Teaching MBA Students the Use of Web2.0: The Knowledge Management Perspective

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

Web 2.0 is considered as one of the emerging topics that encompasses both technological advances as well as new business models. Lytras et al. (2009) define Web 2.0, as a perceived or proposed second generation of Internet-based services, such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, mashups and folksonomies that emphasize on online collaboration and sharing among users.

This social collaborative dimension of Web 2.0 offers ways to cultivate and exploit knowledge sharing in enterprises, providing new form for Knowledge Management (KM) (Kirchner et al., 2009). Large organizations are beginning to explore the potential of these new tools and concepts for KM across the enterprise (Anderson, 2007). Current KM systems, based on the original Web technologies, aim at eliciting employees' tacit knowledge, best practices and relevant experience and put this information in widely available, sharable platforms (McAfee, 2006). However, these systems provide communication tools (e.g. emails and instant messaging) normally connecting between limited groups on the one hand, and widely-spread centrally-created information (e.g. intranet and corporate website) on the other hand. Web 2.0 technologies and principles present new digital platforms enabling generation and sharing of knowledge in a distributed manner (McAfee, 2006).

While Web 2.0 applications are known to have potential benefits within organizations, their adoption is still rather limited (Lynch, 2008). The main documented reasons for this include human-related barriers and managerial aspects (Neus, 2001; Szybalski, 2005; Cosley et al., 2005). Thus, bringing Web 2.0 to its full potential requires exposing managers to the merits of Web 2.0 and how utilizing them can benefit their business, as well as bringing to their awareness the difficulties and barriers impeding the Web 2.0 adoption. This requirement establishes our research question: What educational settings are required for engaging managers in Web 2.0 application and how do they evolve the mangers' perceptions and understanding of Web 2.0 benefits and barriers within organizations?

Following this question, the goals of this research are to (1) suggest a teaching method for the introduction of Web 2.0 concepts to managers, including experiencing these platforms and understanding their potential and barriers; and (2) examine these mangers' initial and evolving perceptions and skills with regard to Web 2.0 concepts throughout the learning process. The research was conducted in a framework of a KM course within an MBA program. The teaching method was developed based on the principles of the constructivist approach that advocates learning by engaging in an independent activity, in which new knowledge is gradually constructed upon their already existing knowledge (Papert, 1980). The research data is based on the students' activities and reflections that were documented throughout the course and qualitatively analyzed.

The paper is organized as follows: Section 2 presents the Web 2.0 principles and adoption within organizations, and the constructivist approach that served as our pedagogical base-line for developing the teaching method; Section 3 describes the research method; in Section 4 we present the research findings and discuss them in Section 5; finally, Section 6 concludes and suggests future research.

2. RELATED WORK

Web 2.0 concepts encompass major technological developments that characterize current Web applications (Anderson, 2007; Ullrich et al., 2008). There is a debate whether these technologies created a social revolution or if it is a natural evolution of the technology, since, according to the evolutionary favors, the concepts of Web 2.0 actually exist from the early period of the Web (Anderson, 2007). Nevertheless, there is no debate that the Web 2.0 technologies offer new opportunities for many areas, for example education and learning, software development, social networking and business. …