can be a powerful self-service platform for delivering learning.
If you have seen Super Size Me, you will appreciate the impact of too much fast food. The same is true for rapid content development. The biggest casualty is the invariable watering down of instructional design principles thereby reducing the effectivess of learning. Depending entirely on content nuggets, created on the fly, cannot be the only content strategy and may do more harm than good in some cases. Example: Training a plant engineer on Lockout / Tagout process requires serious thought, time, and effort and is not amenable to rapid content development. The trick is in finding out whether your learnig need can be met by embracing a fast food strategy or not.