A framework for e‐learning as a tool for knowledge management

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/02635570210439463
Publication Date01 Oct 2002
Pages371-380
AuthorRosemary H. Wild,Kenneth A. Griggs,Tanya Downing
SubjectEconomics,Information & knowledge management,Management science & operations
A framework for e-learning as a tool for knowledge
management
Rosemary H. Wild
Orfalea College of Business Management/MIS Area, California Polytechnic State
University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA
Kenneth A. Griggs
Orfalea College of Business Management/MIS Area, California Polytechnic State
University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA
Tanya Downing
College of Business, Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, California, USA
Introduction
One of the difficulties facing organizations
and researchers alike is that knowledge
management, while being intuitively
important, is intellectually elusive (Despres
and Chauvel, 1999). It is important because,
``with rare exceptions, the productivity of a
modern corporation or nation lies more in its
intellectual and system capabilities than in
its hard assets ...'' (Quinn et al., 1996). It is
elusive because, ``to define knowledge in a
non-abstract and non-sweeping way seems to
be very difficult. Knowledge easily becomes
everything and nothing'' (Alvesson and
Willmott, 1996). Therein lies the conundrum,
one of many surrounding this important, and
arguably necessary, tenet of present day
organizational management.
Although there exists a plethora of
definitions of knowledge management, there
are noticeable commonalities among them.
In particular, there is general agreement that
the primary objectives of knowledge
management are to identify and leverage the
collective knowledge in an organization to
achieve the overriding goal of helping
organizations compete and survive (Choo,
1996). Knowledge management involves a
mix of cultural, organizational, process,
management, and technology initiatives. In
addition, there appears to be general
agreement that a knowledge design process is
required to identify and leverage this
collective knowledge.
Weggeman (1997) defines the knowledge
value chain as four successive constituent
processes (Figure 1). First, an organization's
strategic knowledge requirements need to be
identified. Second, the knowledge gap
(the quantitative and qualitative difference
between the knowledge needed and that
available in the organization) needs to be
determined. Third, the knowledge gap needs
to be closed either by developing new
knowledge, buying knowledge, improving
existing knowledge, or getting rid of out-
of-date or irrelevant knowledge. Finally, the
available knowledge needs to be
disseminated and applied to serve the
interest of customers and other stakeholders.
The processes in the knowledge value
chain do not necessarily require the use of
information technology (IT); however,
throughout the literature there seems to be
agreement that IT will most likely play a
dominant role in facilitating or enabling
knowledge management (Alavi and Leidner,
2001). One obvious use of IT to enable
knowledge management is through e-
learning, the creation and distribution of
knowledge through the online delivery of
information, communication, education, and
training.
In this paper, we discuss the benefits of
e-learning and provide a framework for
the e-learning process, which includes the
factors to consider before going online, the
key elements of effective online education,
and important e-learning implementation
considerations. We tie this framework to the
processes in the knowledge value chain to
illustrate how e-learning can be used as an
important tool in knowledge management.
Is there a market for e-learning?
Fundamental to today's knowledge economy
is how companies foster learning and obtain
and retain knowledge from their workers.
The rapid pace of change in what workers
need to know, the growth of the Internet, and
accelerated global competition, all contribute
to the requirement that successful companies
efficiently harvest and use knowledge.
Industry experts recently assessed the
knowledge enterprise industry, which
includes both training and education, at
more than $2.2 trillion. It has become clear to
corporate America that the management of
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available
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[ 371 ]
Industrial Management &
Data Systems
102/7 [2002] 371±380
#MCB UP Limited
[ISSN 0263-5577]
[DOI 10.1108/02635570210439463]
Keywords
Internet, Computer based training,
Knowledge workers,
Organizational learning
Abstract
A common thread among the
plethora of definitions of
knowledge management is that
its objective is to identify and
leverage the collective knowledge
in an organization to help
organizations compete and
survive. One potential lever is
e-learning, the creation and
distribution of organizational
knowledge through the online
delivery of information,
communication, education, and
training. John Chambers, of Cisco
Systems, said: ``The two great
equalizers in life are the Internet
and education'', so why not fuse
the two to provide an efficient way
to empower a workforce with the
skills and knowledge it needs to
compete amid the rapid pace of
change in business? In this paper
we discuss the relationship
between knowledge management
and e-learning and present a
framework for employing e-learning
as a valuable tool for knowledge
management. The framework
encompasses the planning and
implementation elements
necessary for organizations to
leverage existing technologies
and implement new ones to
promote organizational learning
and contribute to the management
of organizational knowledge.

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