ERIC Identifier: ED465376
Publication Date: 2002-09-00
Author: Spector, J. Michael - Edmonds, Gerald S.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
Knowledge Management in Instructional Design. ERIC Digest.
Instructional designers engage in activities related to the planning and
implementation of instructional and performance support solutions. Available
tools and technologies influence the way in which instructional designers
accomplish their tasks. Knowledge management represents a technology that is
changing how instructional design professionals work. This article will review
what instructional designers do, describe knowledge management, and indicate how
knowledge management is influencing instructional design.
Instructional design (ID)
professionals aim to improve individual and organizational performance. ID may
be defined as a systematic approach to instructional planning that typically
involves a project team analyzing a problem situation, exploring alternative
performance support or instructional solutions, and then planning, implementing,
evaluating, and managing solutions (Richey, Fields, & Foxon, 2000).
This process is often poorly-structured and iterative, involving people from
different backgrounds and areas of expertise. In an instructional design
project, different kinds of resources and artifacts are created: proposals,
memos, analyses, solution strategies, lesson plans, evaluation plans, media
support for lessons, performance data, and so on. According to the International
Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction (Richey et al.,
2000), ID is an engineering discipline with principles, rules, and heuristics,
many of which are sensitive to local conditions (individual learners, specific
settings and resources, learning cultures, and so on).
ID professionals are required to resolve complex issues, such as connecting
learning and performance objectives with assessable outcomes. Several people are
often involved in these problem-solving processes. Some team members may work on
one task/aspect of an instructional or performance solution (developing
assessment measures, for example) while other team members may work on a
different ID problem (for example, storyboarding specific lessons). ID
activities may be accomplished at different times as well as at different
locations. In short, ID is a complex, collaborative enterprise, requiring
careful planning and management in order for goals to be achieved.
Management involves a collection of
activities (such as situation assessment, goal definition, team development,
resource allocation, and so on) aimed at ensuring project/task progress and
quality of processes or products. Knowledge is typically defined in terms of
collections of rules, principles and structured information that enable people
to make decisions and solve problems. Knowledge management (KM), then, is a
technology that focuses on the knowledge involved in a set of problem situations
or in a system.
The notion of a system as a collection or combination of disparate, but
identifiable, components organized to facilitate accomplishment of goals is
essential in order to understand KM. A system is a complex and dynamic
collection of different things, including people, information, administrative
processes, and so on. One aspect of management is to facilitate the effective
and efficient functioning of system components. KM focuses on the knowledge
components within a system; some knowledge may be explicitly represented (in the
form of information databases, policies and procedures, for example) and some
may be implicit (in the form of tacit knowledge, organizational culture, habits,
etc.). One goal of KM is to facilitate the transformation of implicit knowledge
into accessible explicit knowledge that can be brought to bear in relevant
Knowledge management systems (KMSs) are tools aimed at supporting knowledge
management. KMSs evolved from information management tools that integrated many
aspects of computer-supported collaborative work environments (CSCW) with
information and document management systems (Ganesan, Edmonds, & Spector,
2001; Grief, 1988; Kling, 1991). Key characteristics of a KMS are support for:
(1) communication among various users; (2) coordination of users' activities;
(3) collaboration among user groups on the creation, modification and
dissemination of artifacts and products; and, (4) control processes to ensure
integrity and to track the progress of projects.
Systems that support KM provide specific functions related to communication
(e-mail and discussion forums); coordination (shareable calendars and task
lists); collaboration (shareable artifacts and workspaces); and control
(internal audit trails and automatic version control). A user-centered KMS
contributes to an organizational culture of sharing by providing a sense of
belonging to a community of users and by supporting reciprocity among users
(Marshall & Rossett, 2000). KMSs extend the perspective of employees as
knowledge workers by providing them with the means to create knowledge and to
actively contribute to a shared and dynamic body of knowledge. A KMS provides
support for many information functions, including: acquiring and indexing,
capturing and archiving; finding and accessing; creating and annotating;
combining, collating and modifying; and tracking (Edmonds & Pusch, 2002).
