Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Strategic Plan 2005-2010

Got a comment?

Send your ideas to strategicplan@

Report Brief

Transforming e-Knowledge: A Revolution in the Sharing of Knowledge


This report traces the three primary indicators of e-knowledge transformation: 1) Internet technologies, interoperability standards, and emerging e-knowledge repositories and marketplaces, 2) enterprise infrastructures, processes, and knowledge cultures; and 3) cascading cycles of reinvention of best practices, business models and strategies for e-knowledge.


Forces Enabling and Stimulating the e-Knowledge Industry

  • Investments in infrastructure and best practices by "early adopters" of e-knowledge deliver results that encourage wider adoption, and also facilitate new generations of enterprise applications.
  • Global enterprises increase competitiveness by developing faster ways to manage their knowledge and their strategic learning, creating tools that non-experts can use.
  • Growth in expert networks and easier, more productive participation in communities of practice push e-knowledge practices and competencies.
  • Increasing sophistication by users, who develop an appetite for services that provide significant gains in their capacity to access and assimilate knowledge.
  • Advances in Internet and intranet-based capabilities enable jump shifts in creating and accessing knowledge stores.
  • Innovations in mobile communications provide ubiquitous access to perpetual learning solutions as well as new ways to meet demands for e-commerce any place or time.
  • Insight into new and more effective ways of experiencing knowledge drives innovation.
  • Increased understanding about how to deploy international standards in ways that ensure useful return on investment stimulates continued investment.

Understanding e-Knowledge

  • e-Knowledge: digital representations of content and context become e-knowledge through the dynamics of human engagement with them.
  • e-Knowledge is digitized content and context that can be "atomized," repurposed, updated, recombined, metered, and exchanged.
  • e-Knowledge includes explicit knowledge and means of dealing with aspects of tacit knowledge, such as its transfer.
  • e-Knowledge enables the development of processes and marketplaces for the exchange of digital content that have never been possible.
  • The e-knowledge industry consists of all of the parties involved in the creation, storage, enhancement, combination, and exchange of e-knowledge.

Paths to the e-Knowledge Future

  • e-Knowledge will change how learners experience knowledge, especially just-in-time knowledge and tradecraft-rich knowledge. In the process e-learning and knowledge management will both grow and become fused.
  • Knowledge age learning will focus on the strategic needs of the enterprise, not just filling competency gaps or developing human capital for future use. Strategic, enterprise learning will balance between structured/directed learning and unstructured/autonomic learning.
  • Directed learning (i.e., learning directed and designed by the enterprise for individuals, teams or the entire enterprise, in response to changes in strategy, culture, new products, or market conditions) will be launched by enterprises to communicate and change their strategy, culture and/or products and services. It will involve individuals, teams or the entire enterprise.
  • Autonomic learning (i.e., learning that originates within the enterprise, as determined and shaped at the grassroots level by communities of practice) will originate within the enterprise, initiated by individuals and communities of practice at grassroots level. It relies on enterprise infrastructures but will not be explicitly directed by enterprise level leadership.
  • Expeditionary migration paths to the e-knowledge future will be enabled by changes in Web technologies, standards, and marketplaces for e-knowledge. A second driver will be developments in enterprise knowledge ecologies - infrastructures, processes, capabilities and cultures. These two forces will enable cascading cycles of reinvention in enterprise best practices, business models and strategies for both e-learning and knowledge management.
  • In the future, the term e-learning (i.e., the use of networked ICT to enhance, extend, and enrich learning experiences, changing access to knowledge and revolutionizing he patterns, cadences, and depth of interactivity.) will describe a part of every learning activity. The "e" will be redundant. The "e" in e-knowledge management, e-knowledge and e-business will also be redundant.
  • e-Learning will lose its identity as a distance, take-time-out-for-it activity. As it does, e-learning and e-knowledge management infrastructures and activities will be more closely linked. Ultimately they will be fused. All e-learning and e-knowledge management activities will become fast, fluid, flexible, and fused.

Technologies, Standards, and Marketplaces for e-Knowledge

  • e-Knowledge Standards: Emerging standards will enable e-knowledge to be captured, understood and re-applied in new contexts. This includes standards for metadata (i.e., data about data), learning management, content modularization, knowledge management, workflow and performance support.
  • Web Infrastructure: The development of the Semantic Web, Grid computing and Internet2 are enhancing the capacities of the World Wide Web and Internet. Technical standards and protocols are essential to mainstreaming these next generation capacities.
  • Applications Integration: Web services related technologies (XML-eXtensible Markup Language, SOAP-Simple Object Access Protocol, UDDI- Universal Description, Discovery and Integration and WSDL-Web Services Description Language) will enable disparate applications and platforms to communicate and engage data easily and seamlessly.
  • These developments will enable the development of enterprise repositories for collecting, maintaining and exchanging e-content, context and narrative for learning, research and other forms of scholarship.
  • Cross-enterprise marketplaces for e-content will become major factors in most industries. Such marketplaces will open previously unattainable secondary markets for e-content.

