The impact of tacit k nowledge t ransfer during technical training in online learning environments
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The Impact of Tacit K nowledge T ransfer during Technical Training in Online Learning Environments. Amanda Kuhnley. Objectives. Define tacit knowledge Introduce research problem Review literature & significance State the research question & hypothesis

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The Impact of Tacit Knowledge Transfer during Technical Training in Online Learning Environments

Amanda Kuhnley


Define tacit knowledge

Introduce research problem

Review literature & significance

State the research question & hypothesis

Describe instrument, sample & data collection

Address limitations & contingency plan

Clarify contribution to the field

List references

Tacit Knowledge

Howells (1996) describes tacit knowledge as non-codified, disembodied knowledge that is acquired through the informal take-up of learned behavior and procedures.

Michael Polanyi (1966) argued that tacit knowledge is more fundamental than explicit knowledge. He is famously quoted, “we can know more than we can tell” (p. 4).

Yi (2006) lists criteria to differentiate tacit knowledge from explicit knowledge. These criteria include (a) personal, (b) difficult to communicate, (c) problematic, and (d) contextual.

Zack (1999) describes tacit knowledge as subconsciously understood and applied while being difficult to articulate, developed from direct experience, and shared through interactive conversation, storytelling, and shared experience.

Zack (1999) describes tacit knowledge as subconsciously understood and applied while being difficult to articulate, developed from direct experience, and shared through interactive conversation, storytelling, and shared experience.

Durrance (1998) claims tacit knowledge to live in an individual’s “hunches, intuition, emotions, values, and beliefs” (p. 24).

Why Tacit Knowledge?

  • Undergraduate research

    • Problem-based learning

    • Designed curriculum

  • “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel” – Socrates

  • Undergraduate degrees

    • Technology

    • Design

Research Problem


global economic competition, traditional education is not enough

tacit knowledge is overlooked in the U.S.

tacit knowledge = competitive performance among organizations

technology allows for “tacit knowledge networks”

Literature Review


Tacit knowledge can be shared through online learning environments

Shared experience is the most effective way to transfer tacit knowledge in online learning environments

Transfer of tacit knowledge requires the active participation of the employee during technical training

Question and Hypothesis

Can the believability of a training simulation influence the transfer of tacit knowledge in an online learning environment for technical training?

Employees will be more open to completing technical training and engaging in the transfer of tacit knowledge if they can believe in the training simulation.


Decision for Survey Research

Survey Questions

Survey Instrument

Example Results

Population and Sample

  • Field Service Technicians

  • Fortune 500 Company – PepsiCo

  • Convenience Sample – Virginia Market Unit

    • All 100 field service technicians

      • All complete computer-based technical training

    • Goal: 50 responses

    • HR Representative Kristen McCullough

Contingency Plan

  • Sample size

    • Other market units

    • Interview protocol

  • Unlikely to not meet sample size!

Data Collection and Timeline


  • Common threats to survey research: location, instrumentation, instrument decay, and mortality

    • Location – one market unit

    • Instrumentation – closed questions, Likert scale

    • Instrument decay – short time period, no changes

    • Mortality – individual experiences

  • Generalizability – limited in size and scope

Contribution to the Field

  • Quantitative study of tacit knowledge – novel idea

  • Step toward validating the measure of tacit knowledge

  • General framework and survey

    • Could be solicited to larger/more diverse samples


Alic, J. A. (2008). Technical knowledge and experiential learning: what people know and can do. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 20(4), 427-442. doi:10.1080/09537320802141403

Durrance, B. (1998). Some explicit thoughts on tacit learning. Training & Development, 52(12), 24-29. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Eraut, M. (2000, March). Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. British Journal of Educational Psychology. pp. 113-136. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Foos, T., Schum, G., & Rothernburg, S. (2006). Tacit knowledge transfer and the knowledge disconnect. Journal of Knowledge Management, 10 (1), 6-18. Doi: 10.1108/13673270610650067

Harris, R. J. (2009). Improving tacit knowledge transfer within SMEs through e-collaboration. Journal of European Industrial Training, 33(3), 215-231. Doi: 10.1108/03090590910950587

Howells, J. (1996). Tacit knowledge, innovation and technology transfer. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 8(2), 91-106. Doi: 10.1080/00420980220128354

Likert, R. (1932). A technique for measurement of attitudes. Archives of Psychology, 22 (140), 1-55.

Moallem, M. (2003). An interactive online course: a collaborative design model. Educational Technology Research and Development, 51(4), 85-103. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Nelson, R. & Winter, S.G. (1982). An evolutionary theory of economic change. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Nonaka, I. (1994). A Dynamic Theory of Organizational Knowledge Creation. Organization Science, 5(1), 14-37. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Ozdemir, S. (2008). E-learning’s effect on knowledge: Can you download tacit knowledge? British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(3), 552-554. Doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00764x

Polanyi, M. (1983). The tacit dimension / Michael Polanyi. Gloucester, Mass. ; Peter Smith, 1983. Retrieved from JAMES MADISON UNIV's Catalog database.

Sclove, S. L. (2011). Notes on Likert scales. University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved from,

Tee, M. Y., & Karney, D. (2010). Sharing and cultivating tacit knowledge in an online learning environment. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 5(4), 385-413. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Teece, D. J., Pisano, G. & Shuen, A. (1997) Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 18 (7), 509-533. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Tsoukas, H. (2003). Do we really understand tacit knowledge? [Electronic source:]. In M. Easterby-Smith & M. A. Lyles (Eds.), The Blackwell handbook of organizational learning and knowledge management. Malden: Blackwell Pub.

Werner, J. M., & DeSimone, R. L. (2009). Human resource development. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Yi, J. (2006). Externalization of tacit knowledge in online environments. International Journal on E-Learning, 5(4), 663-674. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Zack, M. H. (1999). Managing Codified Knowledge. (cover story). Sloan Management Review, 40(4), 45-58. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Zollo, M. & Winter, S. G. (2002). Deliberative learning and the evolution of dynamic capabilities. Organization Science, 13 (3), 339-351. Retrieved from http://www/

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