1 E-Learning at Kyongju University in Seoul, Korea: the Present and the Future Hyunju Jeung, Ph D Full-time lecturer Kyongju University Abstract Internet is spreading fast in our lives. It seems a mirror image of the current educational environment. Internet may be characterized by its potential power as a tool for 'individualization' and 'globalization'. The current research aims to better understanding of e-learning and its reality on campus and so find solutions to improve its environment, focusing on the case of Kyongju university. To do this, the concept of e-learning has been clarified with respect to the knowledge management, which is regarded as a best solution for this knowledge-based society. Its practicality, then, has been examined through the review of Kyongju university homepage and related websites on the campus. The results indicate that e-learning on the campus is adopted at the preliminary document storage level of knowledge management. A number of suggestions are made to innovate on the current approach to e-learning at the small-sized university. Keywords: e-learning, knowledge management, learning community
2 1. Introduction As Internet is widely adopted for educational purposes, e-learning is often interchangeably used with web-based learning or learning with technology. Also, there are many studies, suggesting effective strategies for e-learning. However, there are two problems. First, the term, e-learning seems to be often misunderstood as a tool or method using technology unlike its expected role in this knowledge-based society. Second, prior studies on e-learning seem to show the case of large universities, equipped with luxury facilities or at least having potential to do so. Their findings, thus, do not make any sense to the case of small universities with little infra structure and this suggests the increased digital divide by hardware. The current research aims to provide a theoretical framework of e- learning and so to have better understanding of its practicality at the tertiary level of educational organization for the current and the future. The purpose of the current research is not to provide a successful case of e-learning. Kyongju University in the current study has been selected to represent a small university with limited budget and human resources. A number of suggestions relevant to the university are expected to provide a starting point of desirable level of e-learning at the small-sized universities. 2. What means by internet-based e-learning to Kyongju university? Brief information of the city, Kyongju, where Kyongju university is located, and Kyongju university may be useful for better understanding of the current research. Kyongju is a small city with 150,000 populations, located at 4 and half hours distance by train from the capital city, Seoul. Kyongju is a historic site, having international level of historical relics. Due to this characteristic of its location, Kyongju university offers specialized courses in tourism and culture. Kyongju university is one of 16 universities in the province of Kyongsangbuk-do, and the organization has about 4,000 enrollments and 120 faculty members. So, Kyongju university has relatively high
3 reputation in terms of the specialized courses, but it is not competitive in terms of location and facilities. Since the benefits of internet-based e-learning have been emphasized more than enough, we may have more knowledge than common sense. This may result in our oversight of their negative effects. One of the negative consequences may turn out to be the reduced number of enrollments at the less competitive university. This happened most small sized university, located at rural areas in Unlike, the number of enrollments in 15 on-line universities was reported to increase to 16,700 in 2002, showing growing popularity. In fact, this trend seems to be continuous, in that many universities in Korea are providing and plan to provide on-line courses or degrees. In addition, according to a report from WTO, educational service should be open by 2005 and so, higher education organizations in Korea consider to have an association with the universities with high international reputation. Consequently, the problem of the reduced number in enrollments may happen not only at Kyongju university in the nearest future. While internet-based e-learning brings about the problem, we also can find its solution through them. In the long-run, it is likely to be presumed that quality control in teaching and learning can be an essential condition to increase the number of enrollments. Internet technology can be surely a best tool for the quality control of education. 3. Knowledge management The scenario of quality control for competitiveness shows exactly what happens in business organizations, which used to be thought as a different context from educational organizations. Quality control at the business context used to be represented by re-structuring and it follows by knowledge management. Understanding of these may be required in order to find a desirable approach to the quality control in education.
