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Customer Experience
February 25, 2020
xx min read

How to Optimize Internal Learning Content: 3 Lessons from 7th Graders

I taught a 7th grade English Language Arts class. They taught me that learning content matters. They taught me quickly and loudly.


Walking into the classroom, I was so certain my lesson plan was perfect that I scarcely flinched at 30ish noisy tweens. One seemingly infinite class period later, hubris shattered, I realized the lesson failed because I was teaching it for myself.

I didn’t need to learn 7th grade English. They needed to learn it and I wasn’t off to a great start. What I needed to learn was how to build their education in a way that every single one of them could grasp and retain. This clarified two things I was missing: consistency and differentiation.


DITA Learning Content & Good Curriculum Design Are Basically the Same Thing

Consistency ensures that learning content provides repetitious foundational layers that the students commit to memory and apply to ongoing learning processes. Differentiation takes the different learning methods of each student into account, applying learning processes while knowing that you’re educating individuals who are part of a whole class.

Now, I understand that a classroom is different from a business and a school subject is different from internal learning content. However, the same problems exist and the same solutions apply. Internal learning content is your company’s curriculum, internal processes, documentation, product descriptions, onboarding material, handbooks, the list goes on.

What’s problematic with these bodies of content is that they’re rarely well organized or thought out. This disorganization negatively affects personnel and, consequently, business goals.

DITA provides a solution to optimize your internal learning processes and content. What can a DITA solution do to ensure your company doesn’t mirror the chaos of a flopped middle school lesson?

The good news is that the lessons from that middle school classroom also apply to your company integrating a DITA solution into your internal learning content.

Let’s dig deeper by asking three core questions that your solution needs to answer.

Listen up, class is in session.


1. Is your learning content consistent?

Across your organization, the continuity of your learning content matters. As those libraries of content grow, consistency is pivotal to maintaining a unified learning experience, regardless of department.

The structure of the DITA XML standard is built with structured reuse in mind. This reuse breeds consistency, which empowers accurate processes. These accurate processes reinforce learning through practice and repetition. Thus, the internal learning content in your business must be consistent through the use of structured reuse. Proper, regimented DITA reuse strategy ensures consistency where it’s needed most. Which, for human beings, is literally everywhere.

Unstructured documents, especially in the learning sector, get messy because instances of reuse are largely limited to copy-paste. While copy-pasting works fine for insignificant, one-off instances, it crumbles when it’s time to scale. When an enterprise needs something duplicated across learning documentation for the whole business, keeping track of what’s been copy-pasted and what hasn’t, becomes exponentially more difficult and time-consuming.

For example, new employee onboarding documents need to be consistent and accurate. As those onboarding and new-hire learning processes evolve with company growth, the changes reflected in those documents need consistency as much as they need change. With a DITA solution, structured reuse is built with both consistency and growth potential in mind.


2. Can you find what you need in your learning content?

In school, do you remember that friend who stuffed loose papers in their backpack? No folder, no binder, just a pack full of crumpled homework assignments. That’s essentially what you’re doing with poorly organized internal learning content. If your company’s internal learning processes and documents are carelessly stashed like so many loose backpack papers, rest assured it’s going to be less effective than it could be.

It doesn’t matter how good your learning content is, if it’s a hassle to find or search through it won’t achieve its purpose. Your reuse and content strategy aren’t complete without a good way to find the resources you need. When your company has a vast repository of content, you have to be able to locate what you need. DITA’s built-in metadata provides a powerful way to ensure your content is easy to track down.

A good metadata structure is crucial to successfully navigating your content repository. Your employees need to be able to find information quickly. Whether they’re looking for internal policy documentation, style guides, or a solution for a customer, metadata is foundational to effectively searching, locating, and distributing information.

Education depends on the availability of knowledge. Whether in a 7th-grade classroom or a part of corporate personnel, organizing learning materials to be easy to find makes that content ultimately more valuable.


3. Can your learning content grow with you?

Learning isn’t static. The same way classroom lessons are meant to be part of an educational journey, so should your internal learning content. The continuous education of your personnel is important for business growth. Companies don’t run themselves. People do. And your learning content provides those people with the knowledge and resources to do so.

For your teams to grow, your internal learning content needs to follow suit. As those pages of content expand, change, and grow, a DITA solution provides the structural support to ensure that it scales without collapsing in on itself.

While DITA provides ways to implement content consistency and findability, it’s also built with enough structural integrity to support bodies of learning content growing along with a company. It pays to be thinking about the future of your business and utilizing tools built with progressive development in mind.


Optimizing Internal Learning Content Requires Ongoing Care

A good educator knows that they don’t develop curriculum once and use the same lessons forever. Good internal learning content is the product of ongoing maintenance and care. It’s also something that demands an element of futurism. Remember these three questions when approaching your internal learning content and you’re off to a great start:

  • Is my content consistent?
  • Is my content easy to locate?
  • Is my content built with the future in mind?

DITA implementation, be it for internal learning content or something else, grows more useful with continued strategizing. The same applies to the growth of your business and we’d wager that you’d like to see yours blossom.

With this in mind and a good set of tools to construct a cohesive learning environment, you’ll be moving swiftly in the right direction.

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