This is where my outrageous headline goes

August 1, 2014

I know that online learning is not the same as reading a newspaper article or watching news online (or at least I hope not) but I have always been interested in the similarities of two of their associated professions  – instructional designer and journalist – especially how they are evolving; presenting meaningful content that elicits less passive and less controlled behaviors.

When it comes right down to it, both instructional designers and journalists are responsible for putting content on screens – just with different objectives (or at least I hope so).

Three similarities (or challenges if you like) caught my eye this week while consuming “news.” They strike me as key to the evolution of L&D.

1.) Recognition of society’s dwindling attention span.

The Daily Show’s “Less is More” content is video clips of “recent episodes tailored for the Internet’s attention span.” One Episode in One Minute they call it. One minute. It’s all we have time for. I’ll be trying to do the same with video content that is around one-hour – whittle it down to meaningful segments that are less than 3 minutes in length. Maybe that’s too long. Supplemental content and enrichment activities will be needed (obviously) to accomplish the learning objectives. The Daily Show gives you the option of taking a deeper dive by watching a particular segment in its entirely or the whole show. One 22 minute show broken down several ways.

What skills are needed? Likely a hybrid mix of instructional designer, content curator, project manager, and content developer. (Have I left some skills out?)

2.) Recognition of our society’s obsession with the now – this minute, this second.

Something I write here will automatically post to Twitter and someone will favorite it or share it immediately. My narcissistic self says thanks. But it will only be good for a minute, maybe a few hours at the most. It will be picked up and mixed up with other news of the day in people’s daily papers and aggregators. Then it’s gone. Old news. But since it was shared, it’s good right? Right?

What skills are needed? Some include understanding the technology that will get the content in front of people in as many ways as possible and good content curation skill – the ability to identify what’s relevant and good. What have I missed?

3.) Recognition of the growing passiveness associated with the quality of content.

Here’s an entertaining, but NSFW (lot of bleeps and mentions of things like side boob), segment from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that includes a bunch of journalism students and former editor Neetzan Zimmerman from that news aggregator/blog Gawker (“Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news”).

I’m not proud of the fact that I click on Gawker headlines on my Facebook feed. Increasingly when I do so I feel like I’m wasting my life, wasting my time. Defeated. Nothing accomplished. The headline made me do it (click)!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Endorses the Whole “Notorious R.B.G.” Thing > I clicked on that. I think RBG is one cool lady.

In the segment, Zimmerman says,

“If a person is not sharing a news article then it is, at its core, it’s not news. Nowadays, it’s not important that the story’s real; the only thing that really matters is that people click on it.”

An education in journalism, he says is not worth anything unless you’re learning how to craft headlines for the viral web. Of course, that’s Gawker. There is quality reporting out there, you just have to find it. Of course someone has to create that quality content before the aggregators will then pick up – ultimately making more money than the creator. You can easily make an argument that this is stifling quality writing. That’s a different discussion.

Is content only as good as its shareability? Maybe for driving people to a website, yes. What about online learning? Platforms host content that can be ranked, rated, and shared. It doesn’t mean the highest quality content is being driven to the top. We need to recognize our challenges and develop the skills that will help recognize quality content because there’s just too much bad content out there. Thoughts?

  • sloomis

    Thanks for the article—awhile back I thought about doing a
    post around Upworthy headlines and how they might be used or what they might
    mean for elearning. Think you nailed it.

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