This guest blog post looks at the 4 main advantages of integrating knowledge management with eLearning and how this can help L&D teams and organizations train their people.
eLearning is an incredibly important field that relies on ever-evolving tools to provide compelling, impactful learning experiences to users. It’s no surprise that the market for digital workplace training is expected to grow considerably over the next half-decade, with analysts anticipating that it will hit a value of $325 billion within this period.
In an eLearning context, knowledge management solutions can be invaluable, especially when it’s a complex eLearning program, possibly a blended learning program, that could or it’s hosted in a new system that learners might not be familiar with. Online knowledge hubs allow companies to store corporate wiki-style information that both customers and employees can access easily. So, in the case of eLearning, knowledge management software can act as a means of providing essential information to learners, while also streamlining the support processes involved in running a successful eLearning course.
There are lots of examples of knowledge bases being put to good use, but you might be wondering how best to integrate one effectively in the eLearning sphere. Let’s look at 4 advantage to integrating knowledge management with eLearning.
Advantages of integrating knowledge management with eLearning #1: Creating distinct learning ecosystems
The first thing to consider is the fact that there are several key differences which distinguish the traditional architecture of eLearning from that of knowledge management.
In the case of eLearning, systems are typically developed to deliver information in a linear manner, providing a set of fixed resources for users to harness in order to build their understanding of a topic. This doesn’t always leave room for reflexivity; instead the assets of a course are usually set in stone, providing a clear learning journey without the expectation of regular changes, additions or contributions being made by third parties.
Knowledge management, on the other hand, is typically a more fluid ecosystem that is augmented and expanded from a multitude of sources, rather than being amended by a single, central entity such as the L&D or HR team.
There are strengths and weaknesses to both approaches, but ultimately these suit the end-goals. With knowledge base software—much like the social features available on learning videos—significant gains can be made by encouraging users to make their own contributions. This can help to boost the pool of information that is available for others to use without eating into the resources that are available to the organization.
It is this counterbalancing of features and functions that makes a potential case for companies to integrate knowledge management with eLearning. You can retain the consistency of the latter while benefiting from the malleability of the former, sacrificing nothing in the process.
Advantages of integrating knowledge management with eLearning #2: Happy users
Whether a participant in an eLearning course is being brought up to speed on business systems or taking compliance training, ameliorating the experience and ensuring that the information they take in sticks around long after its conclusion is essential.
Traditionally, the structured nature of eLearning has led users by the hand, while knowledge management has given them more free reign to search for information themselves, according to their moment-to-moment needs. This has changed in recent years, with searchable eLearning making it more efficient to identify pertinent points for study.
Developing an understanding of a topic in this way has been streamlined, with eLearning helping to remove the barriers between the user and the courses that will benefit them the most. With knowledge management, however, it’s possible for user-generated knowledge to be taken into account. From this, a wider audience can reap the benefits, while also providing the potential for new courses to emerge and develop.
Once again, the option to leverage user-generated content within eLearning has become available and is seen as a preferable approach in many cases. If anything, knowledge management is influencing the evolution of eLearning and we could eventually reach a point at which integration will be less necessary.
Advantages of integrating knowledge management with eLearning #3: Structural similarities
When it comes to integrating knowledge management with eLearning, under the surface, both can be surprisingly similar.
This is expressed in a variety of ways—for example, both eLearning and knowledge base software must provide the means for users to communicate and collaborate with one another. An element of customization should also be available, while the ability to regulate access to each service should also be present and correct.
This means content should not be designed to operate on one platform or the other, but should instead be tuned to work well on either. After all, knowledge bases fulfill an educational and instructional role in much the same way as eLearning courses, even if they seem superficially distinguished.
It is sensible to overcome any preconceptions and accept that the design and development of an eLearning course can be carried out along the same lines as you would to populate a knowledge management system. In short, the relationship between the two can become symbiotic, with the data gathered from the way users harness a knowledge base then used to inform the decisions you take with regard to developing eLearning services.
Advantages of integrating knowledge management with eLearning #4: Knowledge conversion
The main hurdle that needs to be overcome when migrating information from a knowledge base to an eLearning course is that of how best to turn unstructured, potentially disparate data into a cohesive, usable form.
Knowledge management systems can consist of tacit information provided by individual users who are contributing according to their own experiences. Through integration with eLearning, you need to be able to overcome the issues of fragmentation and find a way to express this information explicitly, avoiding ambiguity.
Mapping out the available information prior to this transformation will be hugely helpful, letting you lay the foundations for eLearning success using the building blocks provided by knowledge management.
Emerging AI technologies are streamlining this process at the moment, but those preparing for manual knowledge management integration in an eLearning context still need to be prepared for a lot of manual work and intervention.
About the author: Emil Hajric
Emil Hajric is the Founder of Helpjuice, a leading knowledge management platform used by large and medium-sized enterprises. He is an expert in knowledge management and author of ‘Knowledge Management: A Theoretical and Practical Guide for Knowledge Management in Your Organization‘.