Absorptive Capacity and Motivation on Knowledge in Malaysia

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This main objective of this article is to examine the relationship between independent variables and knowledge transfer in relation in Malaysian community colleges. Empirical research is used to determine perceptions of students on the relationship. In addition to that, the impact of parental involvement on the above relationship was studied. The variables used based on previous related knowledge transfer study. The results of multi regression and hierarchical analysis supported the hypotheses. This study is perhaps one of the first attempts to discuss knowledge transfer process concurrently with students' absorptive capacity, motivation and affect of parental involvement as a moderator. Implications of the findings for knowledge transfer are discussed.

Keywords: Absorptive capacity, motivation, knowledge transfer, industrial training and parental involvement


In order to be as competitive as developed countries, Malaysia needs to pay much attention on developing its human capital. Effective human capital program and development can provide the nation with sufficient knowledge workers who have adequate learning capabilities and access to knowledge. Higher education contributes to social and economic development through the formation of the nation human capital, building knowledge bases, the dissemination and use of knowledge, and maintenance of knowledge as well as efficient knowledge transfer. Malaysia's educational and development effort has focused in providing education for the development in human resource needs that will cater for social, economic and political development (Ahmad, 1998). The achievement of the Malaysian education system in reacting to issues of access, equity, and quality and relevance of education is closely linked to the systematic strategies and plans for development in the nation's Outline Perspective Plan (OPP) which has been started since mid-1960s. In the study, Ahmad (1998) emphasized that the government has been taken various steps in providing further education opportunities to school dropouts as well as adult learners. The introduction of community colleges in every constituency will pave the way for better diffusion of education and significantly lift the burden of the masses with regards to cost. This is specifically designed for those who reside in rural areas when many high quality private colleges preferred to have their institutions located in the urban areas for economic reasons and others. In addition to that, community colleges programs provide the students the opportunity to enrich their learning experience through theories as well as practical. However, with minimal academic admission requirement and low level of courses offered led to negative perception on the quality of the institution. Community colleges image and ranking have been perceived as the lowest among other public higher learning institutions. This negative perception has strengthened due to the fact that the highest unemployment rate of community colleges students compared to other higher learning institutions. Thus, this has raised the concern over the effectiveness of knowledge transfer among the students in Malaysian community colleges.

Issues and Problem Statement

Although knowledge transfer is important in the process of knowledge acquisition, very few studies have been done to address the issue especially in the education context. Knowledge transfer study should be given equal attention in the education domain as the institutions can be considered as the reservoir of knowledge that can produce quality knowledge workers. Based on a meta-analysis on knowledge transfer studies from (1980 - 2004), it was been found that knowledge transfer studies on individual level was just 11 articles (8.14%) and only two articles (1.48%) in the educational domain (Liu, 2007). Therefore, more researches need to be undertaken in order to contribute to the body of knowledge at the individual level of knowledge transfer studies especially in educational context.

Research Objectives

Generally, the main objective of this study is to determine the relationship between students' absorptive capacity and motivation on knowledge transfer in the Malaysian community colleges. This objective has been developed based on preliminary interviews and reviews of literatures, report and others secondary inputs on learning experiences in Malaysian community college. Hopefully, this will contribute towards more empirical studies on knowledge transfer in the education field in general and Malaysian community colleges in particular.

In particular, the specific objectives of this study are:

To determine the relationship between students' absorptive capacity and knowledge transfer.

To examine the relationship between students' motivation and knowledge transfer.

To investigate parental involvement influence on the relationship between students' absorptive capacity and motivation on knowledge transfer.

Research Questions

In order to achieve the objectives, this study will attempt to answer the following research questions:

Is there any significant relationship between students' absorptive capacity and knowledge transfer?

Is there any significant relationship between students' motivation and knowledge transfer?

Is there any significant relationship between students' absorptive capacity and motivation on knowledge transfer?

To what extend does parental involvement influence the relationship between students' absorptive capacity and motivation on knowledge transfer?