4 Knowledge management refers to a series of management activities, which include defining core-competency to enhance the enterprise's competitiveness, supporting knowledge creation and its accumulation in knowledge management system, and providing essential knowledge at the right time to an individual of the organization (Nonaka & Tacheuchi, 1995). That is, knowledge management is a social movement, driven from the needs of the society. Thus, quality control both in business and in education should be considered not in the isolated context of advanced technology but in the context of social need. In knowledge management, attention is given to knowledge as the most valuable asset for the competitiveness of enterprise. In its narrow definition, knowledge management is concerned with the knowledge under control. On the other hand, in broad definition, it refers to the cultural, organizational, and technological areas of activities for efficient management of organizational knowledge. This broad concept involves a number of sub-processes such as the activities of knowledge creation, knowledge storage, knowledge sharing, and knowledge utilization as its sub-process. Michel Polanyi differentiates explicit knowledge from tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is codified knowledge, which is relatively easy to be transferred by formal, systematic language. Unlike explicit knowledge, the tacit is personal and context-specific knowledge, which is not possible to be transferred by language. Tacit knowledge includes cognitive elements such as individual's mission, schema, beliefs, viewpoints and technical elements such as know-how, skills and so on. Polanyi seems to emphasize more on the tacit knowledge as his saying, we know more than what we can tell. He made an analogy of explicit knowledge as the very little tip of big iceberg. Nonaka (Nonaka & Tacheuchi, 1995) explains knowledge creation to be the ultimate goal of knowledge management is the process of dynamic conversion of tacit knowledge to explicit and vice versa. He named the processes specifically as socialization, externalization, combination,
5 and internalization as shown below in Figure 1. From Tacit To Tacit Explicit Socialization Externalization Explicit Internalization Combination <Figure 1> Nonaka s Model of Knowledge Creation (Nonaka & Tacheushi, 1995, p.78) Socialization of knowledge implies the sharing of tacit knowledge, which is unlikely to be transformed through formal, symbolic form. For example, this can occur when novices attempt to observe and imitate experts performance and become possible to share experts knowledge. The shared knowledge is converted into explicit knowledge through externalization. That is, experts articulate their know-how, publish papers, and provide practical advices to novices. The externalized explicit knowledge may then be restructured and combined, and finally, it becomes meaningful knowledge to an individual. That is the internalization process. Such an individual s sharing of tacit knowledge by internalization is known to be an initial point of organizational knowledge creation. 4. E-learning As knowledge management system has been introduced to business organization, the concept of e-learning has to educational organization. Rosenberg explains that e-learning is the adoption of internet technology in order to have improved performance and advanced knowledge (Rosenberg, 2001). However, e-learning is defined in various. Some interprets it to simply use advanced ICT for educational purpose as do in computerassisted instruction (CAI). Along this line, e-learning is regarded as a substitute to the conventional face-to-face classroom learning. Others explain that with the meaning of innovation. For instance, Elliot Masie explains that e for e-learning stands for experience,
6 the extended and the expanded. First, e-learning as a new experience refers to the provision of new on-line learning experience, which is totally different from that in off-line. Flexibility in time and space, granulization, and community support provide more options. Second, e-learning as the extend implies the extended right of learning. An opportunity to learning is extended; for instance, from formal educational organization like schools to industrial organization. Third, e-learning for the expand means the expansion of opportunity for learning; it becomes free from the limits of budget, topics, etc. E-learning as a new experience, the extended right for learning, and the expanded opportunity for learning does not accept the viewpoint that considers it to be a substitute of conventional face-to-face learning. It rather suggests to be regarded as an innovative alternative, having the possibility to compromise and overcome the limits of off-line class. Nevertheless, Rosenberg (2001) suggests that e-learning is based on the three conditions as followers. First, e-learning links through computer network for fast up-to-date, store and retrieval. This means that e-learning may be possible on the basis of fast and easy access to the most current information and delivery through by computer network. E-learning provides an authentic experience simply via computer network. Second, e-learning use a computer system as a media to reach to the end user, a learner. Unlike television or video, a computer system is likely to have an interaction with the user. E-learning is based on the interaction between media and a learner, between learners, between a learner and a teacher and between teachers. Third, e-learning is based on the broad level of learning, which includes the acquisition of information tool for enhanced task performance. That is, e-learning plays a role to support various forms of teaching-learning, resulting in high performance, besides the role of conventional computer-based instruction.
