The Common Learning Portal (and its pilot project, the Career Academy for Cultural Resources website), are examples of a Learning and Performance Ecosystem. In the introduction to their groundbreaking white paper on the subject, Marc J. Rosenberg & Steve Foreman state:
People learn in many different ways. Education and training is just one of those ways. Given that most working people get no more than a few days to a few weeks of training a year, it is impossible for them to learn everything they need to know through formal instruction. And with the seemingly overwhelming amount of knowledge that is amassing in the workplace and the ever-shorter life span and volatility of that knowledge, workers would almost have to be in training every day in order to keep up.
Training Is Not Enough
Since we know that formal training, while important, is not enough to support the learning and development needs of our learning community, the Common Learning Portal includes, not just Training Events, but also the Knowledge Park – a curated list of informal learning resources which NPS staff and volunteers can use when that have a few spare moments to increase their own self-directed learning and improve their job performance.
But just how do we create the right curated list to maximize learning and performance outcomes?
Before there was the Knowledge Park, there was the Clearinghouse.
The Clearinghouse was a resource library that was developed as part of the NPS Career Academy for Cultural Resources website (the pilot project before the Common Learning Portal was created). Described below is the process that it took to curate the right list of informal learning resources for the Clearinghouse. The Knowledge Park is based on the Clearinghouse, and all of the resources that were in the Clearinghouse have been transferred into the Knowledge Park (you can view them in the Knowledge Park by using the faceted search to review Cultural Resources Knowledge Park Library Objects). The following description should help CLP content teams better understand how to best curate a list of Knowledge Park resources specific to your program, region, or training center.
Step 1: Organize Resources
The Clearinghouse was created for the National Park Service’s (NPS) Cultural Resources professionals. The Cultural Resource division has six programs – Anthropology, Archeology, Cultural Landscapes, Historic Structures, History, and Museum Management – so resource listings were divided up into these six categories. Spreadsheets were created to house resources for each program, and headings were created to track resource bibliographic information.
Then, the Cultural Resources Training Specialist began to track down resources to begin populating these spreadsheets so that future subject matter expert teams (SMEs) would have a place to start.
Step 2: Establish a Vetting Protocol
While the spreadsheets described above were being created, it was becoming obvious that in order to have the best resource library possible we would need to enlist the help of the experts to vet resources nominated for inclusion into the Clearinghouse.
At the same time that the spreadsheets were being created, a group of Section 106 specialists were gathering supporting resources for a training that they were creating. To help guide their efforts they created a vetting protocol to establish a baseline for quality. The CR Academy team, with their permission, used and adapted the protocol list for use by Clearinghouse SMEs.
Step 3: Identify SMEs
When the spreadsheets and vetting protocol were in place, it was time to begin establishing the subject matter expert teams. These teams needed to consist of those employees who were known to be the go-to experts within their field. The Chiefs of each program within the Cultural Resource Division were approached, and the project was explained so that they would be better able to recommend employees who would be the best suited to this project. Then, Cultural Resources Training Specialist worked with them to assemble a list of recommended employees that represented diversity in terms of experience, location, and level within the organization. Each person nominated by their Chief was then contacted, the project and vetting process were explained, and they either agreed to participate on the team or not. In the end, six teams consisting of 3-6 members were established.
Step 4: Vet Resources
As each team was established, calls were scheduled for the individual teams every two months. During the first call the team divided resources to review based on their expertise. Team members then reviewed and contributed resources based on vetting protocol, and would reach out with questions either individually or during larger team calls.
Once team members had completed their review and referral of resources, they began writing brief descriptions describing the contents of each resource. These descriptions were meant to make it easier for users to determine whether or not resources contained the information needed by users. These brief descriptions have become the Overview text of Knowledge Park resources in the Common Learning Portal.
Step 5: Post to the the resources on the website
After resources had their descriptions and those descriptions were reviewed for consistency, the descriptions – with links to the curated resources – were posted with a photo that was visually appealing and related to the subject matter represented in the resource.