Posted by:
Donna Kennedy | Matt Devine | Vito Cangelosi |                                                                                                                         Description

What is Knowledge Management

     Knowledge management (KM) is the ability to acquire, share, and use knowledge in a setting (Tippins, 2003). It has evolved over the past two decades into an important discipline in business, government, and recently, education. KM involves decoding informal or tacit knowledge into explicit information. Successful institutions are those which obtain tacit knowledge and transform it into explicit information. This helps in increasing productivity and efficiency within an organization (Steyn, 2004) .

Reasons for Use

     Within learning organizations, people search for data and information to help with problem solving. In these organizations, knowledge is used to address problems, reduce discrepancies in data, and make informed, educated decisions (Hamid, 2008) . In businesses, government, and educational institutions, collected knowledge is distributed to also aid with professional development and growth. These organizations also use KM to provide easier access to information, as a motivational tool, to add value to decisions, and to enhance effectiveness of an organization (Steyn, 2004) .

     Organizations must adapt and use knowledge management in today?s competitive world. As the world continues to evolve into a global economy, companies and countries change and practice knowledge management to keep up with competition (Grossman, 2007) . In their continuing pursuit of advancement, companies strive to improve organizational efficiency. To achieve efficiency, organizations must take the tacit knowledge of the company and change it to explicit knowledge (Steyn, 2004).

Educational Use

     Knowledge management in education is used to improve the institution while making information widely available to faculty and staff (Kidwell, Linde, & Johnson, 2000) . By collecting tacit and explicit knowledge, educational institutions utilize this information to help with making data-driven decisions to improve institutional effectiveness (Santo, 2005) . Gathering tacit knowledge can be difficult as many faculty members have different areas of interest and expertise. A multi-step approach used to acquire this knowledge must be implemented with the approval of faculty and staff to ensure that archaic information is removed and new information recognized (Tippins, 2003) .

      KM implemented in educational institutions is also used in establishing a detailed, global knowledge base. The first method is to develop intellectual capital, individual efficiency, and newly developed ideas within the university. Next, by developing a knowledgeable staff who contributes valuable information, the goals and objectives of the institution can be achieved (Steyn, 2004).


How Knowledge is Identified

      A framework for identifying knowledge in a business school is a sound method in revealing information (Tippins, 2003) . First, by identifying the boundaries of an institution?s knowledge base, a list of faculty-reported areas of knowledge and experiences in the past and present can be developed. Second, by conducting personal interviews with faculty, detailed knowledge on levels of expertise are identified. The usage of an ethnographic framework aids in modifying the general breadth of faculty knowledge.

      Identifying knowledge through the use of self-report surveys is another useful strategy. Knowledge revealed during and after surveys helps to contribute to a master knowledge area. Within this framework, Tippins (2003) recommends moving out of the institution to identify knowledge. By identifying and analyzing information from other schools of business, Tippins believes that universities can observe cutting-edge technologies and programs which identify job characteristics of college graduates. Lastly, obtaining insights into the relevancy of an institution?s knowledge base, old and outdated technologies, and inadequate areas assists a university in determining knowledge assets. The lacking knowledge assets are then the priorities of the institution.

How Knowledge is Transferred/Shared/Disseminated

     In learning organizations, Steyn (2004) discusses the need for organizations to disseminate knowledge quickly and efficiently. Ways to extend knowledge rapidly in an educational institution encompasses education, training, technology, meetings, conferences, projects, tours, and ?feedback loops? which incorporate different teams of people. Other ways of transferring knowledge in academic institutions would be through the use of online professional development, mentoring systems, and collaborative curriculum tools (Woodell, 2001).

      Social interaction is a popular method for knowledge dissemination in an academic institution. In a study of Malaysian secondary teachers and administrators, 83.4% of the sample population preferred discussing teaching and learning verbally. This part of the population enjoyed sharing knowledge informally and in a structured group setting. Using the Internet to share knowledge resulted in 32.5% of the population embracing this medium. Within knowledge sharing in academic institutions, joining a professional organization is recommended in networking and exchanging information. From the results gathered of the Hamid (2008) study, 34.2% of the population reported that they had used a professional organization to disseminate information.

How Knowledge is Stored/Categorized

     Storing information is an important characteristic of developing a KM system within an institution, however, not all information is stored digitally (Hamid, 2008). In the results of the Hamid study, 72.4% of surveyed administrators and teachers noted that they wrote down ideas during discussions and presentations. Of this group, 73.8% said they kept their information in the form of a hardcopy while a smaller percentage stored their information digitally.

     Purchasing KM software is an option for educational organizations which affords them the opportunity of keeping a knowledge repository to save collected data (Santo, 2005). According to Santo, the repository must be a user-friendly space which stores course materials, research findings, best practices, and success tips.

     The knowledge stored in curriculum repositories includes research previously completed, best practices, and lessons. The benefit to having information stored and categorized in these repositories is to improve programs, best practices, and to monitor outcomes. A repository of information organized to facilitate interdisciplinary curriculum design and development is also important for a higher education institution. This repository assists in increasing the speed of curriculum editing and updating. Repositories of instructional and testing techniques, learner assessments, relationships to identify curriculum teams, visiting speakers, and case study sites are also beneficial for academic institutions. These help in improving technology instruction with administrative services, responsiveness through inclusion of colleagues? experiences, student input, and interdisciplinary curriculum creation (Steyn, 2004).