7 E-learning as an experience, the extend, and the expand is a broad concept, implying an innovation. In contrast, its practical understanding is that e-learning preconditions technology-based network. In other words, physical infrastructure is considered to be the prerequisite to actualize e-learning. Along this line, a small sized university with poor infrastructure is supposed to have little possibility to actualize e-learning, until the prerequisite is provided. However, this interpretation results from the technologycentered viewpoint, and it is contrary to the ideal definition of e- learning as experience, extension, and expansion. It is necessary to be understood e-learning not in an effective way for training, but in an approach to knowledge management for quality control. That is, it is not necessary to wait until every member of an organization has a computer system and the abilities to use it effectively. The members awareness that e-learning can be initiated with a single computer system may be essential for the actualization of innovative e-learning. 5. Knowledge management and e-learning It is likely to find the similarities between knowledge management and e-learning. Both are focused on the best way of knowledge transfer. Until now, both business and educational organizations give their attentions on the development of e-learning system to maintain vast amount of database. It should be noted that our attention has been paid to collect information, not to create knowledge. This is different from our intention. Our intention is not on the transfer of explicit knowledge, but on knowledge transformation. Knowledge is discriminated from information by means that it cannot be separated from its owner or creator (Brown & Guguid, 2000). It is the reason why transfer of tacit knowledge is arduous. Strictly speaking, this characteristic of tacit knowledge may not allow the expression of transfer of knowledge. Instead, transformation of knowledge (Pea, 1996) may be right. An individual s knowledge cannot be transferred to the other, but it must be restructured on the basis of the receiver s
8 experience and context, and then, the transformed knowledge is acquired to the receiver. Both knowledge management and e-learning are required to focus on this process of knowledge transformation. Internet-based e-learning may allow our approach to the most up-todate, authentic information and intense interaction, which lead to fruitful performance. It is a strategy for innovation. Knowledge management at higher education organization involves not only the organization of students, but also that of staff as it s target to be managed. That is, the innovative knowledge management may be facilitated by e-learning. E-learning is also an innovation of consciousness of each individual, consisting of an organization. E- learning systems are required to be developed under this context and they are differentiated from simple adoption of Internet on learning. The differences are likely to be visualized and this is shown in knowledge management pyramid, suggested by Rosenberg. The knowledge management pyramid is given below. 6. Knowledge management pyramid: Levels of E-learning Rosenberg (2001) explains that knowledge management can be developed through three stages as shown below in Figure 2. Each stage in the pyramid seems to show a different level of e-learning. Level3: enterprise intelligence Work integration Level2: information creation, sharing, & management Level1: document management <Figure 2> The three levels of knowledge management pyramid (Rosenberg, 2001, p.70 ) The first level is a document management stage. On the enterprise s web pages, all kinds of documents, user manuals, and annual reports are loaded, and this saves the members time and energy to access the
9 relevant information. This stage aims not to generate, edit, and manage information, but to distribute information, and it is regarded as the primary level of knowledge management. This stage is similar to the introductory stage of internet-based e-learning. Most official documents are embarked for downloading on the web page and official reports and presentation materials are as well. Staff and students find the materials easily on their organization s home page. At this level, Internet is used for information delivery and supplemental purpose (Harmon & Jones, 1999). The second stage is for the level of information creation, share, and management. The documents, which are to be continuously updated, are read on-line to keep up-to-date and accuracy. The organizational members also provide authentic information to the system and participate in the system development. Experts knowledge is collected and delivered on-line and intense interactions emerge among the organizational members using the web, including bulletin boards, IRC, etc. This is the most popular meaning of e-learning currently. Internet is used for essential and community building (Harmon & Jones, 1999). The last is the stage of enterprise intelligence. The knowledge management system is such advanced that it represents the organizational members know-how. The members experiences assist to develop collective intelligence and add on to the organization s knowledge management system. This is the level of knowledge creation, development, management, and diffusion. At the current, the concept of collective intelligence is not yet practically understood, and performance support, including external, extrinsic, and intrinsic supports, is not developed at that level. Internet is used for immersive (Harmon & Jones, 1999). In conclusion, e-learning as an innovation may refer to the stage 3 of knowledge management in the pyramid. Currently, the stages 1 and 2 pretend to be the meaning of e-learning and they are considered as a standard of an e-learning system. This viewpoint may explain that the
10 small-sized universities with limited infrastructure are on the lack of readiness for learning. The first two levels of e-learning seem to be more emphasis on the role of technology, but the third level emphasizes the changed culture in the organization. It should be noted that to reach the stage 3, technology is a useful tool, but not a prerequisite. Consequently, the term, e-learning needs to be newly defined equal to the stage 3 of knowledge management. 7. The Level of e-learning at Kyongju University With respect to the above description of the knowledge management pyramid, the level of e-learning at Kyongju university is expected to be evaluated. To do this, the web pages, linking to the homepage of the university were visited and analyzed. Most of the web sites at Kyongju university show the characteristics of the first stage of knowledge management. All the documents relevant to the faculty members and the students are available on-line; for instance, the documents of the academic affairs are on the web site of the office of academic affairs as shown in Figure 3, the list of books and journals are on the library web site, and course syllables and class materials are on each lecturer s web site. The role of information provider is clearly differentiated from that of receiver. Below shows one of the web page for the Office of Academic Affairs, which links to the homepage of Kyongju university.
11 <Figure 3> A web page for the Office of the Academic Affairs of Kyongju university. The second stage of the pyramid is characterized by the information s accuracy and recency, the participants of the organization members in constructing authentic information on the system, and dynamic interactions among the members. The characteristics are displayed on some of the faculty s or its members web sites in isolate. Not many of the web sites at Kyongju university provide the environment for mutual communication in its system and techniques. Learning communities are under developing, and it is unlikely reputed to be the Stage 2. Below shows one of the web page for thesis supervision, linking to the Kyongju university home page.