Infrastructures, Processes, Capabilities, and Cultures

  • Over the past decade, enterprises have enhanced their capabilities for processing knowledge. Most have been tinkering with aspects of their knowledge ecosystem, not truly transforming their capacity to share knowledge. But over the next few years, new enterprise infrastructures, portals, Web services, Learning Content Management Systems, and community building technologies will support a seamless web of interoperable applications that will support altering the enterprise knowledge ecology. These user-centric infrastructures will feature a personalized experience gateway through which users will engage products, services, and knowledge utilities of great power and amenity.
  • These new infrastructures provide more than a return on investment (ROI). They will yield a strong value on investment (VOI) based on their capacity to yield "soft benefits" such as supporting process reinvention and innovation, knowledge management, communities of practice, individual and organizational capabilities, and new leadership. These strategic benefits are essential to changing the enterprise's knowledge ecology.
  • Enterprises will focus on the strategic use of knowledge. They will change the dynamics of their operations through productivity enhancements, increased collaboration and innovation. Communities of practice will become predominant organizational form in the e-Knowledge Economy. They will be the epicenter of autonomic learning and the development of individual and organizational capabilities.

Best Practices, Business Models, and Strategies

  • The next several years will witness dramatic advances in Web technologies, standards, e-knowledge marketplaces, enterprise infrastructures, processes, as well as individual and organizational capabilities to handle e-knowledge. As a result, enterprises will experience cascading cycles of reinvention in their best practices for e-learning and knowledge management.
  • e-Learning and knowledge management will be pervasive, integrated into enterprise activities, and for all practical purposes, fused. These cycles of reinvention are starting today in leading-edge enterprises. They will accelerate and continue for decades. Many of the new practices will come from new competitors and from outside North America.
  • New business models and strategies will emerge that capitalize on the changing value nets for knowledge. The new business models will reduce the unit cost of content and knowledge and create new combinations of knowledge, experience, and performance that can command market premiums from users. As revenue streams are readjusted, enterprises will need to aggressively open new marketplaces for their knowledge. Communities of practice will become the dominant organizational form for creating and stewarding knowledge, spawning new mechanisms for creating insights and synthesis.
  • In the process of these cycles of reinvention, enterprises will reinvent their knowledge ecosystems-infrastructures, processes, competencies, and cultures.


10 Ways to Accelerate Your Readiness for e-Knowledge

  1. Engage the enterprise on the subject of e-knowledge. Use storytelling to explore how individuals already experience knowledge. Mobilize energies from grassroots to CEO and Board.
  2. Develop a knowledge strategy for the enterprise that brings into alignment:
    1. management of the enterprise's knowledge assets
    2. the enterprise's business plan to achieve mission and goals.
  3. Support a wide variety of knowledge management and community of practice pilots throughout the enterprise. Enable different expeditions and multiple trajectories, operating in parallel.
  4. Scan the environment for examples of changing best practices, business models, and strategies; collect competitive intelligence on market leaders and innovators both from inside and outside the industry. Energetically benchmark e-knowledge practices.
  5. Establish reducing the cost of knowledge sharing as an important enterprise goal. Begin to put in place the infrastructures, policies, processes, and mechanisms to achieve that goal.
  6. Take a "Value on Investment" (VOI) perspective to planning form your organization's ICT infrastructure and knowledge ecology. Develop visions, plans, and strategies for your Enterprise Applications Infrastructure and Solutions (EAIS), shaped by VOI and guided by perspectives on potential e-knowledge jump shifts.
  7. Focus on key elements of Enterprise Applications Infrastructure and Solutions (EAIS):
    1. Web site and portal capabilities to create the "experience gateway"
    2. fusion of mission-central applications
    3. progressive implementation of Web services
    4. wireless initiatives and mobile work/learning pilots.
  8. Initiate change in the enterprise knowledge ecology:
    1. process reinvention and innovations
    2. change the knowledge culture
    3. elevate the understanding of knowledge flows, communities of practice, and knowledge as social interactions
    4. make the enhancement of individual and enterprise e-knowledge capabilities an organizational priority for human resource development.
  9. Monitor the latest developments in standards and processes for knowledge sharing. Translate into clear explanations and stories about the implications of e-knowledge standards for the enterprise.
  10. Develop policies, protocols, and infrastructures for knowledge asset management and external knowledge sharing. Participate in internal and external e-knowledge sharing to acquire experience and develop and hone these capabilities


Norris, D., Mason, J., & Lefrere, P. (2003). Transforming e-knowledge: A revolution in the sharing of knowledge. (The National Center for Education Statistics. (2003). Ann Arbor, MI: Society for College and University Planning.

Submitted by R.M. Johnson, May 2004. This is a report summary and excerpts are quoted directly from the text.

The campanile

Iowa State was the first chartered land-grant institution.