Use of the Web for Teaching-Learning: A Knowledge Management Approach

Article excerpt


Using web sites to supplement teaching-learning in higher education has been common since the emergence of the Internet. However, most of the sites are static information sites, which do not provide opportunities for active collaborative self-directed learning. The author suggests a knowledge management approach to educational web use, i.e., establishing web-based tertiary communities of practice (TCPs) to engage the learners in active collaborative self-directed learning, and develop the ability of learning how to learn. This article is therefore to pinpoint such a web-based teaching-learning TCP platform or system, and introduce a generic foundational architectural conceptual design.


Using web sites to supplement teaching-learning has been common since the emergence of the Internet. However, most of these sites are static information sites, providing basic information like the syllabi, lecture notes, teaching schedules, etc. Some educational sites do supplement teaching by offering explanations and aids about the subject taught (e.g. Li 1999). Nevertheless, these sites do not provide much interactivity, ordinarily presenting information one-way.

On the other hand, learning how to learn has been identified as one of the key capabilities for effective functioning in the 21st century and promoting the development of such capabilities a main goal in many national strategic plans in education. (Law, 1999) The didactic teacher-centered approach of teaching with the teacher controlling the learning material and the pace of learning appears to be inadequate in achieving such a goal, because it does not provide the learners the necessary opportunities for active collaborative self-directed learning.

Purpose and Scope

The purpose of this article is therefore to introduce a web platform that provides ample opportunities for the learners to engage themselves in active self-directed learning. It is to identify a web-based teaching-learning system whereby the learners are more likely to develop the ability of learning how to learn. This approach of using the web originates from the literature of knowledge management (KM) and "communities of practice" (CPs) available in. recent years. Precisely, the system is a web site designed and used as a "tertiary community of practice" (TCP) connecting students, faculty, administrators and relevant members in the community.

Within the limit of this article, discussion is confined to the TCP's foundational architectural design; it is not concerned with issues about its social infrastructure. (Note 1) However, it should provide insights on the topic being discussed.

Clarification of the Concepts of CP and TCP

"Community" implies the gathering of groups of people at the local, national, or international level. They come together for a common purpose, as in this case, learning a particular domain or sub-domain of knolwedge. As for "practice," a meaning can be found from Manville's definition of CPs:

   Groups of professionals informally bound to one another through exposure to
   a common class of problems, common pursuit of solutions, and thereby
   themselves embodying a store of knowledge. (Note 2)

To Manville, "practice" is seen as practitioners engaging in occupational activities. For this article, we're using Manville's definition. However, "practice" is often referred to something of value, a purpose that a group of people would like to believe. For example, the Yahoo Com-Pra Egroup is a community of practice established to study aspects of the subject "communities of practice."

Communities of practice therefore are not teams, as teams are mutually accountable for the organizational outputs, nor are they work groups, which normally refers to people within organizational boundaries. Participants in CPs are accountable to each other around a common set of knolwedge or competence, and often cut across organizational boundaries. …