Teaching to learn and learning to share @ University of Johannesburg

Abstract: Knowledge and information sharing has become synonymous with the concept of creating value and power for organisations. Knowledge is being recognised as a valuable asset and the promotion and dissemination of information and knowledge in its internal workings has the aim of creating learning organisations. The sharing of information and knowledge creates a community where participants can collaborate with each other in achieving their goals. In a knowledge management course in the Department of Information and Knowledge Management, at the University of Johannesburg (South Africa), students are introduced to these concepts as part of their training to pursue various careers as information and knowledge workers within organisations where these concepts have to be applied Using a philosophy of teaching by example, students are encouraged to share information and knowledge, making use of discussion boards in a virtual learning environment as part of a multiwmodal learning approach that includes facewtowface lectures as well as an online interactive environment. Discussion topics are provided in line with a case study that students are requested to analyse. Students’ reflections on the learning that has taken place, based on the responses to the discussion topics, form part of the case study analysis which is assessed. The purpose of the research is to gain insight into the effectiveness of information and knowledge sharing in a virtual environment using discussion boards in terms of its impact to generate a learning culture. A mixed methods approach is applied to 210 registered students in a second year group and 123 registered students in a third year group by monitoring their discussions on allocated topics. Firstly, content analysis methodology is applied to assess the knowledge sharing that is taking place in the virtual environment. Secondly, a survey is conducted at the end of the discussion period to determine student experiences, perceptions and opinions on the knowledge sharing process and is used to adapt and develop the course design. Thirdly, students are required to reflect on the learning experiences as part of the submitted case stUdy analysis assignment. The discussion monitoring will investigate the following variables: (1) student participation rates, frequency and patterns; as well as (2) cognitive and meta-cognitive components of student messages. The survey and reflection will be used to assess the students’ (3) perception of learning through sharing; (4) experiences of group dynamics and (5) their perceived individual performances based on the discussion groups. This research includes an investigation of using different group dynamics to compare the experiences of students being managed in a randomly selected group as opposed to students signing up to a group of their own choice. It is hypothesised that the findings from this research will provide important answers required to facilitate students with diverse skills and socio-economic backgrounds in their cognitive and metacognitive development for information and knowledge sharing when making use of online discussions boards.

Mearns, M.A. & Jacobs, L. Teaching to learn and learning to share: assessing a culture of sharing amongst Information and Knowledge Management students in a virtual environment. In: Kimiz Dalkir (Ed.): Proceedings of ICICKM 2009 – The 6th International Conference on Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management & Organizational Learning. McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Academic Conferences Limited, 2010: 326-334.

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