Digital asset management education is hard to find. It’s not that there aren’t scores of websites and companies that promise DAM knowledge, it’s just that most of them don’t deliver on that promise.
This leaves tomorrow’s DAM professionals to learn from a handful of DAM books, the occasional worthwhile blog post and, of course, one another, through DAM Guru Program. Missing from the DAM education scene have been affordable, DAM knowledge programs that provide structured training.
“Today’s DAM experts weren’t taught Digital Asset Management; they invented it,” said DAM Guru Program creator and DAM Survival Guide author, David Diamond. “There was no DAM education for us and, until recently, there was no worthwhile DAM education for anyone else either.”
Recognizing the need for a program that could educate and promote DAM as a career option, the DAM Foundation announced in early 2014 a pending partnership with the University of British Columbia (UBC). Together, the organizations were to develop a curriculum that covered all the bases and would be delivered by a reputable institution whose name would add value to a resume.
But that’s not what happened.
“They were trying to dictate DAM education content to us and they don’t know DAM,” explained DAM Foundation curriculum developer Elizabeth Keathley. “Plus, they wanted to charge nearly $3,600 for the certificate, and none of that money would have made its way back to help DAM Foundation.”
“In fact,” clarified DAM Foundation president, Mark Davey, “a portion of the registration money would have been paid to DAM Foundation. In truth, it would have been much more per signup than what we make today; but the program we offer today is affordable to anyone who can benefit from the training, and this was always our goal.”
It was a setback for the DAM Foundation, which knew from surveys that the #1 thing people wanted from it were online courses. It was not, apparently, a setback for UBC, which continues to offer its DAM course, independent from the Foundation.
But from the ashes of the DAM Foundation/UBC partnership came a solution that might ultimately serve even more people.
“We decided to go it alone,” Keathley explained. “We’re offering the same content we had in mind for the UBC courses, but at one-tenth the cost to students.”
The Foundation launched Introduction to Digital Asset Management, in August of 2014. It’s an online-only certification course that’s intended to make DAM education accessible to professionals with day jobs and limited budgets.
“Any company can afford $360 for an employee to get DAM training,” Keathley said. “And if the company won’t pay, we think this price is still affordable to students who pay for themselves.”
As it turns out, a number of early program enrollees are paying for their own training. In some cases, it was easier than wrangling funds from an employer; but in other cases, the student’s interest in DAM came from the desire for a career change—a goal not likely to be employer endorsed.
Julie Watson holds a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Sciences. She is a self-described “traditional librarian.” At least she was so before starting her DAM Foundation training.
“I saw the writing on the wall—digital is the future for library professionals,” she admitted. “We [librarians] like to talk about the fabulous library, but we have to be realistic about how we can use our skills in the business world. DAM is a perfect example of how a librarian’s career can grow—they need us.”
Watson found the DAM Foundation course page via Google and decided it would be a good fit for her background and schedule.
“I love the way the courses are set up,” she said. “I’m a self-directed learner and the courses are self-paced, which enables me to put it all on hold when I need to. If I had to be in a class once or twice a week, I wouldn’t be able to do it; I just don’t have the time.”
Watson credits her DAM Foundation training for better preparing her for the interview that lead to her current position as Content Steward for Aquent Studios, through which she contracts for Merck.
“Even the little bit I got from my first DAM Foundation lesson helped me go into the interview for my current job with more confidence. I felt like I spoke their language,” she said.
Midcareer Change of Course
Elizabeth Keathley says Julie Watson’s career transition is not uncommon.
“We’re seeing librarians moving out of libraries and into DAM jobs,” she said. “And we’re seeing young people with IT or marketing degrees who want to add DAM to their skillsets.”
Keathley said the Foundation’s guiding principle for its courses is that those who are getting into DAM midcareer shouldn’t have to go back to school or spend an undue sum for training.
“Our program enables people to start and stop when they need, without being controlled by a university schedule,” she explained. “When you create an educational program that’s easy to get into, you create diversity in the profession.”
Unstructured Training to a Point
Students can start and stop their training at will, but all lessons must be completed within six months of the completion of the first lesson. This enables the Foundation to cap the duration of its training obligations, but it also encourages students to complete their studies.
