Both elearning and knowledge management feed off the same root: learning, improved capacity to perform work tasks, ability to make effective decisions, and positively impact the world around us. The difference between KM and elearning is a function of time.. Knowledge management is dynamic. Elearning is static.
As a medium, elearning allows for the sharing of knowledge that has been tested, researched and organized. For example, an instructional designer relies on subject matter experts to provide an understanding/best practices/knowledge of a certain field. The information used to create an elearning course has typically been tested and is generally accepted by practitioners of the field. As such, elearning is delayed (but tested), organized knowledge.
Knowledge management, however, is much livelier. Conversations and sharing understanding happens in real time. Through KM, tacit understanding can be communicated, problems can be jointly solved, and serendipitous connections are formed. KM is chaotic, current (but structurally weak) knowledge.
Unfortunately, KM is overwhelming to many because it sometimes lacks the structure of an organized course. KM is an ecology…elearning an architecture.
Many people who first approach blogs and wikis as learning environments are confused by the lack of structure…and soon “drop out” as a result of the overwhelming information (participating in high activity knowledge ecologies requires a mindset of suspended judgment about incoming information (i.e. don’t over-evaluate each item of information as an end) – and focuses instead on synthesizing and pattern searching the entire domain).
Elearning courses become outdated, while KM environments are continually fresh and reflective of current activity in a field. Somehow, the strengths of the two fields need to be brought together. KM should feed into elearning (in order for the content of the “course” to remain fresh and to tap learners into a sustained knowledge environment after the course is done). Elearning should feed into the KM environment and provide easy mechanisms for organizing information in the manner that 80% of people function (not the current 20% who are in love with blogs, wikis, and all things new).