Concepts and Solutions for Knowledge Management (KM) Infrastructures as Back-office for Virtual Learning Spaces
Prof. Dr. Ludwig Nastansky, Groupware Competence Center, University of Paderborn, Germany
Scenario: learning technologies and KM
After years of basic research in network-based learning many concepts and solution approaches are finally gaining momentum for practical application. The driving forces behind this evolution are technology as well as economical needs. On the technology side stand out: matured CBT-products, the WWW explosion, the options to widespread inclusion of multimedia data/information types, the performance standards of current user-workstation environments with respect to hardware resources as well as software-based end-user concepts, the growing bandwidth of network access for stationary as well as mobile workplaces, or the emergence of stable and powerful distributed system environments providing organizations with capabilities to include training and KM-services within the framework of their existing transaction and messaging platforms.
The economical drivers are likewise manifold: the internationalization of business with their demands of comprehensive concepts for worldwide corporate training, the high costs of classical training with their physical prerequisites of same-time and same-location training environments, the increasing speed in the half-life of useful corporate knowledge (especially with respect to IT-oriented skills), the increasing speed in time-to-market cycles of new products and services, the widespread re-organization of business towards process-oriented management concepts (i.e. lean management, business process re-engineering, virtual companies, paradigm shifts to team-oriented approaches).
Fig. 1: Knowledge Integration Process
Given this background the presentation will focus on the necessary infrastructure for KM within the operational office environments of an organization on a daily basis, to effectively support learning, training as well as personnel development. Effective networked-learning in an organization is not possible by out-sourcing essential corporate knowledge assets, like: content creation, capabilities to use and maintain tool environments for operational content delivery, process infrastructures for managing comprehensive training system approaches, assessment concepts integrated with development strategies for employees, or transfer concepts for newest internal and external R&D results into the corporate knowledge-pool (Fig. 1). To achieve all the value goals within an organization related to these areas it is necessary to develop and tightly integrate KM-infrastructures with education and training, especially if delivered using a network-based learning system environment.
Groupware-based IT-infrastructures for integrated networked learning and KM
In the presentation we will exploit these necessary strategic demands. In addition, we will present specific examples of computer-based KM-applications which follow the lines of integrating KM and networked learning systems. These comprehensive solutions have been developed together with various partners in industry using Lotus Notes groupware as a framework for innovative KM-applications and networked learning/training approaches. We will present effective solutions for KM-models which in their user-interface approaches intuitively fit the mind-set of an average user in her daily operational work in an organization (Fig. 2). Furthermore, we will present an advanced KM-application, integrating a multifaceted and categorized KM-repository for rich data-types including multimedia, the static organizational structure of the involved entities (i.e. people, departments, roles, workgroups), and the process workflow for the dynamics of knowledge creation and usage. These easy to use groupware-based KM-approaches are tightly integrated with process-oriented teaching, training and learning concepts based upon the Lotus "Learning Space" system.
Fig. 2: Example of user-interface for knowledge-access (project: BMW)
Our learning-model follows a learner-centric approach, the learners being in a (physically) distributed and virtual environment organized within networked learning groups. The learning content is defined within a curriculum infrastructure and embedded in a "media-center". It can be accessed in learning threads defined by the "schedule" component of the system. Only part of the content is given at the begining of a course. An important complementary part to this given content is to be created by the learner teams themselves and to be relayed into the predefined curriculum placeholders in a highly structured manner. The learning process is supported by teachers/trainers being in the role of coaches and communication catalysts rather than content providers. This teaching model is realized on basis of the Lotus "Learning Space" product.
Our virtual back-office approach is relying on a networked paperless-office system. The paperless-office is putting forward the functionalities for communication, collaboration, and coordination necessary to support the typical infrastructure for clerical work at the workplace. This team-oriented and groupware-based back-office system is acting as a virtual campus environment. It allows asynchronous work with respect to time and place, thus giving the teachers all their liberty for optimally allocating their resources to a specific teaching/training process (class, workshop, seminar, training unit, personell development project). The virtual back-office includes the functionalities necessary to run a department, part of this being: correspondence handling with versatile forms and standard document building blocks, project management, concise structuring and multi-categorizing of information entities ("knowledge nodes"), reporting and archiving, static organizational modelling with graphical tools (definition of organization charts, team/committee creation), a graphical workflow modelling tool, a workflow runtime engine. This back-office infrastructure is grounded on the "Espresso" groupware framework.
The groundwork for this presentation and for the solutions presented has been laid by: (1) ten years of research and application development of groupware based prototype-systems for KM within organizations, (2) seven years of experience in developing commercial groupware application systems (Lotus Notes/Domino) for virtual office infrastructures and information management, for the commercial as well as the public sector, (3) five years of experience in developing and deploying network-based teaching and learning environments (including Lotus Notes "Learning Space") for higher education as well as corporate training environments, (4) development of an advanced groupware-based KM framework ("Espresso") being marketed by industrial partners internationally (Pavone AG, Notesware Ltd.), and (5) partnership in three current projects directly related to the topics of this session stream (KM in banking, KM in R&D of an automobile manufacturer, and KM within the context of an international distance learning project for the Hospitality&Tourism MBA training market).
Multimedia-based life presentation
The presentation, including multimedia, will be completely performed on basis of the "virtual campus" environment of the speaker. This PC-based virtual campus has grown over 10 years of using groupware for teaching and KM. It includes the typical entities defining the static structure of a real campus (the virtual campus back-office), the lecture hall and seminar room environment (virtual teaching and learning spaces), as well as the additional prerequisites of a real campus enabling communication, content creation, research, or project work (the tools combining the virtual back-office with the virtual lecture halls for KM-purposes, i.e. virtual libraries, communication and collaboration network).