What’s the one resource you associate with universities and other learning institutions? Knowledge.
These academic institutions are a treasure trove of knowledge, insights, and intelligence that are passed on to students of all ages. But, going beyond academia, universities can be overwhelmed with other sorts of knowledge that could be utilized for more effective learning and growth.
For example, In a university, the administrative department recognizes the need to improve the onboarding process for new faculty members. They aim to streamline the process, ensure consistency, and provide easy access to essential information for the incoming professors.
Many different roles within an educational institution can benefit from Knowledge Management, including academic staff, administrative staff, faculty and researchers, alumni, students, distant learners, and research funding agencies. Enhancing collective knowledge can only help universities and other educational institutions better use their resources, enabling them to spend more of their energies teaching students and doing it well.
These enormous productivity gains make knowledge management even more pressing in an increasingly competitive environment.
What is Knowledge Management in Education?
In any institution, not just Education, knowledge management is:
“…the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.” – Tom Davenport (1994)
This means, that within education, instead of treating knowledge as an ephemeral and mysterious process, individuals actively seek to document their knowledge for reuse and sharing with others. This means finding out what knowledge the institution holds, finding a way to write it down or record it, and enabling others to benefit from this knowledge.
The university establishes a digital platform where students can access a centralized repository of study materials, including lecture notes, slides, practice questions, and recommended readings. This ensures that all relevant resources are easily accessible in one place. While educational professionals may struggle to justify spending their limited time on managing knowledge, doing so is essential if they want to improve student outcomes and remain competitive in the sector. The relative age of some universities can also present challenges, as well-established and prestigious universities are often very competitive with old ways of doing things.
“Knowledge management brings together three core organizational resources – people, processes and technologies – to enable the organization to use and share information more effectively.” – Knowledge Management in Education: Defining the Landscape.
While Knowledge Management has become well-established in the business world, it has only recently gained interest in educational institutions and university research centers.
Factors Driving the Trend of KM Adoption in Education
Emphasis on Tacit Knowledge Transfer for Students and Mentors
Universities often emphasize tacit knowledge transfer in various contexts to enhance learning and skill development. Students gain tacit knowledge by directly engaging with equipment, conducting experiments, and problem-solving in real-world scenarios.
Also, many universities offer internships, practicums, or co-op programs that allow students to work in professional settings related to their fields. This practical experience helps students develop tacit knowledge by applying classroom concepts to real-world challenges.
The valuable skills, abilities, and experiences of professors and researchers should be shared to benefit the institution and field of study as a whole.
Promotion of Faster Innovation in Research
Knowledge management systems in universities can assist research funding agencies in assessing the impact and outcomes of research projects conducted within academic institutions. The institution establishes a comprehensive repository that houses research papers, articles, conference proceedings, and other scholarly works.
Researchers can access existing research to build upon, fostering innovation and preventing redundant efforts. A dedicated section of the knowledge management system serves as an innovation incubator. Researchers can pitch ideas, share preliminary findings, and collaborate on emerging research topics, encouraging a culture of exploration and experimentation.
Keeping standards high and maintaining prestige are two important goals for any established university.
Integration of Software Tools
Knowledge management can be divided into the twin arms of technological systems and information systems. Technological systems such as software solutions must be integrated if they are to facilitate the free flow of information among the faculty, and KM experts within the organization are seeking compatible systems.
Ultimately, it must be the experience of using the software tools that drives the adoption of knowledge management technologies. Even the best system in the world is useless if staff are failing to use it, and robust integrations are helpful in ensuring that your systems deliver value to their institutions.
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Empowering Universities and Institutions with KM
Now we’re going to take a look at some of the many benefits of knowledge management that help to empower universities and other higher education institutions.
What is the first thing that becomes easier when you invest in sharing knowledge?
Knowledge management systems in universities provide a centralized platform where teaching materials, lecture notes, assignments, and additional resources can be stored and accessed by both faculty and students. Collaborative tools within the knowledge management system enable instant communication between faculty and students. This facilitates asking questions, seeking clarifications, and providing feedback.
Not less, It also enables students to share their expertise with peers, offering tutoring or mentoring in areas where they excel. Students can collaborate on group projects and engage in discussions using tools like discussion boards, chat, and knowledge bases, promoting teamwork and peer learning.
Effective Staff Training
Training is important, particularly when new teaching faculty join academia. Here, having a Knowledge management system in place ensures that training materials are standardized and consistently delivered to all staff members, ensuring a uniform understanding of processes and practices across departments.
If you onboard a new staff member and they have no idea how the organization works, they won’t be able to get up to speed as quickly. It’s not necessary for them to ask their colleagues for as much time out in order to get help, and tacit knowledge can be passed on through appropriate documentation.
Efficient Course Development
When developing courses for universities and other higher education institutions, it’s important to have access to a back catalog of course content to discover what has already been covered. Academics can pool their resources to draw in new students who are seeking exciting new topics of study, as well as covering the basics.
