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Knowledge Management and e-learning: two into one will go!


In an article for learning association ASTD's online magazine Learning Circuits, Editor Tom Barron says that as a result of technological innovation, learning and knowledge management are converging into a new, technology-fueled creature.

The article, A Smarter Frankenstein: The Merging of E-Learning and Knowledge Management, talks about the increasing convergence between Knowledge Management and e-learning due to the growing recognition that Knowledge Management can be a great way to encourage and facilitate learning. Increasingly learning is being delivered in short chunks which are designed in a way which is specific to that learner's needs. When technology is added to enable learners to share information, the similarities with Knowledge Management become evident.

Technologies that enable the sharing of knowledge, such as discussion groups, chat rooms, synchronous meeting tools are all tools that have been used successfully in the field of Knowledge Management and are being adapted for use within e-learning.

Barron says the potential benefits of joining the two are huge: "Like Frankenstein's monster, the technologies that fuse the two practices are outpacing management's ability to anticipate their combined impact".

Barron comments that organisational reorganisation is often needed to take advantage of the combined benefits, but that as both initiatives have been established from different parts of an organisation, integration can be a problem.

One potential problem for integrating the two is certification. It may not an issue for Knowledge Management, but traditionally is an important outcome for training - this is currently evident in the growing number of certification programmes offered for IT professionals.

Barron says there will also be a reluctance among training departments to relinquish complete control of training within an organisation. The departments role will remain strategic while responsibility for content and subject matter for meeting training needs will be devolved, he says. Key to this is the development of new technology to enable material to be developed and created easily. Extensible Markup Language or XML is one such system. has created two authoring tools for small to medium enterprises to use.

Unipart's Faculty on the Floor is an excellent example of how the boundaries between e-learning and Knowledge Management are being successfully blurred. Employees can work on production-related problems using computer-based problem solving tools and best practice websites from training facilities located on the shop floor.

Unipart may be further down the line than most organisations, but once organisational thinking reaches the stage of current technological thinking this way of developing learning organisations should take off in a big way.


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