A new approach to training web editors

In Content Strategy for Mobile, Karen McGrane says we should “use going mobile as a lens to make all our content better regardless of platform.”

This is what we’re doing at Newcastle through our Go Mobile programme. The project has two main aims:

  1. to make our external website mobile friendly
  2. to improve our web content

As part of the editorial team it’s the second aim I’m principally engaged in. Although they’re clearly intrinsically linked. Our greatest step forward with this is a brand new training programme for web editors.

In the past we’ve focused on writing for the web. With this revamped package we’re looking at all aspects of managing a website, including:

  • creating a site purpose
  • prioritising content to support the site purpose
  • the content lifecycle
  • evaluating site performance
The content lifecycle: analyse, plan, create, publish, maintain

The content lifecycle

For the first two of these we utilised a couple of exercises we heard about at Confab Europe:

For the latter we covered how to:

  • analyse existing content using audits and readability checkers, like Clarity Grader
  • plan content using calendars
  • write better web content
  • use quality assurance tools, like SiteImprove, to keep content consistent and accurate
  • use Google Analytics to evaluate site performance

It€™s taken our team a significant amount of time to develop this practical workshop. Delivering it for the first time at the beginning of May was nerve-wracking and exhilarating.

We’re asking a lot of our editors. Essentially we’re asking them to think in a whole new way about how they mange their sites. We’ve got a good mix of theory and exercises to support it. This worked well for the participants – it was clear to see that the exercises helped them to translate the theory into practice and relate it to their own site.

Delivering training is one aspect of my life as a librarian that I really miss. So I€™m excited to be back in the training game with an offering like this. And I can€™t wait to run the next session.

Where next for 23 Things?

For quite a while now I have been wondering whether 23 Things has had its day. With each programme that I run – and I’ve done four now – I feel myself falling out of love with it. Whether it’s that I’ve talked about it too much, or that I’ve reached the limit of where I can develop it, I don’t know, but for me 23 things seems to have run its course.

Then yesterday I attended a talk by Hamish Macleod from the University of Edinburgh. His topic was broadly how we can blend technologies into our teaching practice. Given the announcement earlier this week that Edinburgh was to become the first UK university to join coursera the focus of the talk soon turned to MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses). If you’re not familiar with the concept of MOOCs watch this video:

So, the main features of a MOOC are that it is:

  • a course
  • open
  • participatory
  • distributed
  • a networked, life-long learning opportunity

Now don’t all those things sound like the features of 23 things too?

In a recent talk I described 23 Things as:

  • an online learning programme
  • free
  • self-paced
  • inclusive

So what about the massive part? Well, with over 1000 participants* from around the world, CPD23 is a great example demonstrating that a 23 things programme can be massive too.

In the space of 24 hours I find my disillusion with 23 Things has disappeared. And all it took was to think of the programme in the context of MOOCs. I’m now more enthusiastic about developing the programme than ever. This is not the end, it is a new beginning.

* across the 2011 and 2012 programmes

Building a sense of community

For thing 12 on the 23 Things for Professional Development programme we’ve been asked to consider the role of social media in building up networks and a sense of community. Four questions were posed and here are my responses:

  • what are the advantages to social networking in the context of professional development? – for me the main advantage is that online social networks break down the barriers of time and space. My online networks reach far beyond the face-to-face networks that I belong to which are primarily local.

  • can you think of any disadvantages? – the only disadvantages that spring to mind relate to context and etiquette. In the past I’ve been on both sides when something communicated online has been taken out of context and inadvertently offended someone. It can be really difficult to judge the tone, especially when you’ve never met a person before.

  • has CPD23 helped you to make contact with others that you would not have had contact with normally? – CPD23 has definitely expanded my network. It’s bringing more traffic to my blog. I’ve found new blogs to subscribe to. And I’ve picked up new followers and new people to follow on Twitter.

  • did you already use social media for your career development before starting CPD23? Will you keep using it after the programme has finished? – I consider myself an early adopter and have been messing about with social media for a long time. My standard approach is to start using a tool for myself, either socially or professionally whichever fits best, with a view to assessing whether it would be a useful tool for the library to use. Learning about the tools and how they work is in iteself career development for me. I will definitely continue to do this after CPD23.

  • in your opinion does social networking really help to foster a sense of community? – yes, without a doubt. The professional network that I have built up online, primarily on Twitter, is invaluable.