Knowledge Management System for Academics

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1 Knowledge Management System for Academics Ms. Heera Barpujary Department of Business Administration Tezpur University 1. Introduction Knowledge is power was rightly coined by Francis Bacon way back in the sixteenth century (Skyrme, 1999). But, what is knowledge? People often confuse between information and knowledge as the line of demarcation between information and knowledge is very blurred. The literature reveals an established hierarchical relationship among data, information and knowledge. Data can be defined easily as raw facts, which can be expressed in terms of numbers, symbols, text, images or voice, etc., representing quantities, actions and objects. Saint-Onge (2002) defines information as organized data. For Drucker (2001), information means data endowed with relevance and purpose. Gordon et al. (1984) added the dimension of the recipient to the definition, which states information to be the data that has been processed into a form that is meaningful to the recipient. Nonaka (1994) defines knowledge as information possessed in the mind of an individual. It is personalized or subjective information related to facts, procedures, concepts, interpretations, ideas, observations and judgment (which may or may not be unique, useful, accurate or structurable). According the Vance (1997), knowledge is information that has been authenticated and thought to be true. Maglitta (1996) defines knowledge as information made actionable. In order to compete in the emerging knowledge-centric economy, organizations around the world have undertaken various initiatives to manage their most important yet volatile asset knowledge. In this era of Information Technology and Internet, the term coined for the 1

2 management of this valuable asset is Knowledge Management. In order to implement the concept of Knowledge Management in an organization, Knowledge Management Systems (KMS) are designed, so that there can be proper utilization of this asset for improved organizational performance. Like other organizations, academic institutes can also enhance their performance, if they get a platform to share their knowledge. In order to develop a successful system, it is very essential to know the requirements of the users. In case of the academic institutes, the users are primarily the academicians and the students. This paper aims at identifying user requirements for designing a KMS for academic institutes. A home page of a Knowledge Management Portal for the students and faculty members of the Department of Business Administration, Tezpur University is also designed, considering the user requirements, observations of the Knowledge Management Portals of corporate sector and other academic institutes. 2. Knowledge Management (KM) and Information Management (IM) Knowledge Management is a systematic process of retaining, organizing, sharing and updating knowledge that is critical to individual performance and organizational competitiveness. It refers to systematic and organizationally specified process of acquiring, organizing and communicating both tacit and explicit knowledge of employees so that other employees may make use of it to be more effective and productive in their work. KM is the process of transforming information and intellectual assets into enduring value. It connects people with the knowledge that they need to take action, when they need it. The table below illustrates the differences between Information management and Knowledge management. 2

3 Table 1: Difference between Knowledge Management and Information Management INFORMATION MANAGEMENT 1. Deals with explicit knowledge available in books, journals, patents and databases, etc. KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT 1. Deals with tacit knowledge that resides in the individual s mind like gathering lessons learned, benchmarking the process for best practices, gathering common problems and solutions, etc. 2. Timeliness, accuracy, veracity, speed, cost, security, efficiency, space, storage, retrieval, delivery and manipulation of data and information are the issues of central concern. 3. Concerned with managing the structured and formalized information, which can be easily identified, organized and distributed. 2. Creation, innovation, learning, understanding and validation are the core issues. It is basically concerned with critical thinking, sharing of experiences, failures, and best practices. 3. Basically deals with unstructured, informal and hidden knowledge which cannot be easily identified, extracted or managed as it resides in one s mind 4. Information is managed to be used by individual and institutional users. 5. It is usually not concerned with the actual process of knowledge creation or innovation. 4. Knowledge is managed to support individual and group learning. 5. It is concerned with the actual process of knowledge creation, innovation, sharing and its utilization for increasing communication among people and within 3. Knowledge Management System (KMS) the organization. KMS are Information system designed specifically to facilitate the codification, collection, integration and dissemination of organizational knowledge. It is a complex aggregate of 3

4 organizational infrastructure, information flow and supporting software for systematically dealing with the organization s knowledge. Nowadays, it has become a trend to setup a KMS in an organization be it a corporate sector or an academic institute. 3.1 KMS in corporate sector The interface design of the Wipro s Knowledge Management portal named Kalpa Vriksha and BSNL Knowledge Management portal are studied in detail. From the study, the following features are observed. The portals are intranet based. Authorization is required. Message boards, Document Manager and facility are present. Both internal and external news are present Discussion Forum and Best Practices are also included. Online training and Links to other important websites are present. 3.2 KMS in Academics Kuswara (2001) presents the knowledge management implementation in an Indonesian leading IT school (Bina Nusantara University). The figure shows the BINUS K-Net architecture. Figure 1: BINUS K-Net architecture. 4

