Curating an Instructional Content Collection for Teaching and Learning

Green wall with frames and industrial lighting.

Content continues to be published at staggering rates—and it’s only likely to increase. With the proper equipment, time, and an internet connection, anyone can publish content with relatively low effort. The value and accuracy of this content might not go through vigorous quality checks (or may be outright fictitious and created for malicious purposes), which means we must become savvy to identify, evaluate, and share the best resources.  

As educators, we need to curate content to provide accurate, relevant learning resources. And we need to help learners gain the information literacy skills needed to navigate the 21st century.

Curating instructional content

Several years ago, I discussed working with subject matter experts to curate learning content. Curating instructional content requires sorting content into nice-to-know and need-to-know to provide the learner (and instructor if you’re not teaching the class) the most relevant information. But it’s just the first step—you need to organize and provide meaning to the content collection.

Content curation helps you organize and bring simplicity to your course design. Ungerer (2016) says “Curators make qualitative judgments about the information that they gather and organize by adding context and meaning to it.” (p. 6). Complex instructional content should be streamlined to provide the most meaning, clarity, and context.

Learners should be provided with meaningful content aligned with the course learning outcomes and objectives. Deschaine and Sharma (2015, pp. 22-23) suggest using the 5 C’s (collect, categorize, critique, conceptualize, and circulate) as a method for curating instructional content, including:

  • Collect: Gather relevant resources. Each time you review the collection, you’ll compare the existing and resources to choose the most appropriate.
  • Categorize: Refine the collection by identifying and reflecting on the relevance of each resource and its cohesion with the whole collection. 
  • Critique: Determine the value of each resource by reviewing the quality. Remove any resources which don’t meet your criteria for the collection.
  • Conceptualize: Organize the resources with a framework. Provide a meaningful context for learners and other instructors using the content collection.
  • Circulate: Provide the curated collection through a content curation tool. While this step can occur in a specific course, program, or institution, you might consider providing materials though open educational resources (OER) to share them with the wider learning community.

Content curation acts as an iterative process, and you will continue to refine the collection as you find new resources and build context around the topic.

Content curation: Teaching and learning strategies

When we use content curation in our course design, we provide a model to help learners gain the metaliteracy needed to navigate all available information. Metaliteracy requires the ability to decode, understand, and engage with multimodal formats (Ungerer, 2016, p. 4), and it’s an essential information literacy skill.

Cherrstron & Boden (2020) describe curation as individual and collaborative efforts in both formal and informal settings. (p. 118). This flexibility makes it a valuable skill for teaching and learning, workplace performance, and everyday contexts such as social media and online communities. Ungerer (2016) recommends instructors assess the work created by the learner as well as the comprehension and application of their learning. (p. 11).

Metaliteracy and content curation should be an ongoing process throughout a class. Wolff and Mulholland (2013) describe the cyclical relationship between curation and learning including: 

  • Research
  • Content selection and collection
  • Interpretation of individual content (content annotation)
  • Interpretation across content (task annotation)
  • Organization
  • Narration

One idea for incorporating content curation into your course design includes using an open pedagogy model. Materials published as open educational resources (OER) allow learners to use Wiley’s “5R’s” (Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute) to build their research skills and learn through collecting, evaluating, annotating, and sharing quality materials. These efforts can be used to create resources for future students to use and reuse. For more information about OER and open pedagogy, I previously looked at the value of using OER with learners, and Tara discussed fostering collaboration with open pedagogy.

The relevance of content curation 

We need 21st century skills needed to navigate overwhelming amount information available. We know using the best practices of design and writing removes barriers to learning by providing learners with the most relevant content and resources. As educators and learners, we can collaborate to curate meaningful learning content—which encourages building an ongoing community of learners far beyond the classroom.


Cherrstrom, C., & Boden, C. (2020). Expanding role and potential of curation in education: A systematic review of the literature. The Reference Librarian. 61(2), 113–132.  

Deschaine, M. E., & Sharma, S. A. (2015). The five Cs of digital curation: Supporting twenty-first-century teaching and learning. InSight: A journal of scholarly teaching, 10, 19-24.

Elder, A. K. (2019). Open pedagogy. In The OER Starter Kit. Iowa State University Digital Press. 

Ungerer, L. M. (2016). Digital curation as a core competency in current learning and literacy: A higher education perspective. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. (17)5, 1-27.

Wolff, A., & Mulholland, P. (2013, May). Curation, curation, curation. In Proceedings of the 3rd Narrative and Hypertext Workshop (pp. 1-5).

Author: Jessica Bishop, Instructional Designer

Jessica is a designer and writer focused on learnability, storytelling, sensemaking, wayfinding, and removing barriers to learning. A Michigan native, she likes crafting, reading, walking, and spending way too much time in the distant corners of the internet. You can also find her at

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