Knowledge Transfer Theory

Knowledge transfer theory often overlaps with general knowledge management (Kalling, 2003). In the study on knowledge transfer program in MNCs, Kalling (2003) stated that the knowledge transfer theory attempts to determine positive and negative factors that can affect transfer of knowledge. In addition to that, one of the main focuses is the processes where individuals within the organization able to learn from each other. The effectiveness of knowledge transfer based on the impediments to the transfer of best practices within organizations was explored by Szulanski(1996). The study which consisted of 271 observations of 122 best-practice transfers in eight companies based on the recipients, sources of knowledge and third party views. The study found that knowledge factors play important roles in impeding knowledge transfers. Among other factors that can affect knowledge transfer is the nature of the transferred knowledge itself (Argote, Ingram, Levine, & Moreland, 2000; Simonin, 1999), the cognitive ability of the source and recipient(Gupta & Govindarajan, 2000; Tsai, 2001), the value of the knowledge (Gupta & Govindarajan, 2000) and the organizational context (Nonaka, 1994; Yakhlef, 2007).


Knowledge Transfer

In relation to student achievement, many factors can affect it, and only few general principles can get along with every topics (Randi & Corno, 2007). Many academic literatures focused on students' grade as a measurement for the students' academic performance. Students have always been known as failing to apply knowledge and skills learned in one context to other contexts when they are outside the school (Perkins & Salomon, 1988) . This should be overcome especially in the context of higher learning institution whereby the effectiveness of knowledge transfer is a crucial concept of knowledge management. In the case of community colleges, besides the academic theory classes, the students need to attend one semester of industrial training class before their final semester. Skill and knowledge that were thought in the practical and theoretical classes must be effectively transferred to the students in order for them to be ready for their future undertakings. However, high unemployment rate of community colleges students have raised concern about successfulness of knowledge transfer in community colleges. Although the students have low previous academic achievement, they can be considered as successful if they can gain skills and knowledge for their future employment. Therefore, this study will focus on knowledge transfer as a dependent variable instead of academic achievement.

Absorptive Capacity

In many knowledge transfer studies, absorptive capacity have been found be is one of the most important determinants and impediments for knowledge transfer successfulness (Gupta & Govindarajan, 2000; Lane & Lubatkin, 1998; Szulanski, 1996). In a seminal paper of absorptive capacity, Cohen and Levinthal (1990) discussed on the cognitive basis of an individual's absorptive capacity before proceed to explain the organization's absorptive capacity. Personal experience on the knowledge is necessary for them to develop their absorptive capacity (Cohen & Levinthal, 1990). This indicates that the individual's absorptive capacity as a pivotal factors before we can explain about the macro level of absorptive capacity. In order to better understand the scenario in the education field, this study will focus the enquiries on absorptive capacity at the individual level because the real focus of the problem lies there, in the personal exchanges through which knowledge is transferred. In other words,, students' absorptive capacity should be improve to increase the performance of Malaysia community colleges. This will enable more effective transfer of knowledge among students which eventually would lead to a better prospect for students' performance in the colleges and in their future undertakings. The issue of students' absorptive capacity is more apparent and challenging as students in the community colleges have always been known as academically underprepared for their lack of academic ability (Fike & Fike, 2008) . This negative perception has triggered a more curiosity on their level of absorptive capacity to be engaged in the knowledge transfer process. Due to this, the students' absorptive capacity should become one of the main constructs that need to be thoroughly studied in order for us to improve the effectiveness of knowledge transfer

In a study of international strategic venture, motivation to learn is important to ascertain the level of learning and the ability to capture the knowledge (Simonin, 1991). Similarly, study on online educational learning, motivation can affect the self-regulated learning and contribute to their academic performance (Little, 2008). The results supported other previous studies on educational domain which relate the students' motivation to the academic performance (Givvin, Stipek, Salmon, & MacGyvers, 2001; Wentzel & Wigfield, 1998). In addition to that, many studies on the motivation construct that affect learning look at the possible intrinsic and extrinsic dimensions that can encourage students to learn and certain students' behavior (Dean & Dagostino, 2007). Some students persevere and put effort on their own for their own intrinsic interest, while others put on their effort because they are forced to and do not believe their actions are linked to success and failure (Alderman, 1990). Regardless of their degrees, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation tends to affect the effectiveness of knowledge transfer in community colleges. In accordance with self-perception theory which predicts that intrinsic and extrinsic motivations do not mix additively but rather act together (Calder & Staw, 1975). Thus, this study posits that both types of motivation combine together to affect the knowledge transfer.

