Academic journal article Education

Harnessing the Power of Knowledge in Higher Education

Academic journal article Education

Harnessing the Power of Knowledge in Higher Education

Article excerpt

Successful organisations are knowledge-creating organisations, which produce, disseminate and embody new knowledge in new products and services. To this end, knowledge management enables organisations to improve efficiency and effectiveness mainly by decoding tacit knowledge into explicit information. This article focuses on the role of knowledge management in the Improvement of higher education institutions. Firstly, a distinction is drawn between data, information, knowledge and learning. Thereafter different models of knowledge management are discussed. The relationship between models of knowledge management, which focus on social construction and the creation and maintenance of a learning organisation is indicated. The importance of an explicit, systematic and comprehensive institutional approach to knowledge management is stressed. This implies an equal emphasis on people, technology and structures. Guidelines are proposed for implementing a knowledge management programme in higher education institutions. Finally, the benefits of knowledge management in higher education during a period of transformation are highlighted.

Introduction

Today the experiences, skills and abilities of people are coming increasingly under the spotlight and have emerged as the topic of an emerging academic discourse. The latter is aptly named knowledge management (KM) and has become one of the hottest issues in the literature on management. Consequently, the growing awareness of the value of the knowledge embedded in the experiences, skills and abilities of people is emerging as a significant challenge to improving organisations.

The management of knowledge in the organisation has to be adopted or adapted by organisations if they are to compete successfully in the twenty first century. Intellectual capital has therefore become one of the prime sources of a knowledge-based and knowledge-enabled organisation. KM accepts that staff members own the tools of development through the knowledge they possess. According to Bryans and Smith (2000, 229), Hicks (2000, 71) and Rossett (1999, 64), this personal knowledge requires transformation into institutional knowledge that can be widely shared throughout the institution and applied appropriately to make it a meaningful developmental tool.

For the purpose of this article the following questions are posed:

* Is KM a management fad designed to keep consultants and conference organisers employed and to distract organisations from focussing on bottom line results and customer orientation? Or is KM a useful metaphor that supports organisations in the environment at the beginning of the 21st century?

* How can KM be implemented in higher education?

* Which challenges are faced by higher education who wish to implement KM?

Certain key concepts are explained to answer these questions.

Data, information, learning and knowledge

With the growth in information technology a clear operational distinction can be drawn between data, information, learning and knowledge. Information is viewed as data in context and is currently believed to be captured, stored and transmitted in digital form. Information is not static or distinct but continues through a value-added phase as part of the internal processes by which individuals interpret their meanings of people, objects and events (O' Connell, 1999,33). According to Rowley (2000(b),9), this process is known as learning. Learning leads to knowledge, which is either tacit (embedded in people's minds) or explicit (stated as in formal communication or in documents). Knowledge supports and informs decisions, behaviour and actions. The final stage is the feedback from those actions, which may lead to further information and forms the basis for further learning. For example, the number '13' on its own is data. If a word is added like' 13 learners', it is still data. Once context is added, such as ' 13 learners enrolled compared with 200 last year', the statement becomes information. …

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