How Knowledge is Managed

     Managing knowledge must be incorporated into organizations in competing in the present. When managing knowledge, institutions need to broaden their perspectives on the role of knowledge. They need to view knowledge as an asset that should be managed explicitly (Steyn, 2004). Strategies to manage knowledge, such as developing focus groups to organize information into fewer categories, provide institutions with a well-developed KM process (Tippins, 2003) .

     Knowledge is often managed by trained knowledge management professionals. Knowledge Management Managers are consultants hired by organizations to help with sharing, managing the accumulation, organization, and elimination of questionable data. These consultants are also responsible for developing the knowledge base and maintaining the knowledge management center. Knowledge Management Specialists help to manage data by designing, developing, marketing, and managing the knowledge resources within an organization. Other positions, such as Knowledge Management Specialists, and Knowledge Specialists assist with developing the scope of projects, managing repositories, and designing methods for the maintenance of knowledge resources (Grossman, 2007).

How Knowledge is Captured and Accessed

     When acquiring information, there are various strategies to employ. One may browse an environment in search of knowledge while others may access a data base repository in search of new information. Others may simply use the telephone and phone a peer (Hamid, 2008).

     Knowledge can be accessed through a knowledge repository. The repository should provide the user with a simple procedure to enter and retrieve information. Information visualization software helps to facilitate the searching of the database to access the necessary data (Santo, 2005).

     In academic institutions, knowledge can be accessed through university libraries. When libraries do not have the required information, it may be found from faculty and staff. Often students visit faculty in their offices to obtain information and course materials. To promote accessing knowledge from faculty that is not available through the institution, vacant rooms are opened where students can easily access materials directly from faculty (Santo, 2005).


     To adapt with the changing times, academic institutions must implement policies which help to build successful learning organizations to manage knowledge effectively. Learning organizations develop their own knowledge, search for new ideas, and identify problems to aid with succeeding in a competitive environment (Steyn, 2004). Through the analysis of learning organizations? policies and practices, Steyn was able to identify common characteristics of these institutions obtained from their policies.

     Attitude learning, which is a belief that there is always new information to absorb and disseminate, is essential in the growth of any institution. Faculty and staff must have buy-in and be willing to share newly acquired knowledge frequently. Developing policies which parallel with communicating a shared vision are equally important in an educational institution. These policies rely on team-building to help with promoting the goals of the learning organization. This empowers employees and makes them responsible for initiating the knowledge sharing process (Steyn, 2004).

     Other institutional wide policies must incorporate the past experiences of the organization. It is vital that academic institutions review their advancements as well as difficult periods of their histories in making sound decisions for the future. By implementing policies to review prior information, companies should allocate resources systematically to uncover potential areas of interest (Steyn, 2004).

     Systems thinking, which is the idea of the whole institution being greater than individual parts, requires faculty and staff to understand what they are learning and sharing. Creating policies which move away from individualized thinking and shift to a holistic approach to knowledge management have the potential to improve institutions. Moving away from the individual by developing personal mastery, systematic problem-solving, and learning from others policies help each faculty member in realizing the importance of learning, as well as sharing knowledge for the advancement of the institution (Steyn, 2004).

     Personal mastery, systematic problem-solving, learning from past experiences, and learning from others are other policy areas which focus on the individual and the organization itself. These help to uncover knowledge by learning and questioning, moving beyond the obvious, using data and facts, and reviewing successes and failures (Steyn, 2004).


     Software is an important technology utilized by higher education institutions in managing knowledge. Chapman, Coukos, and Pisapia (2001) describe a three step process which all software packages should incorporate, capturing knowledge, categorizing knowledge, and delivering knowledge. Based on previous tests, Lotus Knowledge Discovery System, Intraspect, and Hummingbird are the three most complete packages available.

     Information visualization software is used in KM in making the uncovering of information easier. ET-Map, which is an information visualization program, is a layered map which color codes shapes in identifying subject sections. The amount of information which a subject contains relates directly with the size of the shape. Within this program, subjects which are similar in content are placed near one another. Walrus, which is another information visualization program, is used to show the architecture of the Internet (Santo, 2005).

     Course Management Systems (CMS) are software packages used to assist students with managing their educational courses. They are also used in course administration for teachers in online environments and as support in face to face classrooms (Simonson, 2007) . CMSs encompass synchronous and asynchronous tools, such as discussion boards, chat, and email to assist with communication. Organizational tools such as calendars, syllabuses, assignments, and drop boxes help instructors with managing information and content within their online learning environments (Gibbons, 2005) .

     Aside from software, podcasts are now being implemented as KM tools in higher education. Through podcasts, information is automatically disseminated to subscribed users. Through RSS feeds, registered users are able to obtain class lectures, conference materials, and research papers after the originator?s site is updated (Ractham & Zhang, 2006) .