5 Kidwell et. al. (2000) identified some academic processes where KM can be applied. They are: Research Curriculum Development Dealing with Students and Alumni Administrative Services Strategic Planning Considering the academic processes identified by Kidwell et. al (2000) and from the observations of the interface design of KM portals of the two corporate houses and an university two questionnaires are design to obtain the requirements of the two most important users of a KMS for academics viz. the academicians and the students. The survey method is adopted for this purpose. 4. Data Collection 4.1 For academicians The study chiefly utilizes primary data to fulfill the stated objectives. This is done through a sample survey of academicians, where attempt is made to gather information regarding their job requirements. Details regarding data collection sampling procedure, sample size and study location are as follows. Study Population: Sampling Unit: Individual academician Extent: Eastern India Survey period: JULY 2007 SEPTEMBER 2008 Sampling Procedure: Judgement Sampling Sample Size : 56 The profile of the respondents is shown in the table below. 5

6 Table 2: Profile of the Respondents Discipline Computer Science Management Total State Assam West Bengal Sikkim Orissa Jharkhand Total For students The study chiefly utilizes primary data to fulfill the stated objectives. This is done through a sample survey of students, where attempt is made to gather information regarding their study requirements. Details regarding data collection sampling procedure, sample size and study location are as follows. Study Population: Sampling Unit: Individual student of MBA 3rd semester Extent: Department Of Business Administration, Tezpur University Sampling Procedure: Convenient Sampling Sample Size: Findings From the survey results conducted for the academicians, the following inferences are drawn. 1. Respondents are research oriented and have high need for journal information (96%) and the recent trends in a particular research area (95%). 2. Respondents require summarized information. 79 percent of the respondents preferred to get a ready reference list of all publications in a particular topic. 6

7 3. Respondents mostly like to work alone. 95 percent of the respondents searched information on their own. 4. Most of the respondents are receptive. 61 percent of the respondents wanted to know about the different teaching methodologies. 71 percent of the respondents wanted to know the names of experts in a particular area. The fact that the editorial section is the second preference in reading a newspaper indicates the need for current/expert opinion. 5. Respondents want easy access to information. 77 percent of the respondents want to get access to databank. However they will prioritize what they would like to follow up. This has been inferred from the reading pattern where majority said they preferred to go through headlines of the newspaper instead of sequential reading. 6. Respondents like to keep themselves up-to-date. 95 percent of the respondents wanted to know about the recent trends in a particular area. 7. Respondents play multiple roles in their work place. Apart from being a teacher and a researcher, academicians also played roles of the Head of the Department, Placement Co-ordinators, Examination Co-ordinators, Laboratory Supervisor, Course Co-ordinator, Webmaster, Procurement In-charge, etc. 8. Respondents are techno-savvy. 82 percent of the respondents felt the need for an information system to aid them in their administrative work. From the survey results conducted for the students, the following inferences are drawn. 1. Respondents want easy access to information. 82 percent of the respondents prefer to get study materials. 2. Respondents searches for subject related information. 89 percent studies textbooks, 75 percent go through reference books. 3. Respondents are techno-savy. 100 percent search information from the net. 4. Respondents play multiple roles. Apart from being a student, they also play the role of 7

8 Prefect, Asst. Prefect, Class Representative, Student Council Representative, FORMEX co-ordinator, Event co-ordinator, Hostel Cultural Committee member, Mess manager, etc. 6. Proposed design of the homepage of the Knowledge Management Portal Considering the findings of the user requirement study and the observations of the Knowledge Management Portals of two corporate sector and the academic institute, the login page and the home page of a Knowledge Management Portal for the students and faculty members of the Department of Business Administration, Tezpur University are designed. The screenshots of the both the login page and home page are displayed below. Figure 2: Login page of the KM portal 8

9 Figure 3: Home page of the KM portal 7. Conclusion Use of technology for enhancing the capabilities of an organization has been gaining momentum. In this prospect, academics institutes also need to keep up with the pace. The study is an effort to gear up the momentum of academic institutes with the use of new technologies like KMS. Further, the development of a full fledged KM portal will facilitate knowledge storing and dissemination and ultimately contribute to enhancement of capabilities of academicians and students of an academic institute, resulting in organizational effectiveness. 9

10 References Drucker, P. (2001), Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Harper Business Press, NewYork, NY. Gordon, B., Davis, M. and Olson, H. (1984). Management Information Systems: Conceptual Foundations, Structure and Development, 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, NY. Kidwell, J. J., Linde, K.M.V. and Johnson, S.L. (2000). Applying Corporate Knowledge Management Practices in Higher Education. Educase Quarterly, 4, Kuswara, A.A.U. (2001). An Experience in Knowledge Management System Implementation at Indonesia Leading IT School. ISMICK Nonaka, I. and Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, p. 58. Saint-Onge, H. (2002), Linking knowledge to strategy, Conference on Strategic Planning for KM. Singh, S.P. (2007). What are we managing knowledge or information? The journal of information and knowledge management systems. 37(2), Skyrme, D. J. (1999). Knowledge Networking: Creating the collaborative enterprise. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann. 10

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