Brian Nielsen spoke on "Knowledge Management in the University: Emerging Technologies and Trends at Northwestern" this evening to a very small crowd of KMPro regulars. Nielsen has been at Northwestern for 20+ years, spending the first part of his career in the libraries (Ph.D from UNC). He is now working with the IT organization, and he teaches some courses.
As Nielsen sees it, the focus for knowledge management-like activities in the university is on the students, rather than on the faculty who are generating the content. This is partially due to the size of the school - it is difficult to provide a solution to faculty and administration that serves the wide variety of needs. It's difficult to even get them talking about common needs, much less agreeing on an approach. In addition, technologies are fast changing the libraries and the university.
The meat of Nielsen's talk outlined a number of interesting projects that he and his colleagues are pursuing at the university. The most interesting is their course management system, Blackboard. It isn't so much knowledge management as it is a great example of how to get quick adoption of a new technology. This particular technology solved a need for the faculty: ease the administration of courses, and make it easy to create a website for a course. Nielsen and others worked closely with the early adopters among the faculty to show them how it would help, and these people then gave positive reviews to the other faculty, encouraging them to use it. Blackboard ties the students in as well, as they can have one place to see the activity in all the courses they are taking. Several other ongoing projects are using Blackboard as a jumping-off place, since it is so well-adopted.
Another project in development is a combination of an expertise system with e-learning: e-Portfolios. The idea is to create a better mechanism for rating students as they learn and demonstrate skills. Rather than giving them grades in a course, instructors (and other students?) could rate them in specific skills and provide examples where possible (attached papers and reports). The hope is that this kind of portfolio could help students target their education and their future work, based on what skills they have and need. Similarly, employers could use this information to find students that have the right skill profile, instead of the correct academic profile. This also implies a number of privacy concerns.
Stay tuned. The next KMPro meeting (2nd Tuesday of every month) may have someone from Microsoft talking about the CKO Summit.