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Institute of Business Informatics - Communications Engineering
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Research Agenda

Continuous societal changes require increasingly continuous learning and adjustments in work space, private life, and business networks. Knowledge creation and representation has moved to the center in of information systems development. Information and communication technologies have become essential enablers. However, with respect to knowledge generation, representation, and utilization in various settings, they require novel development paradigms and techniques.

The university is committed to educate future managers and engineers to handle and further develop novel paradigms and techniques. Of particular interest are the quality of created knowledge and the way of learning, on both, the individual, and the organisational level. Since academic studies target for long-term qualification rather than short-term skill development, the studies emphasize meta-cognition and structured reflexion.

The members of the Department of Business Information Systems - Communications Engineering and the Competence Center Knowledge Management investigate socio-technical systems. Such systems represent humans and technical elements in a mutually dependent way. For instance, e-learning-environments relate learners to web-based content management systems and social software, such as chat or wikis.

Currently, the team targets the following cross-disciplinary research questions:

1. How can individuals and organisations be supported when learning?

The acquisition of knowledge in the course of education and work is investigated in its institutional and organizational context. Besides schooling the academic and occupational education is of central interest.

The objective of our research is learning support that goes beyond face-to-face-settings and traditional class-room teaching. We focus on self-managed learning processes and the adjacent changes in roles: Learners train to reflect their competencies and learn to organize their learning space. Teachers become coaches and mentors guiding individuals along the self-managed learning processes.

The insights and research results from individual knowledge acquisition are reflected in organizational settings to manage organizational change. Group settings require additional instruments and techniques for negotiation and cooperation.

Research Fields we are working on in the context of this question: eLearning, Organizational Learning

2. Why and how should we model when we need to act?

Models are omnipresent. Users are modeled by profiles in web applications or business processes. Are we always aware of the meaning of the represented data? What about completeness and consistency? How does each of the models correspond to the perceived reality?

As models allow to represent a particular perspective of the perceived reality, they are artefacts. These are described by specification languages and mapped to formal representation schemes in the course of information system development. The more we know about capabilities and limits of notations and specification languages, the more efficient they can be selected for accurate modeling.

Developers of information systems and knowledge managers are expected to be aware of capabilities and limits of modeling techniques, as they work with domain experts in the business to be supported and in the technology field being used for implementation. The less information gets lost transforming user requirements to business processes and software functions, the more accurate workers can be supported when accomplishing their tasks. Well supported workers are likely to make customers happy!

In our work we introduce articulation work and structure explication techniques into modeling human work and artefacts. Both allow to follow the human understanding of processes and support the individual reflection of modeling techniques. We empower persons to express their mental models in terms of individually encoded elements and relationships when dealing with a topic of interest. The technical support we have developed for articulation work enables highly expressive representations rather than models with limited semantic validity. The tabletop technology can be used for individual and shared explication of knowledge.

Research Fields we are working on in the context of this question: Adaptive Systems, Articulation Work

As our research agenda is driven by user capabilities and work requirements we consider technology as enabling factor. Consequently, the major design task is to develop support features for self-management and individualization. It requires highly adaptive technology developments which require semantically open elicitation techniques and highly expressive design models. Their implementation leads to accessible artefacts to a variety of users, even in a continuously changing environment.