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Putting theory into practice

Posted April 27, 2018
by Rebekah Friedman, communications manager


While some classes test students’ progress with exams, undergraduate students in Dr. Darin Freeburg’s Knowledge Management course had the chance to showcase everything they learned in the spring semester by developing real-world implementation plans for local businesses and nonprofits.

The class, mostly information science majors and Honors College students, presented their findings in a presentation for faculty, staff and other students on April 24.

Groups of students were paired with nonprofits and local businesses, including Unforgettable Fine Jewelry, Richland Library North Main and the Columbia World Affairs Council. The teams analyzed the state of each organization’s current knowledge management systems and processes, then suggested ways these could be improved using practices and theories learned in class.

Students examined whether the organizations used intranets, what sort of workflow processes were in place, and the effectiveness of their external communications. Dr. Freeburg says the recommendations the students ultimately provided were a way for students to put theory into practice.

“Learning in class about the centric role humans play in innovation  or the messiness involved in accepting someone else’s ideas or sharing your own — is one thing,” Freeburg says. “Developing an interview tool and analyzing how an actual system deals with these issues is another thing entirely. Essentially, this gave students an opportunity to prove or disprove everything I’ve said in class by testing it in practice.”

Afterward, the students took questions from the audience, giving them a chance to explain their work and learn from feedback. 

Tavashia Berry, a junior information science major, has dreams of managing the New York Public Library or becoming Librarian of Congress. She says her group’s in-depth analysis of Richland Library's North Main branch taught her how knowledge can be used to empower employees.

“This class really prepared me for making a knowledge management plan,” Berry says. “There’s so much more than just ‘I am your boss, you go do this thing because I told you to do this thing.’ Now it’s ‘I am your boss. Show me how I can get the most potential out of you, and then you can help me raise this company up and then we can get innovation going.’”

Freshman Adia Caldwell brought a unique perspective to the class — her mother works in the industry as a knowledge manager for Oracle. She was excited to see that much of what she learned in the course matched what her mother does in her position.

“I think it’s really good to go through this major seeing how it relates in the real world and actually knowing that it does lead to something bigger,” Caldwell says. “People can make real jobs out of this.”