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Li, Rita Yi Man and Ah Pak, Don Henry (2012) Strategic universities course management in knowledge explosion age,

International Journal of Information Processing and Management, Vol 3, No.1, pp.26-36

Strategic university course management in knowledge explosion age Li, Rita Yi Man, Department of Economics and Finance, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong, email: ritarec@hotmail.com Ah Pak, Don Henry, Xian Jiaotong Liverpool University, China, email: donpak1@hotmail.com Abstract Modern society has always been regarded as the era of knowledge explosion age. There is more printed material accumulated in our society. Birth of new media such as iPhone, iPad, Youtube, Facebook etc which can share knowledge also complicates the whole story. Strategic management which includes strategic course management and planning has also gained importance. Universities nowadays must be ready to confront if they wish to remain in the top tier. Strategic planning, which places the long-term vitality and excellence of the university, is the solution in our knowledge explosion age. Keywords: strategic management, knowledge sharing 1. Introduction There are getting more and more universities in the World nowadays (Table 1). There are more than 4000 universities in U.S. alone (2079 are public and 1931 are private). Not only the number of universities is growing, our knowledge is growing more rapidly than ever. Gone are the days when students study in library. Books are not as important as that in the past. We have iPad, iPhone, Podcasts, Youtube and Webcast nowadays. Knowledge transmission no longer replies no printed materials which need to be waited for more than 1 years to get published. Web and mobile utilities speed of knowledge sharing and remove the geographical barrier. There is no doubt that our knowledge is exploding. Some people even make jokes that Aristotle cannot survive if he take a time machine to modern World whilst we can survive if we go back -- there are so many new technologies nowadays while old world is simpler. How can universities in our World strategically manage our course in this era? This paper firstly provides a general overview on some important terminology such as knowledge, knowledge sharing and transfer, knowledge explosion, followed by our

suggested solution in strategic course management. Countries United States of America (Campus Party 2010) Australia (Australian Universities.com 2010) China (Study Aboard 2010) Table 1 Universities in the World Knowledge, knowledge sharing and transfer Knowledge is an abstract and broad notion which has brought epistemological debate and attention in western philosophy since the classical Greek era. Knowledge management literature defines knowledge from different perspectives. (Li and Zhang 2010; Li and Ah Pak 2010; Li and Poon 2009; Li and Poon 2011). Knowledge can be viewed as a mixture of contextual experience, information, framed values, shared belief and expert insight that provides a framework for integrating and accessing new information, knowledge and skill, stored in form of common practices inside an organization (Li and Zhang 2010; UK HM Revenue and Customs Department 2011; Li and Ah Pak 2009). Knowledge can also be regarded as valuable commodity for an organization in the context of knowledge economy which can be produced externally (e.g. buy from outside) and internally (create within organization). From this perspective, knowledge can be viewed as an object. Knowledge can also be classified to two types: tacit and explicit. Explicit knowledge is expressed in words and numbers. It can be shared and communicated easily in form of scientific formulae, data, rules and guidelines codified procedures, or universal principles diffused inside an organisation. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is hard to formulize and highly personal (Li and Zhang 2010). It is usually acquired via practices and imitation (UK HM Revenue and Customs Department 2011). Tacit knowledge can be further sub-classified into cognitive and technical. Cognitive tacit knowledge concerns mental models, schemata, perceptions and beliefs which are integrated in our mind. It shapes the way how see the world and how we perform. Technical tacit knowledge is also widely known as know-how knowledge, which is a hard-to-pin-down or difficult crafts or skills. It is acquired mainly through long-term experience. That explains why senior personnel are usually more skillful than junior ones. Yet, personal knowledge has little value until it can be converted into explicit knowledge, shared with others and received by those who need it (Li and Zhang 2010). If knowledge is kept by somebody only but never shared, knowledge has not much value. What is knowledge sharing? We all know that knowledge cannot flow freely as Total number of universities 4010 78 55