12 <Figure 4> A web page for thesis supervision, which includes the student s spontaneous participation and the supervisor s expertise. At Kyongju university is the second stage under process. The third stage, in which all members of the organization are networked, does not yet to come. Specifically, there are a number of the web pages, providing redundant information, because all the web pages, linking to the university home page, are not integrated and managed. For instance, the documents of academic affairs are embarked not only on the web page of the office of academic affairs but also on the pages of some lecturers or offices of faculties. The redundant placement of information reduces the efficiency of Internet. In addition, there are few web pages, displaying development of members communities. Although there are some web pages, urging for community development, but it leaves almost blank as showed in Figure 5.
13 <Figure 5> A class s web page with bulletin board for spontaneous participation. This shows no spontaneous participation. In sum, the web pages, linking to the home page of Kyongju university, show the characteristics of the stage 1 and partly of the stage 2. The university web sites thus display not as stylish and attractive as the large-sized universities. This may be the consequence of the differences in budget and resources. However, the stage 3 may not depend on the advance of technology. Instead, organizational culture to share tacit knowledge may be critical to reach the stage 3 of knowledge management pyramid. With this respect, the stage 3 at Kyongju university may be possibly reached not by advance in technology, but by advance in the organizational culture. 7. Knowledge management level 3: Tacit knowledge transformation facilitation by community building The stage 3 of knowledge management does the e-learning system, representing the organization s intelligence, and functioning as the organization s brain. This is an intimate relation with transformation of tacit knowledge. Transformation of tacit knowledge may require more than one criterion.
14 As mentioned above, knowledge, in particular tacit knowledge, has the characteristic of inseparability from its owner. This characteristic presumes that on-line learning may not provide the environment for knowledge transformation. Off-line learning may be necessary and it is a criterion for knowledge transformation. On-line learning can be supportive to off-line learning, and vice versa. The second criterion for knowledge transformation is spontaneity of community development, which is a difference from the learning at the conventional classroom. The bulletin board for on-line community development is easily created by external commercial system. However, building the bulletin board on the web page does not refer to the development of community. On-line communities can be developed only by the members spontaneous participation, based on their willingness to share their knowledge. It is asserted that learning can occur by interaction with others (i.e., Vygotsky, 1978). In the community with common interests and purposes, this benefit may be maximized. In particular, on-line communities are likely to generate the vast amount of knowledge and to facilitate transformation of tacit knowledge. That is, the level of knowledge management may depend on the quality of on-line communities. Consequently, the condition for creating an advanced level of on-line communities may be another criterion for knowledge transformation. Davenport and Prusak (1998) point that communities can be built on the basis of trust in the organization and its members. Besides the incentives, organizational culture to encourage the members participation to be an information provider is critical for the advanced level of e-learning. That is, the organizational culture, for instance, trust among the members, may be the third criterion. 8. Conclusions The current study aims to better understanding of e-learning and its reality on campus and so find solutions to improve its environement, focusing on the case of Kyongju university. To do this, the concept of
15 e-learning has been clarified with respect to the knowledge management. It is noted that e-learning used to be interpreted as using Internet technology for improved performance in a narrow approach, but this viewpoints needs to be changed. E-learning is to be explained in a broad concept under the context of knowledge management, including new experience, the extended right for learning, the expanded opportunity of learning. Along the line, the level of e-learning development is presumed to represent the level of knowledge management. With respect to the knowledge management pyramid by Rosenberg, the level of e-learning at Kyongju university with limited resources and facilities is assessed through reviewing the university home page and its linking web pages. The results indicate that e-learning at the small-sized university represents most of the characteristics of the primary, document management stage of knowledge management. The on-line interactions between information provider and receiver are not intense, and it explains that the second level of knowledge management is not much developed. This used to be understood as the consequence of lack of infrastructure, which is common in the small-sized universities. However, prior research on knowledge management explains that tacit knowledge is unlikely to be separable from its owner, and so its transformation is only possible by off-line. In addition, interactions with others are known to be the most effective for learning. In other words, dynamic on-line and off-line communities may bring about the stage 3 of knowledge management, in which e-learning system represents the enterprise s intelligence. Community building requires a number of conditions, including the on-line activities parallel with the offline, spontaneous participations, and trust in the organization and its members. The results imply that at the small-sized university, cultural changes are required to reach the advanced level of knowledge management, unlike the past understanding that e-learning preconditions
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