Knowledge vs. Information Which is it?

Is there a difference between Knowledge and Information? As training professionals are we sharing information, teaching knowledge, or both?

Last week I was discussing Commercial Lending training with various designers from financial institutions and someone mentioned how we aim to give knowledge not information. The comment made me start to think about how courses are created. What is knowledge and was is just information? Maybe they are the same?

Definitions from Webster:
Knowledge:
acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition: knowledge of many things.

Information:
knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction.

Today there is tons of information available at our finger tips. We can Google any word in the world and find pages of results that could take us days to view and read. Does a huge amount of available information mean that we are more knowledgeable? Should we cram as much information as possible in our online courses and “watch” our learners’ knowledge increase by 100%?

Instructional designers have an unique opportunity to “chunk” and organize information into a format that enables the transfer of knowledge. (or at least present information in a manner/format that speeds up that transfer.) ID professionals can sequence, simplify, and visually portray information.

I guess that my final thoughts are that I believe knowledge is gained from what we do with the information around us. I am more knowledgeable when I process information and retain it. The goal of online training could be how to present information in a way that is so inspiring, engaging, and interactive that it is destined to become the learners’ knowledge.

What do you think?

UPDATE from ASTD LinkedIn discussion
Here are a few comments that I liked:

“Knowledge is derived from information.” – Heather Porterfield

“Data does not have context, meaning, or intent.
Information is a subset of data once it is put into context and has a purpose. Knowledge is information that allows us to take action or make decisions.” – John Benson

“There is a hierarchy, in terms of structure, value and complexity -

Starting with

a) unstructured, non-correlated DATA,
b) DATA structured or correlated into INFORMATION,
c) INFORMATION aggregated into KNOWLEDGE, and finally
d) KNOWLEDGE refined into INSIGHTS.

Information hierarchy:
Data, Information, Knowledge, Insight.” – George Mattathil


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9 Comments

  1. At times, it is good to step back and take a look at what we are doing. It helps us do our job better. I like this post from that perspective

    To me, learning is moving from known to known, having to work with a lot of data to wisdom where I can make informed decisions.

    We live in a world where i) huge amount of data is being created and processed every minute, ii) amount of information we require to consume and process to make decision to stay effective and competitive, both in personal life and business is huge and is increasing, iii) great deal of effort goes into creation of data and processing of information rather than presenting for a purpose

    I believe privilege and responsibility of Instructional designers, as you have rightly pointed out, to “chunk” and organize information into a format that enables the transfer of knowledge is very critical

  2. “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where the knowledge we have lost in information?”

    T.S. Elliot

  3. There is definitely a difference between information and knowledge, although it’s become generalized practice to substitute the two words at will. In essence, information is the input that helps create knowledge, obtained equally from the senses as from what we create. While information may be considered essential for knowledge, being exposed to information does not de facto guarantee that knowledge will result. That requires brain processing to extract meaning from information. Being exposed to greater amounts of information than ever does not de facto make us better problem solvers: it simply means we have greater opportunities to find what we need to learn how to solve problems. Finally, knowledge is something that is created in individual minds. Sharing or transfering knowledge is therefore more a metaphore to distinguish between what someone has thought about before sharing, from handling unprocessed information. It does not equate taking what is in someone’s mind and integrally “installing” it in someone else’s mind. We’re still not that good yet!

  4. Consider information as the mosaic tiles of knowledge; information must be manipulated, applied, and “glued in place” in one’s mind to build the knowledge. What do the disperate pieces of information add to an individual’s knowledge base? It is true that we are exposed to more information than ever, but we need to take it to that next level to really determine level of knowledge. Constructivist learning-possibly?

  5. I believe the knowledge vs information distinction throws down a radical challenge to instructional designers. We have to consider the whole learning environment in which our learners operate – of which a specific course might only be a small component (this for me is what constructivism ultimately leads to).

    Design organisations such as IDEO can show us a lot about how to do that – as can F2F & virtual facilitators – and the more adventurous knowledge managers (i.e. people interested in more than databases).

  6. I appreciate the considerations of this post, but respectfully, I think you are focused on the wrong terms.

    e-Learning design should provide learners with exploration, practice, failure and feedback…in other words, learning by doing…in order to change behaviors and build new competencies. Success requires going way beyond simple information and knowledge.

    For more thought on this I invite your comments on the following blog post: e-Learning For Practice And Competency http://bit.ly/6mTHqq

  7. Good point Jack. However I do think that in the end we’re still hoping that our learner walks away from our course with knowledge that is stuck in their brain. I don’t think that focusing on the word “knowledge” is off point at all.
    I like your idea about how to better engrain knowledge into our learners. Your thoughts about immersing them in real-life is great. All training should be like that. The problem is many designers don’t have those skills, don’t realize they need to, and/or can’t pay for it.
    Maybe some day we’ll all jut train in holodecks like in Star Trek.

  8. Three points…

    1) You’re right…new behaviors often rest on knowledge, but knowledge alone is never enough.

    2) It’s no excuse that most designers don’t have the skill to design immersive simulations and serious games…skills can be learned.

    3) Designing sims and games doesn’t have to be that expensive, especially when you get rid of all the other stuff that doesn’t need to be there.

    Oh…and holodecks would be good! Maybe that’s the next blog post!

  9. This is certainly insightful on what I’m searching for. So, there are a difference between knowledge and information.

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