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Jun,2014

Knowledge Management Systems (KMS) for Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s)

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Knowledge Management Systems (KMS) for Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s)

 

RTO’s and the Knowledge Challenge

 

By LearnCorp Training Pty Ltd

 

 

Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s) are in a state of flux. The regulatory changes taking place in today’s training and development environment are placing pressure on RTO’s in more ways than one. One of the main challenges for small RTO’s is the loss of staff to other industries and with them a great deal of experience. The main challenge for large RTO’s is the depth and breadth of their training operations which can dilute the organisation’s evolution as it becomes harder to learn from each training program and use that learning to improve the next training program.

 

 

The value of learning, development and training is exposed to Return on Investment (ROI) considerations to a greater extent than in the past and this means that lessons learnt from delivering training and assessment need to be better captured and better used for continuous improvement of the RTO.

 

 

Knowledge Management Systems (KMS) have been in existence since the early 1990’s. KMS present a possible solution to both large and small RTO needs in terms of capturing and managing knowledge. KMS solutions have evolved with the advent of social networking and with cloud technologies and allow organisations to subscribe to what was previously considered too expensive-a-solution for RTO’s.

 

 

The value of knowledge has also evolved. Organisations worldwide are distinguishing between data, information and knowledge in realising that the “useful” portion of these three elements has a value attached to it. Both monetary and absolute value is linked to knowledge. For RTO’s the knowledge gained from running many tens of training programs is often not captured and remains in the mind of the trainer. Lessons learnt from delivering training programs are valuable in improving the delivery of enhanced products and services by the RTO, but those lessons are often confined to a Trainer Feedback Report with limited interest or incentive for the trainer to complete the report.

 

 

Knowledge Hierarchy

 

 

The hierarchy of information for an RTO in order of significance or value is:

 

 

1. Data

2. Information

3. Knowledge

4. Intellectual Capital

5. Intellectual Property

 

 

Assessment results are an example of data. Once this data is analysed and stored in a way that can be retrieved, it becomes information. Knowledge is the utilisation of this information by combining it with other pieces of information and producing a new concept, idea or training product. For example, the assessment results become knowledge once they are incorporated with a tool to develop higher quality assessments. Alone, the assessment result was information, but combined with two other information units, all three became knowledge. This knowledge now has greater value than the three components separately. If combined with the experience of a good trainer and assessment material developer, this knowledge rises to the level of Intellectual Capital (IC). IC can be officially recognised and is then termed Intellectual Property (IP).

 

 

The pivot point in this hierarchy is the gathering of data and information in such a way that knowledge creation is facilitated. The transition to IC and IP is then natural. The real challenge is in the gathering and the making of information available in a way that can be interpreted and used by trainers and RTO administration staff. Without this link, IC cannot be realised.

 

 

Tacit Knowledge and Documented (Codified) Knowledge:

 

 

Knowledge itself can be distinguished into two categories depending on the form in which it exists. Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that resides in the head of a trainer about how well a particular training program is going. Whilst this knowledge can be passed on, built upon, developed and has great value, it flows in one direction. Codified knowledge, on the other hand, is stored in a medium that allows instant access by other RTO staff.

 

 

The problem with tacit knowledge is that it is generally difficult to document. Firstly, it is next to impossible to be able to document the knowledge of twenty years’ experience of a trainer, for example. Secondly, knowledge changes every time it is used. This is because it multiplies as it is applied to information and this grows into further knowledge and so forth. What is the solution then to converting tacit knowledge into codified knowledge?

 

 

The Transition from Tacit to Codified Knowledge

 

For data to be assigned a “real” value, it must be transformed into codified knowledge. The transformation of raw data in an RTO often entails the following steps:

 

 

  1. Recording data on a medium other than the original paper form it was recorded on
  2. Conglomerating data sets and combining them
  3. Statistical analysis
  4. Presenting the results in tabular or graphical format

 

 

The processing is done by software that is able to automatically scan the contents of the database or Intranet and seek commonalities, trends, relationships and regression between the contents. As an example, multiple training and assessment results from multiple training sessions using multiple trainers will start giving us an idea of what works and what doesn’t in the training room. The knowledge on the database is now codified and has more value than before it was treated.

 

 

Using Knowledge as a Source of Competitive Advantage in Training and Development

 

 

There are many ways in which knowledge can be used to gain competitive advantage for RTO’s. Some of the ways in which knowledge can be used to gain value are:

 

 

  1. Using knowledge as a source of market information on training needs
  2. Leveraging trainers and assessors’ knowledge (human capital) and bringing it into the knowledge and intellectual capital equation
  3. A knowledge “package” could be created for a particular training market segment to resolve a specific market problem through training programs

 

 

Hence, codified knowledge and subsequently intellectual capital can be converted into improved training by RTO’s and improved access to wider markets. These enhancements may have monetary value and/or social and educational value.

 

 

Human capital and intellectual capital form the core value, through which other complimentary assets in an RTO could be used to make improve service delivery and profits. These other assets could be marketing, R&D, trainee relationships and learning material quality. The greater the difference between the original piece of data and the resulting codified knowledge, the greater value the organisation has been able to extract from its work. Human capital, being trainers and RTO administrators, as mentioned, is a key component.

 

 

Documenting, Codifying and Using Knowledge:

 

 

The single most important aspect in a KMS is the human element of knowledge management. Technical solutions are abundant and do not pose a great challenge when compared to convincing fellow workers to contribute their knowledge to the RTO KMS. There are methods with which one can build processes and procedures that encourage knowledge contribution and management, but this will be the topic of another discussion. The goal here is to identify what should be documented and how to document it.

 

What should be Documented?

 

Trainee data, assessment submission trends, trainee experiences, what was done in the training session, how it was done and the reason behind the success or failure of the training are all examples of what should be documented by the RTO and entered into the KMS to be able to create knowledge for the next training session or program.

 

How is it documented?

 

Via word documents, text, audio, video, graphics or electronic documents. This is of great importance in order to capture historical knowledge before it is lost and to be able to create further knowledge.

 

 

Conclusion:

 

Information can be converted into knowledge, which has value for RTO’s. This knowledge should be in a format that is mobile and easy to handle and access by RTO administrators and staff. The more knowledge is used, the greater its value. Also, the greater the difference between the original information and the codified knowledge, the more the RTO has been able to extract value from that information. Human aspects of knowledge management are the most difficult to develop, but daily operational-level processes at the RTO may assist in building knowledge-based, value adding training organisations.

 

Further Reading:

 

Allee, V. (1997). The knowledge evolution: Expanding organisational intelligence. Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann

 

Sullivan, P. and Sullivan P. (2000) Valuing intangibles companies. Journal of Intellectual Capital Management 1, 328-340.

 

Hagstrom, R. (2000). Latticework. ISBN 9781587990007. Cengage Learning

 

Jones, G. and Sallis, E. (2001). ISBN 0749434953Knowledge Management in Education: Enhancing Learning and Education. Taylor and Francis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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