By now you’ve all heard it. Heck by now you have experienced it. I’m talking about the explosion of the digital universe. IDC and EMC have been measuring the size of the Digital Universe for a few years now. This year’s study confirms our digital universe – or all the information that is available to us in a digital format – is growing even faster than we thought. In fact they expect it to grow 44 times what it is now in the next ten years.
This means we have more content available at our fingertips (literally!) than at any other time in history. For learning professionals, this should be a great thing right? We can just connect people to the Internet, where they will be able to find all the content they need.
The amount of content available is the solution and the problem
Time: Think about the last time you had to search for something you knew nothing about. For instance, right now I am very interested in learning about SOAP and REST because these technologies enable cloud applications. Problem with me: I have zero free time. At some point my itch to figure this out is going to overwhelm me, and I’ll sacrifice a few nights of sleep to learn the basics.
Where should I start looking for content? A google search for “soap rest cloud” looks promising, but returns 1,620,000 results. Just eyeballing the top results makes me think the articles will be too advanced for what I know now. I don’t have time to sift through all of that, I just want to know the basics from a source I can trust to give solid technical content.
And are there really 1.620,000 pieces of content available? Probably not. From experience, I know many of the results will be reposts of one good blog post or web page, with some spam and non-relevant links mixed in. I have enough experience to be able to filter through most of the muck, but what if I was a complete novice?
Vocabulary: Every discipline has its own vocabulary. When you study a discipline its one of the first things you learn. Ohm’s law. The Negroponte switch. ADDIE. When you learn these terms, you have a reference for researching more about the terms, learning new things related to the discipline. If you are a total newbie, you may not know the vocabulary of the discipline. This limits how you search for information, and it may be a barrier to finding the digital content you need.
Search Engines: Many times search engines provide results in a chronological order. For example, I couldn’t find a good reference link for the Negroponte Switch, so I gave a Wikipedia link. The Wikipedia article is an orphan, which makes me question its relevance. But even thought I know what this term means, I couldn’t find an article that succinctly describes it. I learned about it in college 10 years ago, so my thought is maybe all of the articles I need are just to old to come up in the first 30 pages of Google results. My experience with the term helped me sift through the content provided, but if I was a total newbie would I have been able to do that?
So we have tons of content, we’ve all agreed on that. But can learners find content when they need it, especially can they find it at the time of a performance need? I’ll touch on that in my next post.