Transforming e-Knowledge: A Revolution in the Sharing of Knowledge
by Donald Norris, Jon Mason and Paul Lefrere
2003 Society for College and University Planning (www.scup.org), Michigan
Review by Madanmohan Rao
"Transforming e-Knowledge" is an informative analysis of the evolving standards and cross-sectoral synergies in e-learning, digital content publishing and organisational knowledge management, along with associated business models, capacity-building issues and leadership imperatives.
The rich online companion (www.transformingeknowledge.info) includes a searchable glossary, bibliography, case studies, and other resources. The book is sponsored by a Education.au, SCT, WebCT, Knowledge Media and Mobilearn.
Donald Norris is the president of US-based Strategic Initiatives Inc., and also author of "Transforming Higher Education" and "E-business in Education." Jon Mason is the assistant director of IMS Australia. Paul Lefrere is director of networking and partnerships at the Centre for Educational Technology Interoperability Standards at the University of Wales and British Open University.
The material is divided into seven chapters, covering issues like knowledge futures, evolution of e-learning modules and standards, Web services infrastructure, professional communities of practice, and recommendations for policymakers.
New technology environments -- particularly the Internet, Intranet and wireless media -- are transforming the very way knowledge is experienced and transformed, triggering off a cascading cycle of reinvention of education (eg. just-in-time learning) and organisational collaboration (eg. tradecraft knowledge mobilisation via handheld devices).
As content and processes becomes unbundled and new audiences of consumers, co-creators and validators emerge, new business models and opportunities open up for content aggregators, professional associations, educational institutes and knowledge professionals.
Within enterprises, the original concept of knowledge management has evolved to broader notions of knowledge ecology, knowledge experiences, knowledge habitats and knowledge marketplaces, the authors begin. "Over time, the strategic importance of fusing e-learning and knowledge management will become abundantly clear to policy makers and practitioners alike," the authors predict.
New information and communication technologies have created much more than digitised content -- they are spawning new business models and strategies for knowledge interchange in ways never before possible, transforming value chains into "value webs," and creating learning objects which can be unbundled from traditional environments. Visualisation tools, knowledge blogs ("klogs"), P2P collaboration tools, and semantic searches are interesting developments on this front.
Today's vertical channels for e-content include book publishers, learning management systems (eg. WebCT, Blackboard, Click2Learn, Outstart), universities, trade associations and professional societies. These will be impacted by the activities of standards and consortia like the IMS Global Learning Consortium, Dublin Core, ebXML and ODRL.
Pioneering examples of e-knowledge in action include pervasive computing approaches in healthcare for elder patients. Professional societies like the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists have a knowledge portal which offers digitised journal content, email news alerts, and online communities of practice for lifelong learning. University alliances such as e-Universities Worldwide are developing a common technical platform for e-learning, course certification and branding.
Industry-wide sharing is also emerging, as with the German manufacturing industry's communities of practice partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute. Notable e-knowledge examples on the e-government front include Michigan.gov's citizen portal and inter-departmental communities, UK's e-Envoy knowledge communities and Australia's National Office of the Information Economy.
The University of Wisconsin offers portal-centric graduate learning, customised forms of learning and assessment ("e-pedagogy"), personal intelligent agents, lifelong access to a body of knowledge, greater involvement in professional societies, and fusion of internship experiences with formal learning. The Monterrey Tech System (ITESM) offers connected learning services to ten different countries in Latin America. Blending learning centres leverage the clicks-and-bricks model for bringing educational services to developing countries in Asia, with local ICT-enabled centres acting as local learning gateways.
Nippon Roche employees consider themselves to be knowledge and learning activists, have their compensation tied to sharing of insights, and sell non-proprietary knowledge to medical schools.
The Knowledge Content Exchange is a meta-marketplace of e-knowledge for all kinds of experts and learners. The IEEE Computer Society offers e-knowledge marketplaces, blended learning, perpetual knowledge refreshment and certification programs.
"Most persons in knowledge-rich enterprises will discover significant roles as both providers and consumers of e-knowledge," say the authors.
Organisations active in standards and meta-data for e-content, learner objects and workflow specification include MERLOT, Open Knowledge Initiative, Learning Federation, Learning Objects Network, Global Knowledge Economics Council, HR-XML Consortium,IMS Global Learning Consortium, Open Knowledge Initiative, Workflow Management Coalition and the Web services movement. The authors predict that horizontal e-knowledge marketplaces (eg. SMETE, XanEdu) will achieve substantial market penetration by the end of the decade.
"Internet culture drives the e-knowledge industry," according to the authors; this includes academic, entrepreneurial, communitarian and big-business cultures. "Communities of practice will become reorganised as the predominant organisational form in the e-Knowledge Economy. They will be the epicentre of autonomic learning and the development of individual and organisational capabilities," the authors predict.
Enterprise KM will be driven by "experience gateways" which can bypass knowledge silos and legacy IT systems. Communities of practice will seamlessly link to business processes. "The goal is to reinvent the conversational space of the enterprise," the authors advise.
Enterprises will have to reinvent their knowledge ecosystems, including infrastructure and cultures. The challenge will be to migrate from improvement to incremental innovation to radical innovation.
Challenges will arise in overcoming the digital divide (eg. between digital natives and digital immigrants), moving beyond digitising and Webifying, and creating new vocabularies and standards (technical, legal, financial).
"Competency and capacity development is a top enterprise priority. Major human resources challenges arise in creating enterprises that are e-knowledge savvy," the authors observe.
The authors recommend a mix of "revolutionary vision and expeditionary action," a blend of "structured and autonomic learning," a migration towards "fused" (as opposed to distinct from work) learning, and a shift from "tinkering" towards active transformation. The use of storytelling, benchmarking of e-knowledge practices, nurturing of knowledge flows, and information/collaboration models driven by portals will become important in the enterprise context.
The book is also peppered with lots of interesting and useful quotes, and it would fitting to end this review with some of them:
To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day -- Lao Tzu
The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it -- Marc Weiser
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change -- Charles Darwin
Knowledge is experience. All else is information -- Albert Einstein
It may make more sense to talk of a company's distributed capabilities instead of core capabilities -- Mohanbir Sawhney and Deval Parikh
Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand -- Confucius
Knowledge is not a thing that can be managed like physical assets, but a human and organisational capacity produced by collaborative relationships that can be nurtured and inspired -- George Por
Education in the 21st century will be about who can DO what, not who KNOWS what -- Roger Schank
Vision is the art of seeing things invisible -- Jonathan Swift
The future is like heaven. Everybody exalts it, but nobody wants to go there now -- James Baldwin
Any technology gradually creates a totally new human environment -- Marshall McLuhan
Changes in academic culture and university programs will be driven by the demand side (students, alums, employers, marketplace realities) and not from institutional supply-siders (professors, administrators) -- Martin Irvine
Becoming a global company once meant penetrating markets around the world. But the demands of the Knowledge Economy are turning that strategy on its head. Today, the challenge is to innovate by learning from the world -- Yvez Doz, Jose Santos and Peter Williamson
Companies spent the 20th century creating and managing efficiencies. They must spend the 21st century creating and managing experiences -- C.K. Prahalad and V. Ramaswamy
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