The increase of adults college lacking adequate skills for academic success have increased the needs for a more holistic developmental approach programs (McCallum, 1997). The study highlighted that supportive measures are necessary to improve the capability of academically underprepared students in community colleges. In organization studies, absorptive capacity and motivation have always been considered as major variables on the effectiveness of knowledge transfer (i.e. Szulanski ,1996; Ko et. al. , 2005). Thus, combination of two determinants of knowledge transfer namely students' absorptive capacity and motivation could create a better understanding on the requirement for supportive measure needed for effective knowledge transfer in community colleges.

Parental Involvement

Social support has generally been accepted as main ingredient to positively affect individual students' college outcome. Parental involvement has been chosen to be investigated in this study because parents are considered as one of the most constantly in contact with students. By definition, parental involvement includes behavioral, cognitive-intellectual and personal support give to their children (Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994). According to Potvin et al (1999) parental involvement in education can be referred to as parents' functions in the students' education at home and at school. Involvement of parents in encouraging their children education is important for their progress in life (Fletke, 1997). Social scientist has given greater recognition of the parental involvement on the children education success (William, 2005). Many other studies supported that parental involvement plays important role in the development of children education and learning e.g (Kusterer, 2009; Rogers, Wiener, Marton, & Tannock, 2009; Tam & Chan, 2009). In a study to examine association between parental involvement in elementary school and success in high school in the U.S. it was found that parental involvement in childhood education tend to give long term positive impact on the students high school learning (Barnard, 2004). In relation higher learning institution which focuses on former high school students and the public, it would be interesting to look into the impact of parental involvement on the relationship between students' absorptive capacity and motivation on knowledge transfer.


1. There is significant relationship between students' absorptive capacity and knowledge transfer.

2. There is significant relationship between students' motivation and knowledge transfer.

3. There is significant relationship between students' absorptive capacity and motivation on knowledge transfer.

4. Parental involvement affects the relationship between students' absorptive capacity and motivation on knowledge transfer.


This study used quantitative research method and the data was obtained through survey questionnaire. The final semester certificate level students become the respondents as the students have gone through the industrial training module in previous semester. Hence, this will enable them to give better response on the successfulness of knowledge transfer process which involves the transfer of external knowledge from the industry to the students in the colleges. They are also expected to be able to give better long-term perspective views based on their long duration of experience in the college. In relation to students' views, the learner's personal view is considered important as they are the ones who become the target for transferred of knowledge (Simons, 1999). In other word, the affected individuals' perspective could provide better insight and clearer picture on the effectiveness of knowledge transfer. The total population for this study is 2,657 of final semester certificate level of students. In order to get a reasonably precise generalization with confidence, accurate sample size is necessary (Sekaran, 2003). Although the classes vary in the number of students per classes, there is an average of 18 students per classes. Therefore, the 19 selected classes which make up a total respondent of around 342 students is sufficient to make up sufficient number of sample and represent the whole Malaysia for generalization of this study. Cluster random sampling method is used to get the data from respondents. First, the community colleges are clustered based on five regions in Malaysia. Ratio of classes selected in each cluster is in accordance with the total distribution of students in each cluster and all the students from the randomly selected classes will become respondents for this study. The students are selected as they have gone through the industrial training module in previous semester. Hence, this will enable them to give better response on the successfulness of knowledge transfer process which involves the transfer of external knowledge from the industry to the students in the colleges. In addition to that, the students chosen are presumed to be able to give better long-term perspective views based on their extended experience in the college.

