Content is King, but Content Management Rules (part 2)

By Colin Bell

In Connections 35 we published part 1 of this article by Colin Bell, Managing Director of Concord Australia (see pp 1-2, 10 of Issue 35). Colin Bell continues by explaining some of the key concepts for effective content management.

What is content?
• Explicit content is words, images, numbers, drawings, pictures, sounds and other entities contained within a school's formal electronic (document) resources or files. These may be such things as course outlines, lesson plans, work exercises, assignments, research papers and traditional library resources.
• Tacit knowledge is the accumulation of useful experience, expertise and skillsets contained within the minds of a school's people and resources. These may be staff members with particular expertise or skill sets, parents with specific knowledge and community guest speakers.

Both forms of content or knowledge must be relevant to each school's teaching and learning objectives.

Publication is a set of complementary functions applied to all aspects of content management so that you can deliver effective and efficient management of and access to your content. It must include the following steps in an environment that can be easily managed by non-expert IT personnel:
• categorisation: applying metadata strategy to the content, relevant to context
• publication business rules
• curriculum life cycle policy
• submission
• search and retrieval
• individual and school knowledge.

Categorisation is the process of assigning 'aboutness' attributes to a resource by applying a school's pre-defined metadata and business rules. Metadata attributes include:
• author
• general subjects
• title
• hierarchical classification
• medium
• specific subjects
• security
• arbitrary comments.

These attributes are developed using a methodology driven by Teacher Librarians and information management specialists, and implemented using a technology that provides for the capture and management of required metadata.

Publication business rules
Publication business rules are a set of predefined guidelines that reflect a school's environment and practices. Rules should define and monitor the acceptable application of metadata standards for profile definition and naming conventions (title, author, media, subjects, folders, security), to ensure consistent storage and retrieval of content.

Curriculum life cycle policy
Curriculum life cycle policy reflects the usefulness and availability of content within a school's current curriculum cycle. An effective life cycle policy must manage and support the following concepts to ensure that only current content is available to staff and students on the Intranet, but historically valuable content is accessible if and as required.
• automatic release and publication
• automatic reinstatement
• review management
• authorised republication
• authorised retention, archive and deletion policy.

Notification is the process of proactively alerting relevant staff members and students about the availability of content of interest to them. It should
• automatically match content and knowledge to people
• allow for manual matching of content and knowledge to people
• monitor and learn what people need to know
• help people to remember what they do know.

In this way all students, teachers and staff are kept up-to-date with and can share the school's knowledge assets.

Submission is the process of moving content from its place of creation to the Intranet. This process must provide a simple interface to allow non-technical teachers (content authors) to:
• move content to the Intranet
• assign metadata attributes
• indicate publication sequence
• assign a curriculum life cycle policy
• edit published content.

This way, bottlenecks are eliminated from the publication process and knowledge is disseminated quickly and efficiently throughout the school.

Search and retrieval
Search and retrieval provides an interactive environment that allows staff and students to seek relevant information on demand and to retrieve it regardless of their local environment.
This environment should include:
• simple searching
• advanced searching
• full text retrieving
• dynamic navigation
• automatic linking of similar content
• displaying of content in native format
• conversion of content in HTML.

This environment provides users with a variety of manual and automatic search and navigation paths to a school's total knowledge assets.

Building individual and school knowledge
Build both individual and school-wide knowledge by proactively capturing individual expertise, skill sets and experiences (tacit knowledge), then linking to a school's metadata, integrating with the school's content (explicit knowledge) and tracking individual access to all managed knowledge. This process should include mechanisms for the following, to ensure that a school's total knowledge portfolio is captured and used.
• capturing tacit knowledge
• integrating tacit and explicit knowledge
• tapping personal expertise and skills
• managing and recalling individual knowledge
• managing and recalling corporate knowledge.

The golden rules of publication
• Don't leave the management of your content to the IT department.
• Provide mechanisms to capture tacit and explicit knowledge (content).
• Design and develop a content categorisation strategy.
• Empower teachers, students and staff with the ability to publish their own content.
• Monitor the publication process using established rules.
• Ensure content is current.
• Ensure content can be found.
• Ensure content is disseminated.
• Ensure school-wide and individual memory are preserved.

The future ...
The Intranet and Internet will have a more significant and important revolutionary effect on education into the future than the exercise pad did when it replaced the slate in the classroom in the mid-20th century. What will differentiate one school Intranet from the next will be the amount of quality content. Some schools have recognised this and put into place a sound and planned structure to manage their valuable content and ensure they can move forward at the speed of education. The ad hoc approach adopted by others will miss the mark.

Colin Bell

Managing Director of Concord Australia

Colin Bell, Managing Director of Concord Australia, has been developing information management software in Australia for 14 years. Colin recently won an Australian Software Design Award for his innovative content management solution, MASTERfile Edtranet, which has been successfully installed at over 200 primary and secondary schools across Australia.