Communities of Practice in your LMS: A hidden KM tool
Instructional Design

Communities of Practice in your LMS: A hidden KM tool

What makes knowledge so hard to capture? Why, despite all efforts to capture the right content for a seemingly “performance-based” training, you are unable to get satisfying reviews on your eLearning content.

What is missing?

You had all the latest digital objects integrated in the course. The graphics were interactive. There was even a scenario-based decision maker section. Something with a storyline to keep them engaged.

Want to know what was missing?

The tricky tacit and explicit knowledge sharing. In this article, we will define knowledge and how using your LMS, you can share tacit and explicit knowledge using some knowledge management strategies.

One highlight of a learning management system is its collaboration within course participants. Extend this to the Subject Matter Experts and popular spokes-person through a defined communication framework and you have a community of practice in action!

How would that help you create better eLearning?

Ever heard of the phrase “listen to the market”? It’s Business 101. Tapping into daily conversations of a community of practice will help identify learning gaps (eLearning course topic) and how (eLearning course content) these gaps need to be fulfilled.  Engage all learners in a transparent, open-to-all discussion board directly under the course. Encourage honest comments. There are several ways to do that using your learning management system. Discussions and perspective exchange is actually an important knowledge sharing strategy. In this article, we dig into the science behind the knowledge-sharing tools and reveal how they can be implemented using the features of your learning management system.

Bear in mind, we are not trying to share “best practices” or extensive research within this knowledge sharing environment. Rather, we are sharing the internalized knowledge of individuals.

In short, actionable knowledge.

What is Knowledge?

Words like “data,” “information,” and “knowledge” are often used interchangeably. But here is how they differ:

Data is a raw fact or figure, without any context. For example, the number 500 is a piece of data, as is the name Amy Jones. As they are, the two pieces of data are meaningless.

Information organized data. So, pieces of information are “Amy Jones is a CEO” and “500 eLearning courses” make more sense now, as they are context specific.

Knowledge combines two pieces of data into context specific “Amy Jones is the CEO of our company, and has 500 eLearning courses in her learning management system.”

Knowledge and information have a fine line that separates them: action. There are also two different types of knowledge, explicit and tacit:

Explicit knowledge is something that is easily presented in the form of a word document, a pdf file, a job aid or an eLearning material. Explaining your front line employees how to manage customer calls effectively is explicit knowledge.

Tacit knowledge is hard to capture, as it is passive in expression but active in implementation! This knowledge is mostly experiential. It’s the stuff you know, but don’t necessarily know that you know.

Create an online Environment for Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge can be shared using the eLearning course development feature as well as collaboration tools existing in your LMS. For example, you can engage employees from the same department to contribute weekly to their “department wiki”. Knowledge in this wiki is “community managed and owned”.

Everyone having access to their department wiki will have the information upon searching for their department specific terminologies. Creating accessibility to explicit knowledge through your learning management system is an excellent example of knowledge management. The key is to assign responsibility to individuals who will monitor, mentor and manage this system.

Communities of practice are created by developing explicit knowledge. The  tools that aid in this process include:

  • Instant messaging and intranet forums.
  • After Action Reviews after significant events
  • Post-Implementation Reviews after a project has been completed
  • Lessons Learned Log
  • Reflections on an experience
  • E-Portfolio
  • Links to “How To? Animated Guides”

Create a LIVE meeting to explicate Tacit Knowledge

Identifying tacit knowledge is an organization’s biggest challenge. Have all seniors and top-level managers involved in establishing a “tacit knowledge gathering exercise”.

Tacit knowledge is best captured in a casual, care-free and relaxed setting. Combine the community of practice developed in your LMS with these LIVE meeting sessions. Both will add to each other. These meetings will enable people to share knowledge and help people connect with one another. The following are popular knowledge management strategies that can be utilized:

NOTE: The goal here is to enhance the quality of explicit knowledge exchange in the community of practice environment created within your LMS.

Rotation of Experts: Have one expert speak LIVE and continue discussions in the community of practice environment.

Shadowing: Job shadowing helps individuals to learn and exchange ideas, network, explore opportunities, give/receive feedback, and collaborate with different departments.

Mentoring: Is the support given by experts to novice to support their own learning? Imagine acquiring access to job-saving resources in a blink of an eye!


Tips on accomplishing Tacit Knowledge Gathering Meetings

  • Create department-centered teams – Start with small teams as it is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of information that can be shared. Encourage free flow of conversations based on one problem topic. Remember to continue the same topic in the community of practice environment.
  • You know the biggest barrier to tacit knowledge sharing? The fear of revealing it all, the hard earned knowledge accumulated over the years. Start with the senior members sharing their knowledge and reinforce the practice throughout the meeting. Continue the session in your LMS under specific topic. Remember to take notes for eLearning topics and content.
  • Create a culture of knowledge sharing and reward knowledge sharers both online and in the physical environment through recognition.
  • Baby boomers are the main players of the tacit and explicit knowledge game. Retirement is the main reason why these systems are in place. Before your organization loses its talent and experience, engage retiring staff into developing eLearning courses as well as managing discussions in your learning management systems.

Stay tuned for more strategies to engage online learners through your LMS.


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