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A colleague of mine borrowed my copy of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy, by Andrew Keen. He is writing a column for eLearning Age magazine and asked me for my comments on how I saw ‘democratization of content development’ will affect eLearning……

A metaphor

“Teacher walks into a classroom of 16-year old history students, gives them all a blank exercise book and a pen and tells them to write an account of The English Civil War by pooling their knowledge and tells them that whatever they come up with will be the ‘collective wisdom’……then walks out the door never to return”.

The pro’s

New and widely available ‘Web 2.0′ tools have made it very easy and cost-effective for anyone to publish ‘content’ onto the corporate Intranet and to the Internet. This approach, when applied to eLearning, has given rise to a plethora of ‘rapid eLearning development tools’ as well as access to the general tools such as Word Press upon which this blog is written.On the face of it this considerably reduces the technical barrier of entry i.e. it enables anyone with experience and knowledge that is of value to an organization or wider community to be able to share what they have with others. That frees customers from the ‘only we can do it’ lock-in mentality of some technology firms.

The con’s

The downside of this ‘democratization’ of publishing, as it is referred to, is that literally anyone can publish anything. In the context of Learning & Development, where accuracy, validity and efficacy are of paramount importance, how do we ensure that our staff, for example, are consuming content that acts to enhance performance improvement rather than to be detrimental to that cause? When the sense-checking oversight of an empowered editor (or Instructional Designer) is taken away, corporations literally throw themselves (and their staff) at the mercy of the myopia that is the Internet.Multiple perspectives are a welcome attribute to any learning experience. They are the basis for driving sound discussions (e.g. after action reviews and performance assessment) but with a million amateur experts out there, the scope for mass confusion (at best) and purposeful misleading is significant.

The challenges

Organizations and technology vendors need to work together (quickly please!) to work out how to leverage these new tools and the content which is produced in a way that can be controlled, monitored and, if necessary removed. I predict many ‘interesting’ turns of events over the next few years, not least around security – protecting a company’s Intellectual Property in a knowledge society will be very difficult when your staff are all busy uploading their knowledge to the WWW.

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