air particles. It has to be tied to a subject who knows it well. Knowledge sharing happens when individuals refine a thought or idea with the help of previous experiences (UK HM Revenue and Customs Department 2011). Usually, people share knowledge because they engage in similar activities, share similar interests and hence acquire the similar skills (Li 2010). The process of knowledge sharing, therefore, assumes knowledge holder and knowledge receiver co-exist. The knowledge owners purposely communicate his knowledge. Knowledge receivers observe knowledge. Knowledge as such is then rejected or modified progressively. There are a number of factors which affect peoples motivation in knowledge sharing. For example, top tier managers who encourage their staff to share knowledge create a better atmosphere. Knowledge sharing tactics which conform with organizational planned targets also attract more people to share knowledge (Lin and Lee 2004). And there is also evidence which shows that some factors may have totally different impact on knowledge sharing and receiving. Take for an example, while longer tenure motivates people to share knowledge, it discourages people to obtain knowledge (Wilkesmann, Wilkesmann, and Virgillito 2009). Knowledge sharing, however, is different from information distribution or communication. Reconstruction is required to share his or her knowledge. Knowledge can be shared by means of synchronous and asynchronous communication which includes face-to-face communication or the use of electronic respiratory (UK HM Revenue and Customs Department 2011). From the perspective of knowledge donator, knowledge sharing is the behavior where individuals collectively raise others understanding via the demonstration and articulation of personal knowledge. Knowledge sharing can be used in two ways as identified in exploration and exploitation process. In exploration, old knowledge is shared, synthesized for generating new knowledge. In exploitation process, exiting knowledge is transferred, captured, applied and used in other similar circumstances (Li and Zhang 2010). Similar to knowledge sharing, where more than one parties participation is needed. Knowledge transfer refers to the process where a couple of units are affected by another unit. Knowledge transfer can be classified into two types: inter and intra-organizational. Intra-organizational transfer refers to the knowledge transfer which happens across various departments within the same organization while inter-organizational knowledge transfer refers to knowledge transfer between organizations (Wilkesmann, Fischer, and Wilkesmann 2009). Paradigm shift in knowledge sharing

The popularity of World Wide Web has affected nations from all around the World. Several key elements are identified in our new technological era: knowledge and digital economy, virtual, internet, disinter mediated, convergent, innovative; immediate and global (Mak, 2001). People are evaluating how to reap benefit out of it. Organizations and corporations, especially those medium to large size, have been and are taking advantages of these paradigm shifts in technology (UK HM Revenue and Customs Department 2011), so as universities and journal editors. Paper based journals are now replaced with electronic publications. Many libraries nowadays subscribe E-journals. Number of Open Access journals also grows exponentially. Some traditional journals also follow suite, for example, American Economic Associations offer free access to their journal Economic Perspective. Knowledge explosion age If we ever think of our knowledge base expansion, limited to print publication only, it is still possible and reasonable to imagine a world of text which is copious enough to cover our earth to a depth of one inch up til 1850. Nevertheless, as scholars which include Spencer comments, this is merely the beginning, obviously not the end. Another hundred of years later, amount of printed material has already doubled to a depth of two inches. By 1950, it is expected that he expansion of knowledge to a depth of 36 inches. Only the na ve ones would agree the possibility to contain all the needed curricular learning. Moreover, the unprecedented growth in knowledge does not limit to the printed ones only. Electronic audio and visual forms complicate the present situation. Knowledge expansion is not a complex matter alone by itself. Consider the problem of knowledge access: can former curators of canonthe libraries, schools, and research institution possess the leverage once they enjoyed? Marriage between technology and science create a new applied and theoretical knowledge structures. Fueled by science and technological improvement, a qualitatively different knowledge explosion happens. An examination of the school curriculum is needed (Ellis and Scheuerman 2009). Strategic course management under knowledge explosion age While rapid expansion of the knowledge base inevitably force schools to change (Ellis and Scheuerman 2009), it also highlights the importance of strategic course management. Buckland (2009) states that a formal study of strategy, some best practice strategy can be more quickly and reliably identified, its relation to suitable environments clarified and its implementation for other organizations faces collateral environments. The strategy field is intellectually broad in its disciplinary roots, which range from economics to organizational sociology, and in the problem domains that define its scope of applications. Although this intellectual diversity is both appealing

and a source of robustness, it also poses enormous challenges for the coherent development of strategy as a field, and may perhaps relegate strategy to a low-paradigm status (Pfeffer 1993). Almost a decade later, Steiner (1979) states that strategy:

Refers to basic directional decisions, that is, to purposes and missions.

Consists of the important actions necessary to realize these directions. Answers the question: What should the organization be doing?

Answers the question: What are the ends we seek and how should we achieve them?

Adopting a perspective view, Tregoe and Zimmerman (1980) argues that strategy is the framework which guides those choices that determine the nature and direction of an organization" and to base their decisions on a single driving force of the business from one of nine possibilities:

Method of sale Size/Growth Production Capacity Market Needs Method of distribution Products offered Natural resources Return/Profit Technology

'Strategic management', on the other hand, consists of three related activities:

Choosing objectives for an organization. Positioning the organization relative to others in its market or environment. Steering the organization over time through the policies and decisions that affect its performance. In view of the ever-changing knowledge sharing tools, following Tregoe and Zimmerman (1980)s idea, a clear strategic management is important. The first strategic activity in university during knowledge explosion age is to define management objectives for the organization. Managements second strategic activity is to position the organization, to find their niche within their chosen market or environment. This involves deciding which customers to serve (students), what kind

of services and products (courses) to provide, and how this can be done. It is rarely best to try serving all possible customers in a market, so the strategic positioning involves targeting particular groups and their needs. The choice of what to offer is not limited to the list of products and services, but also includes the characteristics of those items in terms of quality and performance. The question of how this will all be done covers a variety of issues too, such as the marketing messages intended to differentiate products from alternatives, such as course content in our case. Having decided on the strategic course management objectives are and a position where the university might be successful in pursuing those objectives, university management now faces on-going challenge in developing effective policies and making good decisions to steer its strategy and performance. This is the third and final strategic activity management undertakes. These policies and decisions may be both large and infrequent, for example trying to enter into a new market (for example, sell the university places overseas), or continuous and apparently small stuff, such as the salary offer to people. However these apparently small decisions can have substantial implications for the universitys performance outcomes in the future. Choices and decisions may be well-organized into a deliberate strategy, or may evolve as the organization makes any decisions in response to the events. Strategic Planning in Universities The first recognizable strategic analysis of the university found it to be anarchic and ambiguous (Cohen and March 1974). In one of the earliest papers of strategic models for university planning, Doyle & Lynch (1979) state at that time, strategic planning in British universities had made little progress and they specify that:

Universities are highly democratically structured, which makes it slow and

difficult to gain acceptance for any list of priorities or change of direction. The tradition of marginalize or equity is deeply ingrained, whereby academics are extremely reluctant to treat any department unfavourably by reducing its proportion of resources. Universities are not market-orientated course are often established on the basis of what academics feel should be offered rather than where there is a clear evidence of demand. Security of tenure means resources are highly inflexible. It was further noted that three environmental threats which universities faced then: demographic trends as there will be substantial excess capacity in higher education, continued shifts in student demand between subject areas are to be expected and the

expected continuation of financial stringency will increase pressure to transfer resources from areas of low performance to areas of potential high performance. Buckland (2009) states clearly that universities now operate in a complicated environment with some porous boundaries between outcomes and markets. They survive by the collective intellectual innovation and activities of the staff, whose intellectual assets become obsolete very fast unless they choose appropriate route of renewal by further research and scholarship. As we move into the knowledge age (Drucker 1986), universities will play an increasingly large, central and integrated role in society. For example, for organizations in general, the fundamental changes are likely to include (Tischler, Biberman, and Alkhafaji 1998). Establishing a continuous learning and innovation culture and processes throughout the organization that result in high levels of adaptability; Focusing on continuously improving one's products (student outcomes learning) and developing competitive advantages based on mat (e.g., developing, nurturing, and sustaining key resources and establishing a privileged product-market position based on better student learning); Including all relevant parties in setting direction, determining strategies for moving in that direction, and improving efficiency; Keeping a market (customer, society) focuses; and Using vision, including values, purpose, fundamental choices, and a picture of a highly desirable future state, to set direction for the organization and guidance for its people, suppliers, and customers.

Strategic Planning Transformation Similar to any other business, most of the universities now need to manage their budget strategically, and seek additional financial sources. Another issue is the new models of providing higher education and there is an increasing gap between what the public wants and what traditional universities can provide (Rowley, Lujan, and Dolence 1997) and the main purpose of schools in this era is to prepare learners to be the life-long learners, to acquire technological skills for the workplace, to be cognitively prepared for complex tasks, to solve problems and to adapt to changes (Hallinger 1998). As for product, higher education has a wide range of customers as primary customers being students, as secondary customers being employers, local education authorities, and as tertiary customers being ex-students, parents (Conway, Mackay, and Yorke 1987). Furthermore, higher education is viewed as being in both

service and manufacturing will have important implications for the institutional strategic planning process. Besides, the strong economic growth among the BRICS and other developing countries also affect our global universities. When, Mendonca (2010) interviewed the dean of the Graduate School of Business and he stated that: We talk a lot about India and China. Its not just India and China. Its true in Indonesia. Its true in many parts of sub Saharan Africa, which nobody talks much about. But pre-crisis at least, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, and Rwanda were growing at the rate of 6, 7, 8, sometimes 10 percent. And so the requirements of leadership in those countries are really intense, because youre looking for leaders who can take organizations and really very rapidly advance them and adjust to changes in their own environments. The availability of managerial skill in many of these places doesnt come close to matching the needs, as a result of this growth. And so theres tremendous appetite for the right kind of leadership in managerial talent. When we think about innovation, no matter it is in developing countries or else, the thing that is starting to blossom as an approach and as an idea in universities with business schools as a partner is a whole area of what folks call design thinking. And thats really the creative process of identifying a need but then working with the customers, through a process of rapid prototyping, to figure out how to develop a product or solve their needs. To do all this, universities have to examine and analyze their environment internally and externally. They need to know their strategic position. Then the institutional leaders need to identify the options, critically evaluate them, and finally, select the best alternative. The strategies chosen must reflect the institutions values, economically justifiable, politically attainable, and consistent with serving student needs (Tsiakkiros and Pashiardis, 2002) and Luu (2006) further suggest that institutional planners must involve everybody in the stages of strategy formulation, and develop an institutional commitment to make things happen. Afterall, strategic planning at universities now has been only moderately successful as only few were able to achieve successful results and transformed themselves dramatically (Rowley and Sherman 1998). This challenge even though qualitative in many respects, has had and will continue to have a huge financial baring by which all colleges and universities must stand ready to confront head on if they are to remain in operation as pointed out by Frederick Balderson (1995) in Managing Todays University. Although several authors endeavour to explain successes and failures of strategic planning in higher education, scholars hold different opinions. There is no consensus

