Knowledge Management and E-Learning: How to Apply KM Strategies to your LMS

What’s the hype on knowledge management anyway? Why is this decade old concept catching up so fast and loud with Learning & Development and Training based organizations? Why do we need to bother? Better yet, how can we apply this concept to the current lightning paced knowledge sharing market we so desperately try to survive in.

What is Knowledge Management? Popular definitions sound something like this:

Knowledge Management can be thought of as the deliberate design of processes, tools, structures, etc. with the intent to increase, renew, share, or improve the use of knowledge represented in any of the three elements [Structural, Human and Social] of intellectual capital. (Seemann et al, 1999)

Discussions about knowledge management and e-learning residing within learning management systems (LMS) are too amplified to recede in any background noise (discussions on knowledge development). While knowledge management experts scrutinize everyone and anything that tries to pair a knowledge management system to a learning management system through e-learning, we are here to reassure these experts that we are NOT trying to associate or mix two concepts together. Rather, our argument for this article is to highlight the main knowledge management strategies and how they can be implemented using e-learning and the features of the learning management system.

What is knowledge anyway and why does it deserve so much attention?

Knowledge is an asset. An individual in your organization with specialized, expert or experiential knowledge is your intellectual asset. Knowledge is an intangible asset. Challenging to measure. But essential to distribute from where it is highly concentrated to where it is needed. A popular analogy is the Theory of Thermodynamics applied by Boisot (1998):

“…This thermodynamic analogy points to the elusive and dynamic nature of knowledge. It seems that what is happening is a cycle in which data is filtered to produce meaningful information and this information is then abstracted and codified to produce useful knowledge. As the knowledge is applied in diverse situations it produces new experiences in an uncodified form that produces the data for a new cycle of knowledge creation.”

What does this mean for your organization? Think of the senior managers and operational experts holding valuable knowledge that needs to be captured, made sense of and transferred to the implementers – the end line workers. Did you know that the harder it is to trap this knowledge, the more value-adding it is to your organization? Consider this diagram as a simplified representation of the three main knowledge holding areas of your organization. The figure shows Organization (the human resources), Product (including services) and the Customer. Knowledge is developed within an organization to manage operational excellence, product leadership and customer intimacy.


                         Organization-wide knowledge repositories

This brings us back to the need for a learning management system that aids in development and dissemination of your e-learning training programs. The quest to create efficient trainings has always been the focus of our research for you. How can we create organization-centered learning materials that encourage knowledge sharing and active knowledge development while sharing? Seems complicated. But if you realize some core knowledge management strategies, you will discover some overlaps between the needs of knowledge management system and the provisions of a learning management system. The task is to create two systems that respond to each other in an agile manner.

So what are the KM strategies?

Organizations have been repeatedly warned of the repercussions of not adopting a KM strategy. Without a KM strategy it will be difficult to develop a corporate mission and goals strategy. As we know, effective trainings are developed by aligning training goals with corporate goals. The idea behind the KM Strategy is to leverage value from the organizational intellectual assets. Information technology applications implement knowledge management strategies range from the development of highly codified help desk systems to the provision of video conferencing to facilitate the exchange of ideas between people. If knowledge sharing is the main theme of a knowledge management system, organizations can start out by using collaboration features of their learning management systems to implement KM Strategies.

Think of how e-learning and LMS can be applied in the following KM Strategies.

How can a learning management system reinforce or implement these strategies?

  1. Intellectual Asset Management Strategy: Focuses on assets already within the company that can be exploited more fully or enhanced. Intellectual assets are the precious “knowledge-brokers”, the well-reputed individuals in your organization who “know how” and “know what”, but are too busy to share their knowledge with others. Create a special discussion board system in your LMS in which each expert gets their own space. Include the expert bio data and the time they will be online for a group chat. Label the discussion time with a maximum of two topics and moderate discussions between these experts with other employees. As a training manager, try to analyze and categorize the questions into concrete topics. Determine the need for a training program for these topics with the expert. Use their knowledge and insight to develop this e-learning course. Market it across the LMS as a course developed under the supervision of the expert.
  2. Personal Knowledge Asset Responsibility Strategy: Encourage and support individual employees to develop their skills and knowledge as well as to share their knowledge with each other. Learning management systems are the ultimate portals of knowledge development. A challenging course or certification completed by an over-achieving employee is a personal as well as organizational accomplishment. Require by all such achievers to upload their video on their experiences in working towards and passing the certification course. As a training manager, create a certification completion training program with the employee for others to learn from.
  3. Knowledge Creation Strategy: Emphasizes the innovation and creation of new knowledge through R&D. Adopted by market leaders who shape the future direction of their sector, these learning programs need urgent attention. The sooner these programs are placed and circulated (e-learning programs on an LMS), the sooner the organization can expect return on the R&D investment.
  4. Knowledge Transfer Strategy: Transfer of knowledge and best practices in order to improve operational quality and efficiency. High-performing employees are a rare find now a days. They have this unique mix of intuition, talent and knowledge that comes into play when taking decisions. Encouraging this knowledge transfer through “interview-videos” and broadcasting these videos in the LMS inspires peers for job excellence and recognition.