Knowledge Exchange: promoting community engagement
Wendy A. Thomas, Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN), Canada
Housed on the Web site of the Canadian Heritage Information Network (www.chin.gc.ca) , the Knowledge Exchange (KX) (http://www.chin.gc.ca/English/Knowledge-Exchange/index.php) is a federal government initiative developed in collaboration with the Canadian museum community.
The KX was developed to provide quick and efficient access to collaborative on-line tools and services. Through a learn-by-doing approach, the KX demonstrates the relevance of open source software (e.g. podcasts, blogs, and wikis) to museum practice, provides examples of their use by museums, and guidelines for individual and institutional use.
Much of the content found in the Knowledge Exchange has been developed with partner organizations. The community benefits by a broad range of services, and partners benefit by reaching a larger audience, thus contributing to the cost-effectiveness of the content creation. The off-the-shelf tools and open source technology require minimal research, development, cost, and ongoing maintenance by museums.
The KX features on-line courses on digitization, digital preservation, and e-learning. Providing access at any time, the on-line courses eliminate travel and accommodation costs for professional development, and do not require registration fees. To address issues of dial-up access, some tutorials allow users to download the files to their own computers, in order to work offline.
On-line collaborative spaces, such as communities of practice and wikis, are tools that allow registered users to hold real-time meetings, and exchange ideas, documents, and references. The KX offers the opportunity to set up or participate in an on-line working group on a specific topic with defined goals, related to museum work.
In addition to interviews, panels, and webcasts that provide current thinking on topics related to museums and digitization and e-learning, examples of museum podcasts, blogs, and social tagging are linked to guidelines for individual use and to open source software for implementing these participatory tools on a museum’s Web site.
Research during the development of the KX indicated that RSS feeds were an under-utilized tool in the museum community, both in individual use and in museums’ use for delivering news updates to their audiences. Feeds from CHIN and from museums demonstrate the concept, and the KX provides step-by-step guidelines for subscribing to an RSS feed, and links to detailed instructions for setting up an RSS feed on a Web site.
The KX also tests open source software for polls and search functions, emphasizing the learning-by-doing by pointing to guidelines for use and implementation.
The flexible infrastructure of the KX easily allows the addition of new content. The KX enables museum professionals to adjust and develop their learning skills using a variety of collaborative tools. Responding to the varying learning needs of individual users, the Knowledge Exchange fosters different types of learning: self-paced learning through its e-tutorials, collaborative learning through its community of practices, and learning-by-doing approach doing approach through its demonstration of Web 2.0 solutions.
Keywords: online courses, blogs, podcasting, wikis, communities of practice