Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Learning and Knowledge Management are 2 sides of the same coin

In practice, learning management (LM) and knowledge management (KM) fields have evolved down separate paths. The two fields use incompatible technology infrastructures and are divided by the words they use and by some of their fundamental assumptions about users. In a corporate context LM and KM have been kept separate from an organisation structure point of view (Dunn and Iliff, 2005). In most of the firms, the LM community and the KM community work on different problems, do not really speak the same language, use different tools, rely on different authors, and base their work in different concepts (Hackett, 2001).

In the past few years, attention has been shifting towards the importance of KM in corporate and academic learning environments. Researchers and companies are starting to recognize relationships and intersections between LM and KM research fields and to explore the potential and benefits of their integration (Stacey, 2000; Hall, 2001; Hackett, 2001; Efimova and Swaak, 2003; Dunn and Iliff, 2005; Grace and Butler, 2005; Lytras et al., 2005; Sanchez-Alonso and Frosch-Wilke, 2005). In this paper we go a step further and argue that LM and KM solutions have to fuse and that we should speak about union and fusion of the two fields rather than intersection or complementary relationship between them. In this sense LM and KM can be viewed as two sides of the same coin. There are several commonalities between LM and KM. The two fields are increasingly similar in terms of input, outcome, processes, activities, components, tools, concepts, and terminologies.

In terms of input, LM and KM deal with learning and knowledge which themselves are two sides of the same coin. Learning is the foundation of knowledge (Allee, 1999). The future of learning is written in the future of knowledge (Downes, 2004). Learning is a peer to knowledge. To learn is to come to know. To know is to have learned (Siemens, 2006). Learning is knowledge and social skill that has to be learned and continuously improved. It is one of the new basic skills of the future (Hodgins, 2000). Similar to knowledge, learning consists of different types comprising learn what, learn why, learn how, learn where, and learn who (Chatti et al., 2006a). In the KM literature, learning is often closely related to knowledge. Sfard (1998) presents the knowledge-acquisition metaphor of learning, representing a view according to which learning is mainly a process of acquiring desired pieces of knowledge. Based on Nonaka and Takeuchi´s SECI model, Paavola et al. (2002) point to the knowledge-creation metaphor of learning, meaning that learning is seen as analogous to innovative processes of inquiry where something new is created and the initial knowledge is either substantially enriched or significantly transformed during the process. Moreover, learning and knowledge share a similar nature; both are complex, dynamic, human and social.

In terms of outcome, LM and KM have as primary goals the production of knowledge claims and learning resources, how to connect people to quality knowledge as well as people to people. Both aim at enhancing the personal and professional performance and increasing the ability of any individual, project team, or organisation. LM and KM are supposed to be means to improvement and effectiveness. Similar to KM, acquiring new knowledge is itself not the purpose of learning. We learn in order to better perform, integrate the gained knowledge in our daily work to solve problems and achieve the desired end result, create innovative knowledge and better ideas that lead to more success, and share our own knowledge with others. In that sense, a learner becomes a knowledge worker. That is, someone who doesn’t just consume knowledge but who is able to create it.

Furthermore, LM and KM share common processes, activities, tools, concepts, components, and terminologies. Similar to the knowledge creation process, learning is an action-oriented process and a social activity. Learning is not a mechanical, static, linear process, nor one that can be understood by examining any of its components outside of its systemic context. It is a very human, dynamic, and complex flow that resembles an organic structure more than a mechanical one (Hodgins, 2000). The tools, concepts, and components that fall under KM are becoming key enablers of LM. For example, CoP, one of the major tools of KM, have been supposed to be closely related to learning. The theme of learning was a prime driver for the concept of a CoP in its initial form. As Lave and Wenger (1991) introduced the concept of a CoP, the examples given (non- drinking alcoholics, Goa tailors, quartermasters, butchers and Yucatan midwives) were concerned with apprenticeship which is a form of learning (Kimble et al., 2001). Wenger (1998a) also views learning as a social system within CoP. Moreover, the three major components of KM, namely knowledge repositories, communities and networks, and experts and knowers, form also the key components of LM. In a LM context, we speak about learning repositories, learning communities, and learning experts, i.e. facilitators, coordinators, and mentors. Furthermore, there are common words that are used by both fields. Terminologies that are currently being applied in the learning context, such as learning management system (LMS), learning object, learning asset, and learning base, are in fact borrowed from the KM field (Chatti et al., 2006a).


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Other posts related to the same topic:

Knowledge Management and Learning
Knowledge Management and Informal Learning
Knowledge Management and Learning - Separated at Birth? - Where They Really?
KM & learning: separated at birth?
KM and Learning

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