Content workshopping: How it’s done and why it works

Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash
Scriptwriter Jane Buffham recounts her recent first attendance at a Brightwave content workshop, and explains why these intensive client collaboration sessions are so important and helpful to the way we put innovative learning to work.

According to the adage beloved of my old school teacher, there is no ‘I’ in teamwork.

Admittedly, this hackneyed old saying, usually deployed to supress some audacious new interpretation of the uniform rules, is almost insultingly simplistic.

We all know that in a real-life working environment, teamwork is essential to a successful project, and that the most fruitful and rewarding teamwork is predicated on ‘I’ndividual participants’ contributions working in concert to achieve the greatest possible outcome.

But yet, as I reflect on my first ever content workshop, this hokey old cliché keeps coming to mind as if being shouted through a tannoy at peak Brian Blessed volume.

The content workshop, where the substance of the course material meets the framework of the learning design, is the critical bedrock for a project, forming the blueprint for all participants in the project group to contribute the very best of their skills.

Recently, we joined forces with sister company BlueSky in a partnership to create the e-Learning portion of a blended learning project. Here on one hand the behaviour change experience of BlueSky meets the seasoned digital learning expertise of Brightwave on the other. Our shared mission: to deliver a complex learning solution, ambitious in scope, for a major client energy and services company.

As a rookie scriptwriter at Brightwave, arriving new in the world of e-Learning, what did I expect from the think tank session?

Would it be a tense no-man’s land in a war of wills, accompanied with the drums of table-thumping? Or – worse! – a succession of polite compromises, diluting the strengths of one team to meet the wishes of the other?

In fact, it was an utterly brilliant experience. Such was the goodwill, generosity of spirit and abiding sense of purpose palpable in the room, it occurs to me now that is might be a textbook exemplar of teamwork – working not with ‘I’s, but rather plenty of ‘what ifs’.

Brightwave’s Senior Learning Designer Sophie Costin led the session, using her inimitable insight, humour and alacrity to draw out and structure the content knowledge of BlueSky’s principal consultant Vincent Pokropek. Also attending was my fellow Scriptwriter Pirjo Leek, adding her voice of experience and wisdom to the to-and-fro of the group discussions to help create the best possible version of the project.

There may be no ‘I’ in teamwork, but as the small forest of clipboard paper used in the session demonstrates, there are at least half a tonne of ideas.

And thus began a Herculean task for Sophie, who took the rafts of notes away in a wheelbarrow so she could weave the information into a workable learning framework. In a miraculously short time, and ably aided by her cat Howard (see picture), Sophie fleshed out a coherent and detailed content map from which the project can now successfully grow.

Howard Costin, Sophie’s furry friend,
showcasing his curious flair for comic timing

Topic by topic, screen by screen, the content map is the blueprint shared with the wider team. Project managers, graphic designers, developers, quality controllers and writers set to work to make the bespoke e-Learning solution resplendent. As well as creating a focus for creative synergy, it also gives an effective means of defining and approving the concept with the clients, and a practical guideline to ensure we deliver above and beyond expectations.

From the vantage point of a Jonny Newcomer, it strikes me that the better the content map, the more empowered, engaged and involved every participant in the project feels, and the best that they bring to the project.

At least, that seems to be the case with this exciting Brightwave—BlueSky venture. Seeing the project unfurl across the team with enthusiasm and joy is fantastic. I’m looking forward to the next content workshop, and for the chance to contribute to the whirl of practical creativity.

There may be no ‘I’ in this teamwork, but ‘I’ am really glad to be part of it.

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