A knowledge repository is an online database that systematically captures, organizes, and categorizes knowledge-based information. Knowledge repositories are most often private databases that manage enterprise and proprietary information, but public repositories also exist to manage public domain intelligence. They are also referred to as Digital Learning Repositories, Digital Object Repositories and Electronic Performance Support Systems.
Retaining and sharing corporate knowledge has become a critical objective for companies, regardless of their size and industry. The proliferation of digital resources such as online databases and corporate intranets enable training organizations to create and maintain knowledge repositories for the benefit of employees and customers alike.
Knowledge repositories help organizations connect people with information and expertise globally via online searchable libraries, discussion forums and other elements. They provide a central location to collect, contribute and share digital learning resources for use in instructional design and content development for both traditional and non-traditional learning environments. They have become an integral part of corporate-wide knowledge management programs and a valuable stimulant of social and informal learning activities.
Along with providing centralized hosting and access, repositories enable users to share digital objects or files while also allowing administrators to set permissions and controls for access to content, and to protect the integrity and intellectual property rights of content owners and creators. They also invite collaboration among facilitators and students.
Knowledge repositories have evolved from static archives of published documents; they are now dynamic online communities that facilitate search and navigation of relevant information within agile learning platforms. Along with being a vehicle for just-in-time learning, knowledge repositories also enable post-training support and assessment.
Numerous software providers serve the fast-growing marketplace for digital repositories. They include suppliers of learning content management systems (LCMS), Microsoft Corporation’s SharePoint collaboration tool, an open source content management package called Drupal, and Pearson Education’s Equella solution.
There are several key features of effective digital knowledge repositories:
- Centralization. A wide variety of digital courseware, and content curated from multiple sources, can be housed in a central location where it can be tagged, shared and commented upon globally within one consistent interface.
- Content management. The breadth of learning content can include audio visual files, simulations, data, learning modules, articles, blogs, YouTube videos, best practices guidance, monitoring capabilities and contact information. Content is searchable by key words, learning outcomes, and other vehicles.
- Cost savings. Repositories can potentially reduce the cost of training and education by making affordable course materials accessible, reducing the need for classroom training and stimulating productive informal learning.
- Access control. By restricting individual content pieces via password authentication and other security functionality, curators can accomplish various goals. Access controls often involve safeguarding proprietary information and protecting intellectual property. Some, but not all, repositories employ digital rights management (DRM) to protect and monetize intellectual property in the market.
- Record management. Repositories can integrate with learning management systems to blend seamlessly into learning and talent management programs.
A variety of best practices are employed by training organizations to facilitate learning while also protecting proprietary information and intellectual property.
- Ensure quality over quantity. To protect and maintain the integrity of information contained in repositories, organizations often create a system of “stewards” — subject matter experts who accept responsibilities over specific areas or communities. Stewards often moderate posts, respond to questions and, when advisable, coach and mentor learners and host webinars.
- Provide oversight and control. To ensure that knowledge sharing objectives are established and executed, organizations can create a cross-functional committee of valued employees and training professionals. The panels are tasked with ensuring that repositories become a valued aspect of a holistic learning experience for intended internal and external audiences. That means making certain that the right people can acquire the right knowledge at the right time. Other priorities include gauging the effectiveness of e-learning modules created to teach important skills and modifying them, as needed.
- Protect intellectual property. Knowledge repositories are required to protect the integrity and relevance of IP. Organizations can do so most effectively by building copyright compliance and digital rights management (DRM) into systems so that administrators can track content usage. Most current repositories lack DRM capabilities, a major limitation that impacts content creators and other IP holders, and stunts the growth of the platforms.