The six key skills of learning curation

By Carole Bower May 18, 2015

Vintage collection of preserved butterflies and other insectsCuration is the new skillset learning and development professionals have to master. It is made up of six key skills that we will cover in this post. Learning curators:

  • Find
  • Filter
  • Grade
  • Synthesize
  • Contribute
  • Signpost

Before we look at each of these skills in more depth, let’s look at what learning curation is, and why it is becoming so central to the practice of L&D.

What is content curation?

Curation is a modish term that is very loosely used nowadays, and applied to all kinds of activities from party-giving to gardening! But in essence it is, according to Wikipedia: the process of collecting, organising and displaying information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest.

The reason why it has come so much to the fore as an idea lies in the huge amount of information available on the internet and the ready availability of tools to help us organise and share it, making us all into curators of our own media consumption. This infographic compiled last year from shows the enormous amount of data being generated on the web in just one minute.

infographic: curated content

Quite something isn’t it? On Pinterest alone nearly 3,500 images are pinned in every 60 seconds!

Pinterest itself is a great example of curated content. Users of Pinterest find and share pictures, blogs and other content and collate these on their own ‘pinboards’, acting as a personalised media platform. Users can browse the content of others and save individual pins to their own boards. Typically these boards organised around a central topic or theme. With around 70 million users that’s got to be one of the world’s largest outlets for curated content.

Learning and curation

Learning is all about information, and with so much free information available on the web, it would be crazy to ignore such a rich potential source of learning content.

Rarely these days do we need to write something from scratch as someone is bound to have written it before. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, it often makes more sense to find relevant content, organise it, provide some context and then share it: in other words, to curate learning content.

But there are other drivers, too, apart from just ease and availability (and cheapness) that make curation so important for learning right now.

I recently blogged about subject matter experts and how their expertise is becoming increasing difficult to access. For many learning designers and other people involved in the production of learning content this has meant they have needed to take on the role of Content Curator.

Also the growth of interest in informal learning, self-directed learners and 70:20:10 have thrown the spotlight on wider ways in which L&D can support people in finding useful learning resources, that do not sit within the traditional L&D remit. Curation is a central activity in supporting the 70% within 70:20:10.

… All of which can make curation seem easy. It’s all about sharing a few links, right?


The real value with curated content for learning can only be achieved when the curator can expertly sift and signpost the content: only then does it contribute to a meaningful learning experience and add real value.

How to be a great content curator – the six key skills

So how do you go about content curation – and how do you go about doing it well?

A curator needs to read, understand and contextualise highly relevant web content and present this back to the learner in a way that is easy to understand and to navigate, much as a helpful librarian might do – directing you to the aisles you need or even better, opening the books and the pages of interest.

Let’s look in more depth at those six key skills


Act like a historian. Who wrote this piece? Why did they write it? Did they have an agenda? Is it a primary source, and if not, are you reading something written by someone who has been selective in what to include or how to interpret?

When working with digital content we have the advantage of incredibly powerful search engines and content feeds. As well as this we now have access to a number of new tools specifically for content curation. Tools such as, Curation Traffic, Storify, Paper.Li,… – I could go on. These all provide us with access to up to date content on our subject of choice.

One way to be particularly effective in sourcing relevant content is to find the best writers on your topic and follow them and the people they in turn follow. This way you can build yourself a library of trusted sources where you know reliable content always resides.


Be curious. Don’t only look for material which reinforces your view, find material which challenges it and makes you think. The more plural your outlook, the better you’ll be at your job.

Probably the most key part of the curation process is to filter the content, ensuring that we get to the most relevant pieces. A good curator will often look beyond the most highly ranked posts and drills down to those that are potentially more relevant.


Think about it. Is this content appropriate for your audience? If not, do you need to revisit, or just think about how it is positioned?

The curator then needs to grade this content based on their audience. Not all content will be appropriate for everyone. If you are curating a collection on Roman artefacts for primary school children it naturally will need to feel quite different than if you were to curate the same collection for archaeology graduates.


Join the dots. Why this content? What does it have in common? How do you want people to think and feel when they have journeyed through it?

Not all content will naturally speak for itself. A curator’s role is pull all the bits together and to join up the dots to paint a bigger picture.


Give context. It isn’t enough to deliver a load of content, summaries will help people decide what is important, commentary will help them get the most from it. Think back to why this exercise is happening in the first place and reflect it back in how you contribute.

The curator can add value to the gathered content through analysis, evaluation, context and commentary. Some audience will want drill right down to the preserved content, while others will benefit from the summary that a good curator can provide. The curator can also offer the audience opportunities for collaboration.


Be a guide. Give people the quickest route to performance that you can.

Sometimes people simply need to fills gaps in their knowledge. A curator can eliminate work for them by signposting them to the most relevant and high quality content.


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curated content

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  1. Pingback: The role of information professionals in data curation

  2. Pingback: Anders Pink | How To Curate Content For Learning

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