on major determinants of strategic plannings successes in university. It usually takes several years before strategic planning becomes institutionalized and people learn to think strategically (Lerner 1999). Alert faculty members and university leaders need to determine which opportunities must be pursued out of the precious margin within the resources available; which ones should be initiated if new resources can be attracted from somewhere outside; and which ones are not of high priority or not truly appropriate to the universitys self-funded mission (Balderston 1995). This will in turn make strategic planning become an organization organizational norm, deeply embedded within the organizations decision-making process, and participants learn to think strategically as part of their regular daily activities. Rowley et al. (1997) considers strategic planning as a formal process designed to help a university identify and maintain the optimal alignment with the vital elements the environment within which the university resides. This environment consists of the political, social, economic, technological, and educational ecosystem, both internal and external to the university. The overall implication here is that strategic planning is a critical piece to ensure the viability of many colleges and universities. Whereas many institutions already have a visionary plan in place, it is important for college and university administrators to have a realistic grip on the institutions strength, both in terms of academic and financial, as well as any foreseen weak point that has potential to become a threat to the current and future operations (Higher Education Review 2004). To that end, colleges and universities are strongest when they independently assess its vulnerability with respect to its current academic and financial goals relative to its desired global competitiveness. In today's business environment that changes so quickly and dramatically, Porter argues that the purpose of strategy for the future is not so much that of determining where the organization is headed based on what the organization wants, but is a method of coping with competition in a manner that will allow the organization to overcome obstacles and achieve its goals and objectives (Rowley, Lujan, and Dolence 1997). In order to assess competitors' strengths as well as the organization's strengths in light of industry conditions and trends, it is necessary for the universities worldwide to evaluate more than simply identifying and keep watching on what their competitors are doing. Afterall, McConkey (1981) said that the essence of strategy is differentiation. What makes this university different from others? We may get some insights from Keller (1983)s speech of conscious academic strategy: The dogma of colleges as amiable, anarchic, self-correcting collectives of scholars with a small contingent of

dignified caretakers at the unavoidable business edge is crumbling. A new of conscious academy strategy is born. The modern college and university scene is no longer so fiercely disdainful of sound economics and financial planning or so derisive of strategic management. Professors and campus administrators are nowok uniting to design plans, programs, priorities, and expenditures in order to insure their future and to keep higher education among the worlds best. He goes on further: that strategic planning places the long-term vitality and excellence of the college or university first. It cares about traditions, faculty salaries, and programs. But it cares about institutional survival more, so that there will places for scholars.to teach and do their research. Conclusion In the era of knowledge explosion, we are having more chance to come across a variety of different kinds of knowledge. We also have more and more choices on using which media to attain our goal of obtaining and sharing knowledge. It is expected that universities will play a larger and integrated role in our society. Such a challenge is expected to have a huge financial burden which has to be shared by all colleges and universities. They must be ready to confront if they wish to remain in operation. Strategic planning, which places the long-term vitality and excellence of the college or university first, is the solution of universities in our present knowledge explosion age. References: Australian Universities.com. List of Universities in Australia 2010 [cited 29 August 2010. Available from http://www.australian-universities.com/list. Balderston, F. . 1995. Managing Today's University: Strategies for Viability, Change, and Excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Buckland, R. . 2009. Private and Public Sector Models for Strategies in Universities. British Journal of Management 20:524536. Campus Party. American College Lists and Data 2010 [cited 29 August 2010. Available from http://www.campuspicker.com/. Cohen, M.D. , and J.G. March. 1974. Leadership and Ambiguity: the American College President: Harvard Business School Press. Conway, T., S. Mackay, and D. Yorke. 1987. Strategic Planning in Higher Education. International Journal of Educational Management 8 (6):2936. Doyle, P. , and J.E. Lynch. 1979. A Strategic Model for University Planning. The Journal of the Operational Research Society 30 (7):603-609. Drucker, P.F. . 1986. The Frontiers of Management. New York: Truman Tally Books.

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