I recently attended the Digital Asset Management (DAM) Conference held in Chicago. Besides being a day filled with references to DAM technology, DAM plans, and DAM systems, with the obvious puns intended, the day proved to be an interesting insight into what organizations are doing to manage their digital assets. While most of the presenters and attendees were from the corporate sector, there were, I believe, a number of lessons that can be applied to higher education.
The keynote speaker talked about immersive consumer experiences. The concept of these experiences is the idea of creating a multimedia experience that is better than the original. For example, the Van Gogh Alive exhibit immerses the user in Van Gogh’s work and in many ways provides a better experience than viewing these same works of art in a museum (where you may be viewing them through a crowd of people or behind glass or other barriers). This got me thinking about how we can make our online courses more immersive. What can we do to make them better than the classroom experience (the original)? And does this immersion always mean adding multimedia? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but it got me wondering.
The idea of making DAM systems more fun and game like was also a point of discussion. As in course design, this idea seems to be all the rage. The context for the discussion at this conference focused primarily on system design. In particular the speakers talked about the importance of making DAM systems fun and intuitive in order to garner buy in from the end user. In my mind, these same concepts can be applied in systems used in higher education for teaching and learning. If we are asking instructors and students to spend time in our learning management system, shouldn’t that experience be at the very least intuitive? I am not convinced that everything needs to be a game or that we need to simplify things to a point that it doesn’t seem serious, but intuitive and easy seem to be a good compromise.
Another lesson we can take from this field is the idea of system integrations. Many barriers exist when systems are in silos. The consensus, however, seemed to be a movement away from creating a one size fits all solution, but instead finding ways to share information between systems to create a seamless user experience. Meaningful system integration (not just linking between systems) is something that I feel is often lacking in our strategic thinking in higher education. The plan is usually one of two things: 1) buy one system and stuff everything into it regardless of whether or not it is the right fit, or 2) everyone does their own things and none of the systems work together, creating a frustrating experience for users and a less efficient system for administrators.
Perhaps one of the most relevant presentations was by the folks at Encyclopedia Britannica. When most people think about digital assets they think about images and videos. At Encyclopedia Britannica they also consider all their printed content to be digital assets. To make it easier to reuse and repurpose this content, Britannica breaks everything into small discrete chunks which can then be repurposed in a variety of ways.
We talk a lot about chunking when developing online content, but typically this is in reference to making the content more "digestible" by the student in order to reduce cognitive overload. The idea that this same concept could be used to make it easier to reuse and redeploy content over multiple classes is an intriguing one. Most instructors, for example, teach multiple classes in the same field. While they aren’t the same class, often a small piece of content used in one can also be used in another. The idea that you could have a database of all of these "chunks" of content that could be easily pulled into multiple courses is an interesting one.
Finally, the traditional use of a DAM system has obvious utility in higher education and in particular in the management of assets created during course development. There are many digital assets (videos, images, lectures, animations, etc.) that are created when developing a course—particularly when creating online or hybrid classes. Being able to quickly find and reuse these assets is imperative if we hope to realize a return on the investment (ROI) for creating them. If these items are able to be shared, creating a search schema that allows for quick and efficient retrieval is paramount. For those items that have copyright or intellectual property restriction, being able to track this information and make sure that all parties are aware of the restrictions is imperative to being ethical consumers of these assets. Making resources easier to find, share, and reuse will ultimately make it easier to sell the creation of these assets in the first place.