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KM goes to school

Today's graduates are being trained to evaluate business needs and find the best KM technology to help their employers reach their goals.

By Kim Ann Zimmermann

As the next wave of college graduates hits the job market, there will be a select group who have been trained in knowledge management systems. These graduates will have studied the latest trends in KM systems, database management, search engines and other technologies.

While there are only a handful of college programs throughout the country that incorporate knowledge management into their computer science and library science curriculums—includingJames Madison University, George Washington University, University of Denver, and Marshall University—industry observers predict that in the next few years more colleges will offer KM studies as part of their undergraduate and graduate programs.

"Considering that knowledge management has become such a hot technology issue, it is surprising that there are so few undergraduate and graduate programs focusing on the topic," says Bob Kolvoord, associate professor of information systems and technology at James Madison. "As we see more of a focus on the sharing of knowledge in the business world, leading-edge businesses are going to drive more widespread teaching of this discipline."

While most of the programs have been around less than a decade, graduates have gone on to work as IT professionals and consultants in some of the most prestigious firms.

"We've got graduates in IT capacities in companies all over the country," says Kolvoord. "Many of our graduates are in IT consulting, and work for large consulting firms evaluating and implementing knowledge management systems. The real exciting thing is that even our veteran graduates are only 27 and 28 years old, so they still have plenty of time to make an impact on all aspects of knowledge management in all kinds of industries.

"The goal of our program is to provide our graduates with broad training on the strategic use of information and knowledge management systems," he says. "We want to train our students how to work in a team environment and effectively manage knowledge. We want to provide them with enough of a technology background so that they know if a vendor is snowing them."

The James Madison program focuses on database management, workflow simulation and modeling, software engineering and multimedia. "Our seniors do a year-long project and many choose to do software development work," he says.

One recent senior project dealt with a subject near and dear to many college students--beer. In this case, the students developed a program for Coors Brewing Co. (coors.com) to provide reports and statistics on equipment calibration and sanitation.

"The students took the system from a paper-based process—where people were simply logging in a book when they had cleaned or calibrated equipment—to a totally automated system." Now, Kolvoord says, the equipment at the brewery is properly maintained on schedule, and management can view reports regarding the status of the maintenance on any particular piece of equipment.

Kolvoord notes that internships are an important part of the program because they enable students to hone their understanding of the business world and learn how KM systems are applied in various industries and corporations. "We rely on business and industry to provide us with feedback about what kind of training they want to see in young people who will be involved in knowledge management systems," Kolvoord says.

The program has 750 to 800 majors, and 30% to 40% of the students are women. While Kolvoord says James Madison's program has been successful in recruiting student in the New York metropolitan area, the university is making an effort to recruit students from across the country. The program includes an introduction to programming in HTML and Visual Basic. Courses then cover software and database development, modeling and simulation, knowledge-based and ANN-based intelligent agents, object-oriented software engineering, multimedia systems and emerging intelligent systems technologies.

James Madison's program has just started to include course work on data mining technologies, a discipline that Kolvoord views as critical. "We've done this as an exploratory offering, but we view it as important," he says. As knowledge management expands its reach, students need to be aware of how knowledge is shared and extracted within the organization as well as how it is shared with others outside the organization.

George Washington University has an extensive graduate program devoted to knowledge management. The university offers knowledge management as a concentration for its master's and doctoral programs. The program looks at the application of management best practices and information technologies that benefit an enterprise in attaining its objectives efficiently and effectively. The courses examine KM's role in obtaining a competitive advantage, improving customer service, increasing return-on-investment and providing faster time-to-market. Students study the identification, capture, analysis, storage, retrieval, transfer and sharing of knowledge within an enterprise.

In addition, George Washington University's Knowledge Management Graduate Certificate program is a six-course, graduate-level program designed to cover the theory, principles, practices, strategies, processes, tools and technologies associated with knowledge management. KM is well beyond the fad stage, and has finally emerged as a serious candidate for an academic discipline, according to Michael Stankosky, lead professor of knowledge management at the university.

Also offering a master's program in knowledge management is George Mason University also. The program concentrates on the use of knowledge management principles and approaches used in business, including intellectual capital, human capital, customer capital, tacit and explicit knowledge, the new role of the chief knowledge officer and leveraging knowledge management. The program puts a special emphasis on Web-based KM systems. Aside from the technological aspects of KM, the program examines the cultural and process challenges involved in introducing KM into an organization.

The University of Denver offers an advanced certificate in knowledge management designed for information professionals working in organizational environments where knowledge is a critical asset. Knowledge management creates and preserves the intellectual capital of an organization by selecting, digitizing, repackaging, creating, organizing and disseminating tacit and explicit knowledge.

Dominican University offers post-graduate studies in knowledge management. The school's Graduate School of Library and Information Science Center for Knowledge Management offers a certificate program in knowledge management that can be credited toward a master of science degree in knowledge management, a master's degree in library and information science, or a master's degree in business administration.

Baylor University has incorporated data mining technologies into the courses required for its information systems undergraduates. The college also offers an MBA program with a concentration in customer relationship management (CRM). The program looks at technologies such as call centers, sales force automation and databases for building customer loyalty.

Kim Ann Zimmermann is a free-lance writer, 732-636-3612, e-mail kimzim2764@yahoo.com

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