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Gaining KM “cred” in graduate school
Academic programs help forge career paths

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Knowledge management spans numerous disciplines, so it is not surprising that graduate level programs in KM have their roots in diverse fields. Some have emerged from library science and focus on the management of information, including records management. Others come from an IT perspective and offer enterprise information systems or database management programs. Organizational development programs may offer KM masters or concentrations. Others address the analytic aspects of knowledge management, educating students in traditional analytics, big data and data science. Some programs provide a combination of fields, integrating management and technical skills in an effort to bridge the persistent gap between business and IT.

The bottom line is that many options are available for obtaining formal education in knowledge management and its related fields. What they have in common is that they tend to be aimed at mid-career individuals who want to augment their existing skill set with new capabilities or to launch an entirely new career. Most of the programs are structured as online part-time courses, allowing working individuals to advance their careers. Those that are not fully online may offer a blended approach of on-campus and online or an executive approach of having classes on a limited number of days (Friday evening and Saturday, for example) to allow employed individuals to participate.

This article describes a sampling of the programs offered by several universities in knowledge management and profiles students who have taken the programs. A list of additional programs is found following and also on page 10, KMWorld, Vol 25, Issue 2.

Kent State knowledge management program

One of the first knowledge management graduate programs introduced is the Master of Science degree program at Kent State University
(kent.edu/slis/master-science-knowledge-management-concentration). Introduced in 2001 as Master of Science in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management (IAKM), the program is offered under the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS). Several dual degree options are also available, as well as a Ph.D. through the College of Communication and Information, of which SLIS is a part. All courses are taught online asynchronously, although instructors can offer optional synchronous sessions.

The master’s degree concentration in knowledge management requires a minimum of 42 credits, including core and required courses, electives and a capstone experience. SLIS has strong partnerships with other departments at Kent State University; students can take electives such as enterprise architecture from the School of Digital Sciences and business analytics from the College of Business. Students in those other programs also take KM courses, which provides an interdisciplinary set of peers.

“One of the courses that makes our program somewhat unique is Knowledge Organization Structures, Systems and Services,” says Jeff Fruit, interim director for SLIS. “We’ve heard from employers and graduates that having this background really gives them an edge in their KM careers.” The course provides an introduction to knowledge organization systems used in networked environments and an understanding of the “functional, philosophical, logical and linguistic fundamentals of knowledge organizational structures.” It also provides instruction on thesaurus, taxonomy and ontology construction.

Edwin K. Morris, who graduated from the IAKM program in December 2012, is a U.S. Army combat veteran who served in Iraq. He continued working at the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Center of Excellence at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., when he returned from his last deployment in 2006. His organization was implementing knowledge management systems at the time, and Morris obtained a certificate in the field. “That got the fire started,” he says. “I wanted to pursue knowledge management as a profession, as an evangelist.”

He identified the online master’s program at Kent State as a good match for his needs and enrolled in the program in 2010. One area that interested him was the user experience. “Having data is great,” he says, “but having it in a useful format is better and having it in a purposeful way is optimal.” He valued the skills and experience Kent State provided, including such projects as conducting a social network analysis for an organization. “The coursework translated exactly into my day-to-day work,” he adds. “It was astounding and invigorating.”

In 2012, Morris founded a company called Pioneer Knowledge Services (PKS) to assist nonprofits in capacity building around cultural knowledge development. Knowledge management is a way to fortify working relationships and improve project outcomes while strengthening and defining the culture. Currently PKS is establishing a podcast program called Because You Need to Know. This program gathers information from nonprofits and knowledge management experts to gather and disseminate insights that can help others.

Columbia University—Information and Knowledge Strategy Master’s Program

Founded in 2011, the Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) master’s program at Columbia evolved from two previous programs dating back to 2006, one in library science that focused on information and archive management and one in digital resources management. The program begins in August and lasts 16 months, with eight core requirements, two electives and a two-course capstone project that entails a structured consulting project for an organization to help implement new or improved information and knowledge processes or increase revenue.

IKNS is one of the few knowledge management programs that has a residency requirement. “We have three very intensive residencies of four to five days each,” says Katrina Pugh, director of the IKNS program. “The first one takes place in August at the beginning of the program, followed by one in April and a final one in August. During the residencies, students work together on cases, as well as having special lectures, seminars, professional workshops, career advisement, coaching sessions and networking events.” Most of the additional course work is conducted online, each course having weekly live lectures, required online discussions and team collaborations.

The focus of the program is on information management and collaboration. In the realm of collaboration, students learn how to share tacit knowledge, how to grow social capital and how to develop and execute strategy. “We want to teach people what kind of organization they need to build in order to get the work done,” Pugh explains. The framework needs to be more than people, process and technology. “We see the domain as a more complex ecosystem with many structures, such as knowledge networks, all within a culture that is set by the leadership,” she adds.

Students are drawn to the program for its cross-industry skills such as business analytics and information governance, as well as to the real-world experience gained through the capstone project. They also report that they value the professional relationships with high achieving peers, an IKNS community of practice that includes instructors and industry connections as well as their fellow students. In addition, they credit the program with enabling them to take new approaches to business problems and evaluate them in a more comprehensive way.

The average age of students in this program is 35, and 30 percent already have a graduate degree. Over half (55 percent) work in data, analytics or research, and 70 percent are at the management level or above. Half the students are in the New York metropolitan area, while others come from as far away as Italy, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Recent graduates include the VP and senior associate general counsel of a major financial services company, a director of technology at a leading pharmaceutical company, an entrepreneur and a Navy SEAL chief warrant officer.

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