The Importance of Knowledge Management in Higher Education

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Jon Hill
4 mins
college campus paths representing knowledge management in higher education

Colleges and universities contain a lot of knowledge. We’re not just referring to the wealth of education and wisdom institutions pass on to their students, but the massive amounts of useful data scattered across databases, physical filing systems, and siloed within various teams and departments. From process documents and training materials to internal reports, competitive intelligence, and project findings, just thinking about the sheer volume of disorganized information is enough to trigger a headache.

Worse, all too often, teams are perpetually recreating the same documents and materials because they can’t locate the data they need, don’t have the time to chase it down, or don’t realize it even exists. That translates into potentially hundreds of hours that could be better spent elsewhere.

It’s a frustrating but common challenge across institutions of all sizes, but luckily, there is a solution. Today, we’re delving into knowledge management in higher education—what it looks like, how it works, and a few ways you can use a knowledge engagement platform to solve your biggest gripes:

What is Knowledge Management in Higher Education?

Knowledge management (KM) is a process for creating, storing, organizing, using, and sharing information within an organization. When data is centralized, it’s much easier to find what you need, communicate across departments, and ensure everyone is on the same page. It also supports more efficient and effective employee training and allows you to benefit from previous efforts rather than re-creating the same data and documents over and over (and over) again.

Initially, KM was developed by information systems experts for businesses and has gained popularity in customer support, sales, IT, marketing, operations, and more. Recently, there’s been significant interest within academia for more modern, user-friendly KM solutions.

In the higher education world, knowledge management means relying on tech tools and solutions that support the storage, organization, and dissemination of information across an institution. This way, everyone can find what they need when they need it and, so long as the solution is cloud-based, they can access information from anywhere at any time. This allows everyone to work in a more streamlined fashion and saves people hours of extra work locating specific data and informational assets.

KM offers colleges and universities the same competitive advantage it provides the business world. When everyone has access to all the information they need to do their jobs effectively, the entire organization benefits. 

What’s Driving Knowledge Management Trends in Higher Education?

Adopting knowledge management is a significant change for some institutions—particularly those that have long relied on more traditional types of information storage. So, what’s driving the interest in overhauling those processes for technology-driven KM?

There are three big trends behind this evolution:

1. A shift toward tacit knowledge transfer

When it comes to KM, there are three different types of knowledge: explicit, implicit, and tacit knowledge.

  • Explicit refers to knowledge that’s easy to write down, share, and otherwise articulate—for example, the steps of a process.
  • Implicit is the application of explicit knowledge, such as the types of skills you can transfer from one job to another or the ability to follow the steps of a given process.
  • Tacit knowledge is what you gain from personal experience and is much more challenging to express—for example, how a salesperson can tell when a prospect is ready to buy.

While more traditional forms of KM can only capture explicit and implicit knowledge, a knowledge engagement platform can help you capture all three. For example, a frequently updated Q&A section or recorded videos and phone calls can help newly hired admissions and enrollment reps get up to speed.

2. An interest in integrating all software solutions

Today, higher education institutions use CRMs, enrollment management tools, digital communication platforms, and other e-business solutions to streamline processes and support evolving goals. It simply makes sense to also modernize knowledge management and transfer with the right software—especially if you can integrate it with other tech tools.

3. A desire for rapid innovation

The higher ed space is becoming more competitive every year, and now, more than ever, it’s essential you stand out from your competition. But how can you innovate when you’re mired in outdated processes and unable to access the information you need to act quickly and focus on the big picture?

KM backed by a knowledge engagement platform supports innovation by making information broadly accessible.

Knowledge Management in Higher Education: How Universities Use This Tech

So how exactly are colleges and universities successfully applying knowledge engagement platforms?

Transferring knowledge between staff to foster collaboration

If you’ve been at a loss for how to break down departmental silos and get teams cooperating toward common goals, a knowledge engagement platform can help. When information can be stored and shared seamlessly, there’s no excuse to keep it to yourself—especially if you have a clear knowledge management framework in place.

Reduced research and development time

Imagine how much easier it would be for teams to develop new courses and curriculums if they had instant access to the entire institution’s course catalog, curriculum data, student feedback surveys, test score trends, and other relevant information.

And think of all the possibilities when it comes to research. Teams no longer have to start from scratch. When all previous studies, reports, and data are in one convenient location, researchers can considerably reduce their timelines.

Improved staff training

The first few weeks or months in a new role can be overwhelming. With so much new information to take in, it’s easy to forget things, make mistakes, and feel a little alone. Plus, until a new employee makes their way up the learning curve, they’re not as productive or efficient as more experienced team members.

KM supported by a knowledge engagement platform improves training by ensuring new employees have access to all the information they need to do their jobs well—thereby shortening the learning curve and empowering new team members from day one. And the self-service model means they don’t have to track down a subject matter expert every time they have a new question. It’s a win for everyone.

Higher education is rapidly changing and, to stay ahead of the competition, you need to give your teams every possible advantage. Knowledge management in higher education can significantly boost efficiency, productivity, collaboration, employee satisfaction while also fostering high-level strategy and innovation. By adopting a knowledge engagement platform, you can help overcome some of your institution’s biggest hurdles and meet its most ambitious goals.

August 5, 2021

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