“The things you own, end up owning you...”

That Tyler Durden quote rang true for a lot of us watching/reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. And it’s something I often re-experience when dealing with SMEs and content sponsors/owners.

In my role, I have found that these folks, that is, those who make requests for training and who normally control/validate the content for these initiatives, can struggle to accept and use third-party content. This content may be from vended course libraries or from content creation tools that used course templates. As AI-created content becomes more available, I foresee similar problems with this acceptance and use. This article will discuss common objections to the use of third-party content and strategies to address these concerns.

Seeing new options

Our content folks are experts because of their passion and investment into their areas. This focus can present a blind spot to third-party content, as they may view it as a competitor or a replacement of their knowledge. Highlighting how third-party content can enhance rather than replace their expertise can be an effective strategy to address this problem.

Options for using third-party content as an enhancement rather than a replacement include reserving its use for:

  • Building schema and or providing tell/show content. Using third-party content to build basic knowledge can free up resources to allow for deeper practice/assessment, as well as feedback opportunities for some topics.
  • Addressing underserved audiences. Some groups in your training may need extra scaffolding or may be interested in deeper learning in a topic than what your training is designed to address. Using third-party content to support these needs can be useful.
  • Addressing the forgetting curve. Repetition is critical for learning. Using third-party content to provide a sequenced spacing of content can help your audience retain your training.

A different type of ownership

Giving your content experts opportunities to provide input and feedback on third-party content can provide a way for them to reclaim ownership of content. These measures can get the buy-in you need and may include:

  • Providing metadata for curation/prompts. Working with your content experts to identify tags, keywords, objectives, and other content metadata can be useful in filtering and curating content for them to view/validate. This has great potential with AI-generated content, since prompt engineering can greatly influence the quality of content that AI produces.
  • Ranking/prioritizing content. Providing your content experts a list of course objectives to choose from can open their eyes to other ways to present and cover content. A large list of options to choose from may also allow them to find style/tone/verbiage preferences that align more with their liking. AI-created content can be useful here as it provides early draft access to what a final course may be. You can quickly create several approaches with the AI prompts that you can use. Allowing experts the ability to view, refine, and finalize AI output can provide additional ownership.
  • Repackaging content. Some third-party content may not meet your needs and require revisions. Accessing source materials for some third-party content may be difficult or expensive. Reframing content by packaging it with your custom-created content may meet those needs and allow your content experts the input they need/desire.
  • Revising the source. Some third-party content provides direct access to the source files used for the courses, which allows for extensive customization of the content. In these instances, setting up review sites and gathering input from your experts will provide great opportunities for your content experts to provide input and customize the courses as needed.

Table 1 offers a summary of third-party opportunities.

 DescriptionPros/ConsOpportunities for Ownership

Content Aggregators / Libraries



Packaged libraries of course content that can be used for your training.

Example: OpenSesame

These libraries usually have an extensive listing of course objects to choose from. These libraries will often include several options for a topic, as well as different lengths, styles, and delivery formats for a topic.

At small scale, this type of third-party content can be expensive.

Content customization may be limited or costly.

  • Identify content metadata
  • Rank/prioritize course objects
  • Repackage content if customization isn’t an option

Course Templates



Course templates that are packaged with course development tools. These templates may be basic outlines and placeholders or may contain fully develop content.

Example: Articulate Rise


Templated content can be easily updated and customized.

Some content may contain marketing materials and may not be fully customizable.

Usually a limited library of course options/topics.

  • Identify content metadata
  • Rank/prioritize course objects
  • Customize course content as needed
AI Large Learning Models

Software designed to generate content based off prompts. This content can include scripts, topic outlines, images, video, or whatever else you need.

Example Bing Chat Enterprise

Example Vyond Go


Allows for the creation of content quickly – you can generate several options/styles in minutes.

There is a moderate learning curve for prompt engineering.

Generated content should be considered a crappy first draft – it can require refinement, revisions, and extensive development to finalize content.

  • Identify content metadata for prompt engineering
  • Review and refine generated content
  • Customize course content as needed

Table 1: Ways to use third-party content


This post starts with an unfinished quote. Reading it in full may be appropriate now:

“The things you own, end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”

Helping our content experts to be comfortable with letting go of their ownership will allow them to see the opportunities third-party content represents. Educating these experts on how third-party content can be used to support and expand their existing content is key to getting their buy-in and acceptance.

Of equal importance is getting them involved early on and placing a central focus on them in the selection, review, and development process. Providing them opportunities for this type of ownership will increase their buy-in.

Doing these things may allow them to:

  • Embrace microlearning to address the forgetting curve
  • Create personalize learning for neglected groups
  • Shorten the resourcing requirements for stand-up training

It may allow them to do anything!

Keep fighting the good fight with your alphas.