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Knowledge management in higher education


Marjan Laal a
a
Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Sina Trauma & Surgery Research Center, Sina Hospital, Tehran 11555/3876, Iran

Abstract

This review article outlines the basic concepts of knowledge management (KM) in higher education (HE) institutes, and gives a
summing up of previous scientific works to ensure providing an effective and efficient understanding of it for an ever-changing
environment. KM is a systematic process by which knowledge needed for an organization to succeed is created, captured, shared
and leveraged. Nowadays, the pace of evolution has entered a rapid speed, and those who can't learn, adapt, and change from
moment to moment simply won't survive. Current HE institutes recognize their valuable intelligences and have adopted their
changing role in a society.
c 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.
Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the Guest Editor.
Keywords: knowledge management, process, higher education.

1.1. Introduction

The rapid growth of data and technologies trigger the transformation of data to useful information, known as
knowledge. Nowadays, people are aware of the worth of knowledge and the styles to obtain, recognize, capture,
save and leverage it, so that knowledge can be shared without losing it; in the other words know how to manage
knowledge. In this way the term of KM is created [1].

KM has increased in popularity as a management device over the past decade. There have been concerns about
whether KM is simply a fad, and researchers and academics have debated its faddish like characteristics. As
Stankosky indicates KM certainly is not a fad, because the knowledge-based economy is here to stay [2, 3].

While there is no universally accepted definition of KM, most are extremely similar. According to Rumizen, KM
is a systematic process, by which knowledge needed for an organization to succeed is created, captured, shared and
leveraged [4].

Many of us simply do not think in terms of managing knowledge, but we all do it. Each of us is a personal store
of knowledge with training, experiences, and informal networks of friends and colleagues, whom we seek out when
we want to solve a problem or explore an opportunity. Essentially, we get things done and succeed by knowing an
answer or knowing someone who does [5].

Knowledge Management (KM) is a process where organizations have formulated ways in the attempt to
recognize and archive knowledge assets within the organization that are derived from the employees of various

1877-0509 c 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.
doi:10.1016/j.procs.2010.12.090
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departments or faculties and in some cases, even from other organizations that share the similar area of interests or
specialization. [6]

It is also defined as the process of transforming information and intellectual assets into persisting value. It
connects people with the knowledge that they need to take action, when they need it [7]. KM is concerned with
making the right knowledge available to the right processor such as human or computer, at the right time in the right
presentations for the right cost [8, 9].

The general purpose of KM is to make knowledge usable for more than one individual, e.g. for an organization as
a whole; that is, to share it [10].

Knowledge management is almost a new field, and experiments are just beginning in higher education. There is a
tremendous value to higher education institutions that develop initiatives to share knowledge to achieve business
objectives [7, 9].

Purpose; This article aimed to present a basic concept of KM to enable one to understand and plan processes in a
structured way in HE as well as to ensure that important aspects are taken into account in KM projects by providing
an effective and efficient understanding of this necessity to rapid changing environment.

1.2. Method and Material

Data for this review article based on previous scientific works.

1.3. Results

Knowledge starts as dataraw facts and numbers for example, the market value of an institutions
endowment. Information is data put into contextin the same example, the endowment per student at a particular
institution. Information is readily captured in documents or in databases; even large amounts are fairly easy to
retrieve with modern information technology systems [7].Only when information is combined with experience and
judgment does it become knowledge. Knowledge is simply actionable information, which allows us to make
predictions, casual associations or predictive decisions [9]. KM has existed and has been used for a long time,
although it was neither called by this name nor necessarily recognized as what it is until several years ago [11].

Knowledge is considered as the most important asset of organizations [12]. It is assumed that every experience is
reusable; means that any knowledge can be reused by others [13].

A popular framework for thinking about knowledge proposes two main types of knowledge: explicit and tacit.
Explicit knowledge is documented information that can facilitate action. It can be expressed in formal, shared
language. Tacit knowledge is know-how and learning embedded within the minds of the people in an organization
[7].

Knowledge Management (KM) principles recognize that it is important for organizations to "know what they
know." All institutions inherently store, access, and deliver knowledge in some manner and educational institutions
are no exception. The question is what value is added to the products and services they deliver by the effective use
of that knowledge capital [14].

Effective knowledge management programs identify and leverage the know-how embedded in work, with a focus
on how it will be applied. The challenge in knowledge management is to make the right knowledge available to the
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right people at the right time [7].

Organizations that are serious about better managing their knowledge work will examine their processes with an
eye toward improving their performance. The situations that follow illustrate the kinds of thinking that should bear
fruit:
Developing Basic Process Competence;
Looking for Missing Metrics;
Considering Benchmarking;
Working to Diffuse Internal Knowledge and Practices;
Providing a Supportive Learning Environment;
Addressing Known Knowledge Gaps;
Checking and Rechecking Assumptions;
Making the Implicit Explicit;
Learning from Malfunctions [15].

All institutions inherently store, access, and deliver knowledge in some manner. The question is what value is
added to the products and services they deliver by the effective use of that knowledge capital. Higher education
institutions have "significant opportunities to apply knowledge management practices to support every part of their
mission" [1, 14].

