Content Production and Finding Time

As we are moving towards the end of our fiscal year — at PSU we roll over on July 1 — I am thinking more and more about what we’ll be focusing our energy on in the coming year or so. Being part of a new organization for the first time in a long time makes you step back and think a heck of a lot more. My biggest problem is finding time to act on those thoughts. Most of my days are spent in meetings, putting out fires, and all the other stuff that is part of being a higher education administrator. One of the things I have been thinking a lot about lately without much action is creating both a place to hold content and a strategy for producing quality content.

There are about 35 people or so in my group … a big mix of instructional designers, media developers, programmers, tech support, and marketing people. At the end of the day, what we are talking about is a very smart and diverse group of individuals all thinking about teaching and learning with technology. I am struck with the fact that they are in the same boat I am in when it comes to acting on their thoughts — they are all swamped with stuff that keeps them from doing the next big thing. I am working very hard at coming up with a plan that gives them time in their days to explore new thoughts and act on them. I am very interested in us producing evidence of our own research … I want us to be able to share more. So, how do we share more:

  • Presentations
  • One on one meetings with faculty
  • Seminars
  • Articles
  • Papers
  • Other stuff?

We can produce content but we don’t have a place to put it … for an organization that does a great deal of its work on the web, we don’t really have integrated web presence. That concerns me. I have been talking about a new model for our unit’s web space — I am calling it “exposing the intelligence of the organization.” What that means is in addition to the standard stuff that makes up web spaces — products, services, about, etc … — I want to add blogs for all staff members that help build the other stuff. Confusing. Here’s an example … my blog would not only list my posts, but also all the projects I work on. As I would post to my blog, the categories would tie my post to the project page. So if I am on the Breeze project and I make a post about Breeze at my blog, the Breeze project page would get updated with some of my content. It seems like a way to pull the smart people out into the public’s view. To me providing exposure to the group is as important as just talking about our products and services.

To this end, I’d like to ask people to be part of a content creation cycle … every month I would like to see each staff member being responsible for creating a piece of content — a lesson plan, a how-to, a review, a podcast, a movie, or whatever. I just would love to see us creating content from our knowledge … imaging 35 people producing content every month! Imagine how rich the content space could be — especially if it were all tagged and easily searchable. Would be interesting.

So this week I hope to begin writing the specifications for the new web space to support all this. I’ll also be talking with my leadership team about how we go about implementing the content creation process … we’ll also be talking about how we can carve out time so the smart people around us can have some time in their days to be innovative and creative in the context of their jobs. The real challenge is acting on the thoughts.

3 Replies to “Content Production and Finding Time”

  1. >>they are all swamped with stuff that keeps them from doing the next big thing

    While that statement has come to be accepted as a general truth for knowledge workers in the information age, it’s worth unpacking. What is really eating up people’s time? Adminstrative meetings, inefficient systems/processes, etc? Or perhaps a lack of focus, weak personal time management skills, etc? Maybe both of the above (organizational *and* personal)?

    So what’s the point? To carve out the time for innovation, I think the organization will need a sense of where it is spending its time currently. Time tracking seems to be universally abohrred by staff, so there may be some other options in the spirit of crawling-before-you-can-walk-and-walking -before-you-can-run.

    How about a quick online survey asking staff to assign the approximate percentage of time they have spent in several categories since the first of the year? For example:
    * Project work
    * Administrative meetings
    * General communications
    * Professional development
    * Time off
    * Misc

    Another idea might be a quick skills assessment. How about an online rubric asking staff to assess their own skills in a few key areas that impact efficiency? For example, a Likert scale of proficiency with:
    * Time management
    * Keyboarding (WPM)
    * OS (Windows or Mac)
    * Microsoft Office
    * Job-specific software
    * ANGEL

    Again, both instruments would be relatively blunt objects, but at least they would get a dialog started about the interplay between personal and organizational ownership for effecting change.

  2. These are good thoughts and it gets down to the “how do we get there …” stuff. This post was a cry for more ideas about how do we get to being a real group that produces knowledge in our specific areas. How do we motivate people to figure out how to carve out time? Asking them what they are doing is step one, but unless those answers are analyzed, presented, and acted upon it is just another activity. I will take your advice, however and see where it leads.

    Should groups on campuses be charged with the production of content outside of the context of specific projects? Does that make sense?

  3. I agree, getting the data is only the first step. It would need to be analyzed, summarized, and presented. Sounds like a good project to delegate…

    >>Should groups on campuses be charged with the production of
    >>content outside of the context of specific projects?

    Yes!

    Without going overboard on what is meant by project, I think we could agree that it has a defined start date, end date, and deliverable. With that in mind, there are a lot of worthwhile activities that don’t fit that mold — basically anything of an ongoing nature.

    What you may want to reconsider is “charging” groups with engaging in those activities. Might there be other ways to present it that would have the extra benefit of increasing motivation? How about keeping some kind of “leader board” for non-project work that raises the organization’s profile? Or linking tangible or non-tangible rewards for going above and beyond project work? Staff recognition? Use of your parking space for a week? A pair of movie tickets? As the saying goes, you get what you reward.

    What behaviors are being (tacitly or actively) rewarded in the organization right now?

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