As adult educators, course content is always on our minds (well on my mind at least) - do we have enough content to support learning, is there enough course content to fill the classes, will learners get the content they need to be successful...it goes on and on.
My very wise friend Carolyn (Randommind), who is an instructional designer by day, and I have had the greatest conversations about the issue of content. Thanks to these conversations I have seen the light - LET GO OF THE CONTENT!
Let your learners discover and share course content - don't give it all to them. Yes, you can provide those bits and pieces that are the gems or classics, but for the most part let learners discover and create the course content - they will be more engaged in the learning process, and much more collaborative. I know that this is true because I have seen it in action and it was one of those amazing AHA!! moments where all became clear.
Now, it's not as simple as it sounds. In order for you to give up control of the content, you have to have well-defined, measurable learning outcomes that have been well-crafted in advance and are clearly understood by everyone - learners, faculty, and administration. You also have to support learning with authentic, clear, meaningful deliverables complete with rubrics so that learners and others know what needs to be learned. From this starting point they will discover the content. You may also find that as a facilitator you will spend some time providing (and reminding) learners with context for the content they discover and want to use.
It is a great thing to see learners develop the skills and experience to become discriminating discoverers and consumers of content, two "literacy" skills that will essential for all 21st century knowledge workers. It is a very cool process when it works, but it is very much front-end loaded (as most educational innovation seems to be).
Letting go of content takes a certain leap of faith on the behalf of everyone - faculty has to be confident that learners will engage in the discovery of content (I do that through the use of blogs, wikis, and RSS aggregators for the most part and to a much lesser extent textbooks), and learners have to be confident that they will be "guided" by their faculty to where they might start looking for content and for the validation of the content they find (although I have found that you can fade a bit once learners become comfortable with this process).
So go on - liberate your self and your learners - step away from the content...
(Photo - "Heroes Content Map" by Dan Taylor)