Malaysian Community Colleges

Total Population = 2657 Students


(Perlis, Kedah, Penang)

Total Students =



(Perak and Selangor)

Total Students = 536


(Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor)

Total Students =


East Coast

(Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan)

Total Students =



& Sarawak

Total Students = 186

5 Classes

(7 x 18)

126 Students

4 Classes

(4 x 18)

72 Students

5 Classes

(4 x 18)

72 Students

3 Classes

(3 x 18)

54 Students

1 Class

(1 x 18)

18 Students

Stage 1: Cluster Sampling of Community Colleges based on region

Stage 2: Random Sampling of 19 Classes based on Students ratio on each region

Figure 1: Summary of Sample Selection Based on Cluster Random Sampling Method

The Instrument

Except for respondents' particulars and geographic proximity, all of the variables are measured by using use ordinal measurement scales. Self-administered format was used as studies have generally shown that 5-to 7- point scales improved reliability and validity of measurements (Dawes, 2008). Thus, a structured, self-administered seven-point Likert scale questionnaire will become a model of data collection. The questionnaire comprises of two sections, students' demographic profile in section 1 and variables of studies in section 2, the respondents were asked to furnish demographic information such as names, gender, semester and recent CGPA. This information is required to confirm the stages of data collection (end of semester) with the data on academic performance. Questionnaires are intended to measure students' perception of knowledge transfer, absorptive capacity, motivation and parental involvement. All the variables items were adapted from previous related studies. The items can be easily understood and very general in nature so as they are easily be understood by the academically underprepared students. Therefore, it is easy to score and can be administered within a short period of time. The profile of students, i.e. the total number of student in each course will be obtained from the department of community colleges in Malaysian Ministry of Education.

Analysis of Data

Descriptive statistic analysis was used to derive the mean, median and standard deviation from the data whereby it can be used to make description of the phenomenon of the study (Parmjit, Fook, & Gurnam, 2006) and data was analyzed by using Statistical Package Social Science (SPSS) version 17.0. The standard deviation is to measure of the dispersion of the data from the average (mean). Normality distribution of the data was observed through skewness and kurtosis. All factors indicated that the data was normal for further analysis. In order to achieve internal consistency of individual and overall measurement, reliability test will be conducted by using cronbach's coefficient alpha. Then, the hypotheses statement will be tested through regression analysis. The analyses could provide an accurate measure of the relationship of a dependent variable with the independent variables if the predictor variables are related to a certain extent with other variables. Apart from that, hierarchical regression analysis could be used to test the moderating variable (UmaSekaran , 2003) on its effect on the relationship between the independent variables and the dependent variable.

3. Results

Demographic Profile

Table 1: Characteristics of Students Sample (N=312)





























Marital Status













2.00 - 2.50




2.21 - 3.00




3.01 -3.50




3.51 - 4.00
















>32 years



Parents Income

< RM1,500












> RM 3,500



Correlational Analysis

Table 2 presents the correlations of the study variables. Students' absorptive capacity and motivation correlated substantially with knowledge transfer (r = 0.643 and r = 0.519 respectively). This means that the independent variables (students' absorptive capacity and students' motivation) show some positive relationship (above 0.30) but not to the extent of highly correlated (more than 0.70). On the other hand, the bivariate correlation between independent variables (students' absorptive capacity and motivation) is 0.584 which is less than 0.70 to be considered as highly correlated; therefore all variables were retained. The positive correlation matrixes show that that if students' absorptive capacity and students' motivation are high, the tendency for knowledge to be transferred is also high.

Table 2: Correlations among the subscales of the Constructs (n=312)


Knowledge Transfer

Students' Absorptive Capacity

Students' Motivation

Parental Involvement

Students' Absorptive Capacity





Students' Motivation





Parental Involvement





** Correlation is significant at 0.01level

Source: Computed Data Analysis

Exploratory factor analysis

Internal reliability analysis

Table 4 shows the means, standard deviations and reliability coefficients for each subscale used in the present study. The reliability coefficients for each subscale ranged from .87 to .91 and were considered acceptable (greater than .70).

