2015

Knowledge Sharing Practices Amongst Lecturers

A case study of the False Bay TVET College, Muizenberg Campus.

 Introduction

Managing knowledge has become a critical component for organisational success in an increasingly competitive environment.

Once generated, knowledge needs to be distributed quickly and widely used. Academic institutions are confronted by number of challenges that can be alleviated through sound knowledge management and sharing practices.

The proliferation of information has transmuted competitive success to be based on comprehensive knowledge and intellectual capital management.

TVET colleges are the cradles of innovative knowledge. They possess a rich collection of intangible assets. The study explored the knowledge and information sharing practices of lecturers at False Bay TVET College, Muizenberg campus.

Objectives of the Study

The Department of Higher Education (DHET) aims at transforming TVET colleges to become institutions of choice able to compete with the mainstream universities for students. As a result, attaining academic excellence and innovation in research are critical components for TVET colleges to make a mark.

The DHET identified lack of industry linked experience amongst lecturers and low through-put rate as some of the challenges being experienced by the FET college sector. Advancement of a knowledge sharing culture would assist in ameliorating some of these.

Thus, if colleges can promote the concept of knowledge management to create a learning environment where lecturers are willing to share, innovate, store, and use knowledge, teachers and students will benefit from the teaching activities and learning effectiveness.

For example if teaching methods, teaching experience or industry knowledge (tacit knowledge) of the best lecturer can be identified and codified into explicit knowledge (written documents) and provided as a reference guide to the other teachers, their skills will be enhanced and the teaching and learning aspect is enhanced. The collective knowledge possessed by individual employees is more than the sum of the knowledge possessed by individuals and thus competitive advantage is attained. Transmission of pedagogical knowledge can be enhanced through sound knowledge management practices where lecturers can share their tacit and explicit knowledge amongst each other.

The study aimed to answer the following research questions:

      1. What knowledge and information resources are academics sharing?
      2. What ICT facilities are provided by the college that enhances knowledge and information sharing?
      3. What are the problems that academics encounter in knowledge sharing?

Methodology

A survey method was used to collect data. An online questionnaire was developed using Google drive. The questionnaire was distributed online to 25 lecturers and 16 responses were received and analyzed. Content analysis of electronic discussion forums provided by the college was also conducted. Analysis focused on the Lecturers Lounge platform hosted on Blackboard.

Literature Review

Knowledge is abstract, epistemologists have been constantly trying to uncover its real meaning as it cannot be observed or touched.

Knowledge is at the cornerstone for an organisation to attain sustainable operational capacity whilst confronted by the rapid industrial and technological shifts. An organisation is set to achieve more when tacit and explicit knowledge interact spirally under effective knowledge sharing and transfer. Knowledge management aims to transform personal knowledge into organisational knowledge through innovation, storage, sharing, and exploitation of knowledge, so as to help the organisation seek higher performance, and better competitiveness.

Sharing knowledge involves communicating knowledge within a group of people with the aim of utilising available knowledge to improve group performance. Effective knowledge management processes supported by effective knowledge sharing can greatly improve work quality, efficiency and competency that can benefit the organisation positively. There is a general misconception that knowledge management is mainly applicable to enterprises and not existent in an academic space. Knowledge sharing is important when solving complex and interdependent problems.

Analysis and Discussion

Among the 16 lecturers that took part in the study 10 (63%) indicated that they have been with organisation for more than 4 years. This represents a vast knowledge base that comes through years of experience within an organisation.

Twelve (1)2 which represent 75% of the respondents, indicated their willingness to share knowledge with their colleagues. The use of various knowledge sharing platforms is quite evident at the Muizenberg campus with the most preferred medium being email. Analysis of the responses showed that a culture of knowledge sharing does exist at the campus. Responses showed that majority of the lecturers are free to share their knowledge and resources.

However, the few barriers which were identified to inhibit knowledge sharing were mainly of an organisational nature. The following barriers were identified after the analysis of the results:

  • The use of the technology in knowledge sharing and training thereof;
  • Lack of rewards for sharing knowledge;
  • Employees fear that sharing their knowledge and resources with their colleagues may put their jobs at risk because someone else might benefit from their information;
  • Some lecturers are of the opinion that what they know is not valuable or beneficial for others therefore there is no need to share it.

The respondents were asked about the knowledge resources they share among themselves. Table below indicates that the lecturers mainly share books, audio visual materials and their personal collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books

11

69%

Journals

6

38%

Abstracts

3

19%

Theses and dissertations

4

25%

conference papers

3

19%

Personal collection

6

38%

Newspapers

5

31%

Audio-visual materials

10

63%

Other

1

6%

 

Respondents were asked whether they used electronic resource sharing platforms and social networking mediums to share knowledge.

Sixty (60%) of the respondents indicated that they do not make use of the electronic discussion forums. Content analysis of a platform that was created on Blackboard to facilitate knowledge sharing amongst lecturers confirms this as little activity was observed on that platform.

The diagram below shows the interaction that has taken place on Blackboard as communities of practice (CoP) platform where lecturers are expected to interact and cross pollinate their tacit and explicit knowledge.

Since inception only 6 lecturers have participated in the discussion forums and this accounted for 10 posts. Respondents also demonstrated limited use of social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Blogger and Twitter as knowledge sharing tools. 65% of the respondents alluded to the fact that they did not make use of social networks to share their knowledge and resources.

  • Facilities provided by the college that enhances knowledge sharing

ICT facilities play a significant role towards the enhancement of knowledge sharing. 

The following facilities were identified as present by the respondents: library and college website, computer labs, telephone, online discussion platforms, fax, wireless connection, notice boards, college magazine, college research journal.

 

ICT and other facilities

Available

Not Available

College website

16

0

Computer lab

16

0

Telephone

16

0

Online discussion forum

14

2

Video conferencing

0

16

Virtual learning environment

0

16

Fax

16

0

Wireless connection

16

0

Notice boards

16

0

College magazine

16

0

Face to face discussions

16

0

 

Conclusion and recommendations

From the questionnaire survey, it was revealed that a knowledge sharing culture does exist amongst the academic staff members. All the respondents confirmed their understanding of the importance of knowledge sharing.

Very few individual barriers were identified as inhibiting factors to sound knowledge sharing practices. The main obstacles identified were organisational barriers and these included IT support, lack of adequate training in the use of web 2.0 applications as knowledge sharing platforms, lack of incentives and the lack of electronic resources provided by the library.

The study recommends that the college looks at the problems and comes up with the means to enhance the knowledge sharing practices amongst lecturers at Muizenberg campus. The college needs to encourage lecturers to make use of electronic discussion forums to share their tacit and explicit knowledge.

In a knowledge based economy, colleges need to produce employable graduates hence the implementation of knowledge management concepts in schools becomes increasingly critical.

Reference

Bhatt, G. D. (2001), Knowledge Management in Organisations: Examining the Interaction between Technologies, Techniques, and People. Journal of Knowledge Management, 5(1): 68-75.

Cheng, Ming Yu (2012) Knowledge sharing in academic institutions: a study of Multimedia University of Malaysia. Electronic journal of knowledge management, 7(3): 313-324.

Shim, S.H. and Roth, G.L. (2008) Sharing Tacit Knowledge among Expert Teaching Professors and Mentees: considerations for Career and Technical Education Teacher Educators. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 44(4): 5-28.

Yu, Chieng, Yu, Tsai Fang and Yu, Chin Cheh (2013) Knowledge sharing, organizational climate and innovative behavior: a cross-level analysis of effects. Social behavior and responsibility, 41(1): 143-156.