If you don’t record the content of past courses then it won’t be captured for posterity. Course development will lack direction and academics may also be developing new courses that overlap too much with one another, restricting the amount of ground you can cover during the academic year. Reviewing past courses can also potentially unearth potential new areas of research.
Research relies on recording data and studies and sharing that knowledge with others. Without access to studies completed in one easy portal, your new study will lack comprehensiveness. Universities are storehouses of knowledge enhancing many fields of human endeavor, which requires collaboration through research.
Imagine if researchers knew exactly what each other was up to through knowledge-sharing. Research could progress much more quickly, and cross-disciplinary studies could become more of a possibility. Research goes hand-in-hand with knowledge management, although it might not seem like it at first glance.
Efficient Administrative Operations
According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, effective knowledge management can reduce the time spent searching for information by up to 35%. This is a huge gain for higher education institutes, which are under increasing pressure to account for their expenditure and provide a valuable student experience.
Less time spent engaging in administrative activities means more resources can be spent delivering courses that benefit students who are enrolled. Mission-critical activities within the organization need to be prioritized over ever-expanding administrative duties that nevertheless keep the organization running.
Creating a Centralized Knowledge Hub
Without proper Knowledge Management, academia and universities lack a centralized hub for their knowledge. This means that vital information could reside in any number of places, requiring team members to search multiple repositories to find the answers they need. Worse, duplicate information could exist in different places, rendering the reliability of the information in doubt.
So centralizing your knowledge hub empowers universities to get more out of their knowledge, bringing disparate sources of knowledge together into one place where any staff member can access it. Knowledge becomes more reliable over time as experts verify its accuracy and promote the use of the knowledge hub across the institution.
Knowledge Preservation and Continuity
While it’s important to share knowledge in real-time, institutions will also want to preserve their knowledge for posterity. Knowledge management systems in universities help in capturing institutional memories. In addition to explicit knowledge, it facilitates the capture of tacit knowledge—informal insights, experiences, and expertise possessed by individuals. This knowledge, which is often difficult to transfer, is preserved and can benefit future staff members.
Your knowledge is a key asset, just like your people and technology. For learning institutions in particular, the preservation of knowledge underpins your survival and ensures that you can keep offering courses and programs that appeal to a wide range of students.
Enhancing Student Engagement and Communication
In situations where physical attendance is not possible, KM systems can host virtual classrooms, webinars, and online lectures, ensuring continuous learning. Many KM systems are accessible via mobile devices, allowing students to engage with learning materials and communicate with peers and instructors on the go.
Also, departments can coordinate events, workshops, and seminars more effectively through knowledge management tools, ensuring wider participation and communication. It’s the responsibility of higher education institutions to look after their student’s additional needs, using data, and information, to provide a better learning experience. Students expect more than ever that universities strive to meet their needs and provide a tangible return on investment.
Case Studies: Successful Implementation of KM in Education
Ajman University, a UAE-based private institution, successfully transformed its user support and IT helpdesk operations through the implementation of Document360, a knowledge management platform. In order to enhance user experiences, the university provided a 24/7 accessible knowledge base to address challenges with their previous document-based system, which lacked visual appeal, navigation ease, and additional features. They achieved this by offering an intuitive interface for technical writers to create and update articles quickly, interactive navigation, customization options for the design, and categorization of information, as well as the ability to attach rich media. An internal survey found a 30% reduction in weekly support calls as a result of this transition. Document360 was appreciated for its flexibility and effectiveness in supporting the university’s technical support operations.
Two US higher education institutions implemented a knowledge management position in their organization, which initially met with resistance. This resistance came from other members of the organization who considered themselves to already be the purveyors of knowledge and resented this intrusion. These knowledge management experts overcame the challenge by using existing organizational terms, such as ‘collegiality’, ‘collaboration’, and ‘teamwork’, to gain support for knowledge management.
One UK Russell group university, although a very old organization, embraces twenty-first-century management practices of knowledge management by redefining one of their executive positions to have responsibility for KM in both title and duties. This person’s role is to drive change across the university through KM, including through each of the devolved colleges led by different faculty heads. Better knowledge management is all part of changing the way that this university does business.
Conclusion: Unlocking the Potential of KM in Education
Universities and higher education institutions are storehouses of knowledge, but that doesn’t mean they do a good job of managing that knowledge for future generations. Knowledge is not just restricted to academic course content but can include realms of expertise such as operational and administrative departments. Coordination and knowledge-sharing are critical to the ongoing success of these institutions.
Knowledge is a vital asset for higher education institutions, as well as other organizations, that wish to remain competitive. Though knowledge management can be challenging, it’s well worth the time it takes to implement people, processes, and technology to capture, store, and share knowledge.
When students enroll in higher education, they expect just that – knowledge. Not only must universities perfect how they deliver their courses, but also how they manage their institutions with a focus on expert knowledge.
Also, Check out our article on Knowledge management in oil and gas industry
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