Table 4. 1: Internal Consistency of the Constructs (n=312)



Standard Deviation

Cronbach's Alpha (α)

Knowledge Transfer




Speed of Knowledge



Reliability of Knowledge



Accuracy of Knowledge



Students' Absorptive Capacity




Ability to Value



Ability to Assimilate



Ability to Apply



Students' Motivation




Intrinsic Motivation



Extrinsic Motivation



Parental Involvement




College Involvement



Home Involvement



Regression Analysis

Table 4 shows the regressions analyses that both independent variables (students' absorptive capacity and motivation) explain 44.4 percent of the variance (R squared) in knowledge transfer. The largest beta value is 0.52, which is for students' absorptive capacity. The beta coefficient for student's motivation was lower (0.22), indicating that it made less of a contribution toward the relationship. In short, the first independent variable has a stronger influence than the second independent variable in explaining the dependent variable (knowledge transfer).

Table 3: Summary of Multiple Regression


Unstandardized Coefficients

Standardized Coefficients




Std. Error




















Source: Computed Data Analysis

Summary of Multiple Regression

Model Summaryb



R Square

Adjusted R Square

Std. Error of the Estimate






Hierarchical Regression

Table 4 shows that after the variables in Block 1 (parental involvement and lecturer support) have entered, this model explains 12.7 per cent of the variance. After block 2 (students' absorptive capacity and motivation) have also been included, the model as a whole explains 45.5 per cent of the variance.

Table 4: Summary of Hierarchical Regression (N=312)

Model Summaryc



R Square

Adjusted R Square

Std. Error of the Estimate

Change Statistics

R Square Change

F Change



Sig. F Change





















4. Discussion

The findings suggest that in order to achieve improvements in the knowledge transfer effectiveness, the community colleges have to consider the improvement in students' absorptive capacity and motivation. In addition, it also present empirical evidence on the significant impact of parental involvement and lecturer support on the relationship between students' absorptive capacity, motivation on knowledge transfer in Malaysian community colleges. These results make sense as a parent is closely attached with students in their study. If the students perceived that their parents s to be largely involved to their study, this would give further encourage them in their pursuit for knowledge and for promoting the application of that knowledge.

The proposed investigation on the whole model and moderating role of parental involvement are expected to contribute the existing body of knowledge transfer and education studies. Its uniqueness can also be attributed to background of respondents namely academically under prepared students in special type of higher learning institution. These academically underprepared students should become the main target recipients because they are the one who really need extra support from parents, teachers and the policy maker.

Implications for practice and research

By combining the variables cross domain of studies and testing them in a single model would allow a more understanding of the relationship between variables. This study is expected to advance the body of knowledge by investigating the issues of knowledge transfer effectiveness in Malaysian community colleges, which has received very little attention to date. The findings of this study can provide more understanding in order to refine the current practice of knowledge transfer effectiveness in Malaysian community colleges as well as to explore different approaches in improving the academically under prepared students' performance. The students, administrator, lecturers and policy maker then would be able to question, examine and review the pivotal steps in formulating teaching and education policy and providing supportive environment to ensure the effectiveness of community colleges as learning organizations. Eventually, Malaysia would also be benefited as quality knowledge workers can be produced to support industries, thus help the nation to sustain its economic development through human capital.


More research and understanding will be available to the individual level of studies on knowledge transfer as well as in the educational studies. In addition to that, this research is also probably one of the first attempts to link parental involvement as a moderator in the relationship between students' absorptive capacity and motivation on knowledge transfer. The results will provide significant insights to both academics and practitioners. It is also hoped that the findings will provide some insight to community colleges on what should be improved in order to increase the level of knowledge transfer and overcome resistance amongst the academically underprepared students. A right message can also be delivered to the academically unprepared students that they still have a chance to be as successful as their academically brilliant friends in other higher learning institutions. Nevertheless, given to the limited study exposures on the community colleges students, the interpretation of the survey results on other higher learning institution should be done cautiously. In order to overcome this, future studies could look on various types of higher learning institutions. It would also interesting to uncover a cross-cultural study to identify whether the findings would the same or otherwise. By having more understanding, the students and other stakeholders are expected to be able to make an appropriate and informed decision, choice and policy.