In the current higher learning institutions, research is the key for knowledge creation and knowledge
dissemination. The higher learning institutions are no longer just providing knowledge to the students, but also
manage and collaborate the existing knowledge for future reference. Therefore, the current higher learning
institutions in overseas have adapted to their changing role in a knowledge-based society [16].

1.4. Discussion

The concept of knowledge is a large and extremely complex one and is not easily defined as one concise
definition. As Ackoff [17] noted; data are defined as symbols that represent properties of objects, events and their
environment. They are products of observation, but are of no use until they are in a usable, relevant form. The
difference between data and information is a functional difference rather than a structural one. Information then is
contained in descriptions, answer to questions that begin in such words as who, what, when and how many.
Information systems generate, store, retrieve and process data and thus one can say that information is inferred from
data. Knowledge on the other hand is know-how (rather know-what or know-who), and is what makes possible
the transition from information into instructions. Knowledge can be obtained either by transmission from another
who has it, by instructions or by extracting it from experience. This means that data are symbols (for instance
numbers, letters or letters that form words) that represents something about reality, but unless put into a context
through some kind of question they do not give any meaning. And when you do just that (put it into some kind of
context), it becomes information. Knowledge on the other hand is your ability you use this information into
executing specific task [18].
There are two kinds of knowledge. One is explicit knowledge, which can be expressed in words and numbers and
shared in the form of data, scientific formulae, product specifications, manuals, universal principles, and so forth.
This kind of knowledge can be readily transmitted across individuals formally and systematically.
Tacit knowledge is highly personal and hard to formalize, making it difficult to communicate or share with
others. Subjective insights, intuitions and hunches fall into this category of knowledge. Furthermore, tacit
knowledge is deeply rooted in an individual's action and experience, as well as in the ideals, values or emotions he
or she embraces [19].
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Knowledge originates in individuals, but it is embodied in teams and organizations, as shown. In an organization,
examples of explicit knowledge are strategies, methodologies, processes, patents, products, and services. Examples
of tacit knowledge in an organizational context are skills and competencies, experiences, relationships within and
outside the organization, individual beliefs and values, and ideas [20].

There are some definitions for KM. Here are a few definitions:

"Knowledge management is a process that emphasizes generating, capturing and sharing information know how
and integrating these into business practices and decision making for greater organizational benefit."
Maggie Haines, NHS Acting Director of KM
"The creation and subsequent management of an environment, which encourages knowledge to be created,
shared, learnt, enhanced, organized and utilized for the benefit of the organization and its customers."
Abell & Oxbrow, tfpl Ltd, 2001
"The capability of an organization to create new knowledge, disseminate it throughout the organization and
embody it in products, services and systems."
Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995
"Knowledge management is a relatively young corporate discipline and a new approach to the identification,
harnessing and exploitation of collective organizational information, talents, expertise and know-how."
Office of the e-Envoy, 2002
Stankosky described four pillars for KM; as:
1. Leadership
2. Organization
3. Technology, and
4. Learning [3].

HE institutions are said to be in the knowledge business since they are involved in knowledge creation,
dissemination and learning [21]. HE institutes aim to prepare new generations with the skills, cultural and scientific
literacy, flexibility, and capacity for critical inquiry and moral choice necessary to make their own contribution to
society [2].

As institutions launch KM initiatives, they can learn lessons from their counterparts in the corporate sector.
Some key points to remember are:
Starting with strategy. Before doing anything else, determining what we want to accomplish
with KM;
Organizational infrastructurehuman resources, financial measurements of success, and
information technologyshould support KM. Think of technology as an enabler;
Seeking a high-level champion for the initiative; someone who believes in its benefits and who
can advocate as needed;
Selection a pilot project for KMideally one with high impact on the organization but of low
risk to build credibility for knowledge management.
Developing a detailed action plan for the pilot that defines the process and the roles and
incentives of the pilot project team.
After the pilot, results assessment and refining the action plan [7].

Current higher learning institutions recognize the value of their intellectual capital to their continuing role in
society. A key ingredient in an institutions readiness to embrace KM is its culturethe beliefs, values, norms, and
behaviors that are unique to an organization. Informally, it is the unwritten rules or how things really get done [21].
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1.5. Conclusion

Successful KM depends on processes that enhance individual and organizational ability, motivations, and
opportunities to learn, gain knowledge, and perform in a manner that delivers positive results. Organizational
processes that focus on these three attributes will lead to an effective management of knowledge. The old days of
continous improvement seem as leisurely as a picnic from the past [22].
Colleges and universities have significant opportunities to apply knowledge management practices to support
every part of their missionfrom education to public service to research. An institution wide approach to KM can
lead to exponential improvements in sharing knowledge; both explicit and tacit, and the subsequent surge benefits.
Using KM techniques and technologies in higher education is as vital as it is in the corporate sector. By leveraging
knowledge capital, the nature of organizations changes as they become more effective. If done effectively, it can
lead to better decision-making capabilities, reduced product development cycle time, improved academic and
administrative services, and reduced costs [7].
In this chaotic and complex twenty-first century, the pace of evolution has entered warp speed, and those who
can't learn, adapt, and change from moment to moment simply won't survive.

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