I’m into my second week of a course on the Curatr platform. The course is, by coincidence, about how to become a good online curator of content and a course on the Curatr platform works by, well, curating content!
Enough circularities. The main outcome for me is that I’ve learned a lot about the subject, I’ve enjoyed the experience (and it’s not over yet) and I’ve been intrigued by the method and platform, not sold on all of it but far more than I thought I’d be.
The course itself is about curation, in this context the act of searching the web for material on a particular subject and re-presenting it as a series of links to the original sites. We’ve examined various motivations for doing it – for some people it’s primarily about learning and making sense of it themselves, with any sharing being a secondary activity, while for others it’s about a desire to make a contribution, to say ‘look at this, it’s good, it’ll help you’. The best curators seem to be working from both these perspectives, and also have a deep sense of curiosity and a knowledge of a target audience. We’ve also looked at the difference between curation and aggregation – is a list of links curation, or does it need something more editorial to become curation? And so on. I took the course mainly to see what the Curatr learning approach was but I found the subject way more interesting than I thought I would and it’s transformed some of my views.
As the name suggests the course doesn’t include any new or specially written content other than (and this is important) some discussion questions and an element of gamification. The content is all drawn from the web, a mix of videos, blog posts, academic papers and articles. They are grouped in levels, each level comprising 6-8 items. A discussion question is posed beside each item, guiding you through related items and prompting comparisons. There’s an estimate of how long it’ll take to view or read each item. Once you’ve viewed a certain number of items in each level you can ‘level up’ by answering a Gate question which asks you to reflect on the theme of the level you’ve just left.
Despite having no interest in games, I found this element of the gamification quite appealing as it helps to chunk and consolidate the very diverse messages of the very diverse items. Other gamification elements such as getting badges for a certain number of posts, left me cold. But I’d thought they would lead to people just commenting on items because they thought they should for the game and I saw no evidence of this. The comments were all genuine and many very illuminating. If I have a reservation it could be that with the resources all being quick to view (good) the posts in response to them were also quick and essentially first impressions, where if this were an academic exercise you’d get deeper thought before committing fingers to keyboards. However you can see in the Gate comments (which you can only read when you’ve written yours) that people are on a journey and revising their ideas as they go.
I found some elements of the platform a bit clunky, like not being able to resize the content and discussion windows and too many email notifications (I could probably turn them off). Again, however, I found using it in a real application gave me a more favourable impression of it than the free demo.
I still don’t identify a lot with ‘social learning’ as I tend to enjoy solitary reading, thought and reflection more than discussion, and I would still say I learned more from the resources on the course than from the discussions. But each to his own. I’m very impressed by the content of the course and the way it’s been put together (the curation) and by the curation approach to learning itself. It would be nice to do it at work but that’s a sordid story best left for another day.