I would not suggest that higher education institutions need to operate like CNN, but I find it fascinating to read Elliot Masie’s observations of how CNN dealt with the flow of content and information in the wake of Hurrican Katrina. In CNN Newsroom in the Midst of Katrina – “Rapid Development… Content Objects… Learning Implications”:
There were some incredible learnings and observations as I quietly watched the news gathering and assembly process and interviewed the Learning team at CNN. Many of these items relate directly to how organizations will be assembling content in the near future.
The question is, will educational institutions be one of these organizations? Below I have take some of Maise’s descriptions of CNN and put them besides a gross and likely over generalized observation of higher education. Yes, there are numerous exceptions and counter examples to every one of my points, but as a whole, when you read how CNN operates and put it besides how your higher education institution operates, the contrast should be rather vivid.
CNN: Content From Multiple and Unconventional Sources: The nature of content in journalism is changing dramatically as media flows from non-traditional sources. CNN calls an aspect of this “Citizen Journalism” as they receive pictures and video feeds from digital cameras and even mobile phones.
Education: Content comes nearly solely from instructors and “trusted” resources like publishers and “refereed” journals. And content from students would be suspect or written off as “cute” but not useful. Is there an equivalent of Citizen Teaching? If so it is the inspired individual’s effort of placing a tutorial or resource on the net.
CNN: Content To Multiple Formats: As content was created in the CNN newsroom, it flowed to multiple formats. Content started as video feeds, became streamed video, text on the website and even a mention for a scroll at the bottom of the screen. Each piece of content was “tagged” as it came into the newsroom, timecoded, meta-tags were added with context and it could be viewed by CNN staff around the world in low-res format. The concept was to see each media object as being highly reusable and redeployable.
Education: Content primarily text, email, PDFs to print, hand coded/Dreamweaver-ed HTML, and.. PowerPoint. Media objects are un-reusable, un-findable, and in-redeployable and would never be available in this kind of time frame.
CNN: Digital News Gathering: The footprint and format for news production is changing radically as the size and mobility of equipment evolves radically. I watched newsfeeds coming from CNN reporters using satellite phones (after the cell network dropped). They were even feeding content that was edited on laptops in the field using Final Cut Pro.
Education: Not much to compare except we do not think of educational content being created “in the field” or with portable devices… while some are moving towards laptops in place of desktop computers, they are used primarily in the same vein (a laptop on the desk). We still print a lot of material or offload this printing to students– we do not “think”/”operate” primarily in digital, and much of what we do digital is the digital equivalent of print.
CNN: Content Repository: CNN operates a content and media repository that is quite impressive. The content objects are viewable, editable and sharable. Key levels of data is kept for how each object is being used and deployed. Digital Rights Management is tracked, to honor the appropriate use of each media object. I was struck by how easily every CNN staff person could access and work with this content repository.
Education: This is still a dream, despite years of wrangling over “Learning Objects” and the construction of numerous “repositories” few if any that have the features described above AND as much content. Data on the use of objects is absent and DRM is spotty.
CNN: Rapid Development: While CNN clearly has a breaking news model, it was fascinating to watch this process in action, including use of templates, collaborative and team-based editing and content refinement, focus on content ethics, standards and legal/compliance issues. I witnessed a team of professionals, drawn from a wide set of backgrounds, deeply focused on producing content that had value for viewers and the hurricane’s victims.
Education: The development cycle is measured in months, perhaps as summer projects or long term grants, and is pretty much an individual cottage industry. Editing and development are solo projects.
So, how does Big U stand up to CNN?