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Thursday 17 March 2011, 17:35
This podcast is my current favourite item on the new BBC Academy College of Production site. To me, it's a good summary of what we are trying to achieve: useful, simple, short, authoritative advice and experience from experts. All the basic objectives are easy to state yet hard to pull off. Getting to this start point has been a lesson in itself. (We are very fortunate to have been shown the way by the pioneering College of Journalism, thank you Kevin).
Launching a new project publicly is always a tense but exciting moment. Launching the College of Production site was more exciting than most. We discussed, debated and demonstrated the content as far and wide as we could, to positive response but the broadcasting industry is notoriously diverse and distributed. Could we be sure that those signals were representative? As a relative newcomer, I have also discovered that the industry both within and outside the BBC, whilst mature, professional and focused, is quite informal. In many ways, ideal for an open, online service as we seek ways to reach staff and partners most efficiently and effectively but quite hard to get your arms around. Whilst it's early days, we have been very pleased with the response so far.
In planning the site we debated, at some length, the merits of our favourite sites and searched for inspirational projects from which we could plunder (one of the joys of working on the web is the compliment paid by others using your efforts as source material). This was really formative work, helping us explore the tone, depth and focus of our own effort. I hope you can see flashes in the CoP site of Bitesize (clear and simple learning and one of the gems of the BBC Online portfolio), TED (inspiration from experts), Media Talk (expert and authoritative commentary) from the Guardian and Talks@Google (sharing resources and insights). Each of these have different jobs to do for their users and different corporate objectives to fulfill. One factor does unite them, however: a clear focus on content - quality, relevance and ease of access.
To the dismay of adventurous engineers, we decided that the site should not have a whiff of a technology project about it. To be useful to our users, content must be central. Widgets, gadgets and gizmos are for another time. Everything on the web that is good is simple, both to understand and to use. This is the most important lesson I took form working with the Bitesize team: each piece of content needs to do one job for an individual user and that job alone. All this is to say that the College of Production is actually a pretty straightforward affair: well made (I believe) small pieces of content focused on simple points.
In many ways this quite counter-cultural to much of the "eLearning" industry which can go to great lengths to lead users through a 'learning journey' (I confess that I dislike that phrase) and closely manage the user experience. This raises the risk over over-thinking and complication. Our experience has pretty clearly indicated that those working in production are not keen on being led in that way. Showing them what's there and letting them chose is a more comfortable arrangement.
So, I'm quite pleased with where we have got to and entirely conscious that it's just the start. Top priorities now are new content and traffic growth. To achieve these we are very interested to hear feedback from you. What works? What doesn't? What's missing? What next?
And while I have you. Check out another podcast. It's that simple.
Myles Runham is Head of Online for BBC People