The entire course comprises five lessons:
- DAM as a Strategy
- DAM as a System
- The Basics of Managing Assets
- DAM as a Knowledge Platform
- DAM as a Measurement Tool
Keathley serves as instructor and mentor to the students. The coursework is largely based on her book, “Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order Out of Media Chaos.” Other course content providers and editors include Mark Davey, Deb Fanslow, Henrik de Gyor, Emily Kolvitz and Jeff Lawrence, each known for significant contributions to the DAM community’s #LearnDAM education efforts.
“This is an all-star team of DAM educators,” David Diamond said. “Not only are they knowledgeable beyond argument, they are among the few DAM educators in the world today whose works are never polluted by software sales agendas.”
More specific to the benefits of the content itself, Keathley describes it as, “all the stuff you need to walk into a new DAM job on Day 1.”
DAM Pros Might Need More
Keathley’s summary description of the program might explain why experienced DAM professional, Dave Bogie, who has for many years managed the Idaho Power Company digital asset management system, was hoping for a little more.
“The material I’m getting in Lesson 3 is one opinion about how that should all go together, but it’s in direct conflict with other things I’ve read,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to go about this and it would be good to have that discussion. If we were in a live classroom, I’d be raising my hand to suggest alternatives, argue and ask for clarification.”
Still, he admits that the course is offering him value.
“My practical [DAM] expertise was gathered while trying to make Cumulus work. Everything else I know is theoretical, based on what I’ve read on the Internet. This training at least gives me some feedback. But for me, a 201 course would be better, less theoretical.”
Bogie’s criticism comes with the qualification that he is a seasoned DAM professional. He recognizes that those new to the field will benefit most from the course as it is. His concerns also underscore a need for advanced, more focused digital asset management training, which is not available today.
“If DAM Foundation offered advanced training, I would absolutely find funding for that,” he said.
Help with Software Transitions Too
Carla Derck is Corporate Communications Coordinator-Digital Assets for Victaulic. Her firm has been using Extensis Portfolio for years but has spent the past year researching replacements.
“Portfolio isn’t doing what we need it to do anymore,” she said. “I started my search for a replacement DAM by reading DAM Survival Guide, which taught me that I needed to focus on our needs before I could think about software. That led me to DAM Guru Program and this DAM Foundation course.”
Unique about Derck’s approach to the training was the goal of better defining her company’s digital asset management needs so that she could make a better DAM software purchase decision. Seeing the program as an extension of her own research, she wanted information fast, without having to adjust her professional schedule.
“I like that I can do the lessons at my own pace,” she explained. “I don’t feel pressured to complete a lesson at a given time, which I appreciate. I’m working more than full-time at my current job, so I don’t have the time for a scheduled courses. This is stress-free education for me.”
Derck’s employer did pay for her certificate, but she says should would have gladly paid for it herself.
She also admits that she purchased her new DAM software before completing her training, largely because the vendor offered a discount to sign before the end of the year. But, she said, the course confirmed enough about what she’d learned on her own, so she felt confident in her decision.
Funding More Advanced Studies
Unlike DAM Guru Program, which is funded by DAM software maker Picturepark, the DAM Foundation has no external funding. So, in addition to providing value to students, this intro course must provide revenue to DAM Foundation.
“We will fund DAM 201 and beyond with the proceeds we collect from this intro course,” Keathley said.
Considering that the DAM Foundation might be the DAM professional’s most likely source for affordable advanced DAM study programs in the future, enrollment in today’s course might a worthy investment, even if what’s learned is, as Dave Boogie describes it, theoretical in nature.
DAM-using organizations can afford to send multiple employees through the training, and DAM vendors can certainly afford to gift the program to customers and contest winners, perhaps additionally requiring that their own employees be DAM-certified before they claim to be able to help others.
What DAM Foundation offers in this course is an affordable entry point to learn digital asset management through the teachings of a handful of experienced DAM professionals. There will certainly be critiques of the curriculum from those whose DAM experiences differ, but the course should provide students with a good DAM foundation (no pun intended) from which they can embark on a DAM-related career with confidence.
More information about the course is available at the DAM Foundation website.