Simply put, content reuse is the practice of incorporating the same (or similar) pieces of content in several ways and in different types of documents, websites, training guides, and more (for example, output types). The types and purposes of reused content can vary, depending on the use case. The big idea (and benefit) is that content creators can write and organize content once and subsequently leverage this content in multiple locations or outputs.
Content reuse can occur in segments as short as a phrase or sentence (such as a new buzzword like micro content), or as long as a topic or chapter. The beauty of content reuse is that there are really no rules; you can choose to single-source any type of content to suit your organization’s needs, including images and videos
As a content creator, you probably already have some sort of content inventory of your various pieces of content types. If that is the case, good news: You are already on your way to simplifying content production.
Now, where do you go from here? Perhaps some of your organization’s courses share the same introductory material? Maybe certain concepts appear in multiple places throughout a course or across courses? Likely, materials may share the same copyright or privacy statement. How are you managing those bits of content today? If they are siloed in their own linear repositories, there is a better way. You can significantly reduce the time spent managing multiple sets of files when you are able to lessen the number of files overall.
Create Content Once, Reuse Everywhere
A software solution such as MadCap Flare makes managing and reusing content easy. Flare allows you to create content in a single place and reuse it wherever you like. Let’s use your organization’s copyright statement as an example. In Flare, you can create this piece of content in a snippet file—Flare’s file type for small bits of formattable reusable content—and insert that snippet everywhere the copyright statement should appear. The next time the statement changes, you simply update the single snippet file which will then automatically update the copyright statement anywhere it appears within your content. For larger blocks of content like an introductory chapter, you can easily link that single set of content files to multiple tables of contents. Each table of contents can be used to produce multiple types of output.
If you currently organize your content by course or audience and are hesitant to implement a shared repository, don’t be. While audience and course type are important elements to consider, they no longer need to drive the way in which you organize content.
Topic-Based Authoring Versus Traditional Authoring
Content reuse will require a shift in how you think about your content. A topic-based approach versus linear or traditional content authoring is a great way to think about how you can organize your content into chunks or blocks (think Legos) of content.
An easy way to begin to think about topic-based content creation is to consider the elements of a course curriculum. Learning objectives, chapter introductions and summaries, and knowledge checks are just a few examples of content types that may exist in your course materials. Each of these elements can serve as a single topic.
How Topic-Based Authoring Can Apply to L&D
In the learning and development space, how can we apply the topic-based authoring approach to instruction guides, for instance?
One of Flare’s most important tools for ensuring that you optimize content without sacrificing efficiency is the condition tag. You can manage student and instructor-specific content in the same topic using the Flare condition tag to hide the instructor-specific content from the output you produce for students. You can also use condition tags to reuse topics across courses. In the case of a topic that is almost identical in more than one course, you can apply the condition tag to the bits of content that are course-specific and choose to show or hide that content based on the course content you are producing. Flare’s Link Viewer tool can help you quickly determine where a topic is reused across a project. With a single click, you can see that a topic appears in the TOCs for Course A and Course B.
As content practitioners in the learning & development profession, top-notch content delivery will always be important. Leveraging content reuse will give your team more time to focus on producing the valuable content that keeps your students engaged and looking for more.
About the Author
Jessica Johnston is a CMS admin at Cellebrite, a digital intelligence and forensics company. She has an extensive background in technical writing and editing and has designed and implemented Flare projects in the areas of legal technology, public safety, and financial services. She is passionate about building innovative solutions to complex problems in the learning and development space. When she’s not creating and managing content, Johnston enjoys relaxing at the beach with a good book.