These KMS functions allow multiple individuals to organize meaningful activities
around shared and reusable artifacts to achieve specific goals. In short, a KMS
addresses the distributed nature of work and expertise (Salomon, 1993).
Within business and industry, KM technology is being used to support
organizational learning (Morecroft & Sterman, 1994; Senge, 1990). The
dynamics of the global economy place a premium on organizational responsiveness
and flexibility. Partly as a response to the demands of a highly competitive
global economy, KMS technology has emerged as a new generation of information
management systems. In contrast with previous information management systems, a
KMS is designed for multiple users with different and changing requirements.
Key enabling technologies include object orientation, broadband
communications, and adaptive systems. Object orientation provides for the
creation of knowledge objects that can be easily found, modified and reused.
Broadband communication allows users separated in time or space to work on large
data objects effectively as a team. Adaptive systems recognize that different
users may have different requirements and preferred working styles.
A KMS can be viewed as an activity system that involves people making use of
objects (tools and technologies) to create artifacts and products that represent
knowledge in order to achieve a shared goal. Previous information management
systems focused on a small portion of such a system, such as a narrow set of
objects in the form of a collection of records or simple communication between
team members. A KMS embraces the entire activity system but maintains a focus on
the human-use aspects (people with shared goals) as opposed to the underlying or
enabling technology aspects. KMSs have already met with significant success in
the business sector and are spreading to other sectors, including education
(Marshall & Rossett, 2000) and instructional design (Ganesan et al., 2001).
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT IN INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN
ID is a
complex, collaborative activity involving teams whose members are often
distributed in different locations. Consequently, it is natural to use a KMS to
support ID. For example, the European Commission Fifth Framework AdaptIT Project
involves the use of a KMS in the design and development phases of ID (Ganesan et
al., 2001). Project Advance(r) at Syracuse University makes use of a KMS in all
aspects of ID (Edmonds & Pusch, 2002). The ability to provide communication,
coordination, collaboration and control makes it possible for an ID team to
minimize time spent on mundane tasks (such as tracking documents and reconciling
different versions) and focus on higher-level problem-solving activities
(analyzing perceived problems, determining how to improve solutions based on
outcome assessments, and so on).
The enabling technologies associated with KM (e.g., object orientation,
broadband communication and adaptive systems) are also prominent, leading-edge
educational technologies (see, for example, Wiley, 2001). The ability of KM
technology to support school-based learning has been demonstrated (Marshall
& Rossett, 2000). The ability of KM technology to promote collaboration
among instructional designers has also been demonstrated, as indicated in the
aforementioned projects. KM issues being addressed by ID researchers include:
(a) the granularity of learning objects suitable for promoting effective
learning and reuse; (b) the modes and types of communication appropriate for
different users and tasks; and, (c) adaptive systems to support instructional
design and development. The extent of transformation within ID communities of
practice remains to be seen as the marriage of KM and ID is relatively recent,
but the potential is enormous.
In conclusion, KM tools and systems are beginning to be used for the design
and development of instructional systems and learning environments, and ID
practice is changing as a consequence. For example, concurrent ID engineering is
now more prevalent when KM is integrated with ID (Zucker & Demaid, 1992).
There is a history of interaction between technology and instructional design.
This interaction is evident in the design of learning environments. The Web
provides a recent and visible example of technology influencing how
instructional designers structure courses and plan learning activities. KM
technology can be integrated into an instructional delivery framework (Marshall
& Rossett, 2000). However, there is far-reaching potential for KM technology
to influence all phases of instructional design-analysis and planning as well as
implementation, delivery and management. KM tools and technologies have the
potential to affect patterns of interaction among those who design and develop
instruction, such as instructional designers, developers, content experts,
system integrators, graphics artists, and media specialists. Specifically, a KMS
enhances the communication, coordination, and collaboration among such a team
while improving long-term productivity by facilitating access, archiving,
retrieval and reuse of a variety of learning objects and instructional
REFERENCES AND RELATED READINGS
Edmonds, G., & Pusch,
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