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Building a Learning Portal January 17, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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We implemented a learning portal at work several months back, and it has turned out to be one of the best things I could recommend to an organization for improving access to learning materials. In the past, I’ve worked at organizations where we would tell learners, “Look in the LMS” to find materials and information. I’ve realized that a learning portal creates a self-service environment for users that can’t be beat. They can go, search, find what they need, and move on. It’s a Google-like experience, for what has generally become an information-on-demand culture. Let’s take a closer look at learning portals…

What is a learning portal?

A learning portal is a web site that contains links to all different types of learning and training materials for employees at an organization. It may display upcoming classes, online courses, job aids, programs, links to web sites, etc. It may also include search functionality, a rating system, bookmarking ability, and more. The content displayed on the portal may be general to all employees at an organization, or it may be customized for that individual and the role they play. In a perfect world, the learning portal would be able to analyze the person’s department, role, and previous training history. It would then automagically determine learning resources that may be most valuable to that person. It may take a little while, but we’ll get there.

How to build a learning portal (in a nutshell)

First, analyze your users. Interview power-users and find out what resources they access on a regular basis for learning and looking up information. Find out what information is most important to them and find out how you can aggregate it in a way that is simple, clean, and useful. Look at your HR/training systems (ex. your LMS). Find out what key information should be displayed in the portal. You may want to show the learner information on their upcoming classes (if they have already signed up). You may also want to show them all upcoming classes that could be relevant to them based on their job role or specialty. Contact vendors or systems specialists at your organization to find out if this information can be extracted and displayed on a web site, such as a learning portal. (Beware that vendors may charge you for this extra work.)

Build it. Test it. Improve it.

Start small with the first version of your learning portal. Aggregate some useful resources and slowly add features and functionality based on users’ feedback. Interview users and put a poll on the portal. Get as much feedback as you can. It will improve naturally over time if you listen and respond.

More portals are coming

Some LMS vendors are introducing portals of their own, so keep an eye out. Your LMS vendor may have one coming out soon. These may be rigid at first, but I’m sure they’ll get better with time. I’d recommend you analyze the needs of your users, and then determine if it’s best to build your own or use a vendor solution. Either way, it will probably be an extremely helpful resource for your learners.

Comments»

1. richious brainmüsli » Lernportal bauen - January 17, 2009

[…] glaube, ich bau mir auch eins. Ist bestimmt ein gutes Projekt um Ruby und den ganzen AJAX Schnickschnack zu lernen. Oder auch um […]

2. Mike - January 17, 2009

I’ve been thinking of this very thing..thanks for sharing. Any way to share a screen shot of your layout ? It would be helpful even if the info needs to be blurred out or otherwise obscured.

Thanks!

3. Mathieu Plourde - January 21, 2009

Your learning portal should also encourage your users to contribute to the organizational knowledge. Tapping into informal learning is a key to success.

Make sure your portal gives your users the search tools to drill down in your knowledge base and the web. You should also give your users the possibility to customize their space to pump in the information they need or want, like RSS feeds or email notifications.

4. Bob Price - January 21, 2009

I am launching one next week and can tell you that a lot of people are excited by the whole experience. One place for all things ‘learning’.

5. del.icio.us Bookmarks vom 19. – 24. Januar : KOMA medien eLearning Blog & Forum - January 24, 2009

[…] Building a Learning Portal « eLearning Weekly Trackback des Beitrags […]

6. link building service - January 29, 2009

Your learning portal should also encourage your users to contribute to the organizational knowledge

7. pavansab - February 4, 2009

A portal should have the capabilty for folks to send an email to it which it can strip of the attahcments and save in a library.

Most folks can manage email easily. Making email the mechanism to share widely and receive info increases content and convenience and reduces curses🙂

8. Catherine - February 19, 2009

This is exactly what we are looking at doing, but I’m still wrestling with how to differentiate/link the portal and lms. Is your portal the first point of access and then learners get direted to the lms if they want to enroll in a course or complete a self-paced module? What about discussion boards, etc. Do you have them in both places or..???

Any extra detail you have would be great…and I’d love to see a pic of your layout if you’re willing to share!

Thanks

9. B.J. Schone - February 19, 2009

Hi Catherine – Our portal is the first point of access for our learners. We have links on the portal that point to courses/classes in our LMS – that’s how they get to the LMS. (Of course, they can go to the LMS on their own if they want, but we try to drive all traffic to our portal.) We link to all kinds of resources on the portal, including wikis, web sites, articles, job aids, etc.

I would love to show off an image of our portal, but it contains too much proprietary information. Sorry!

Let me know if you have any other comments/questions…

troy roeder - May 4, 2009

I am getting ready to launch a website that I want to tie construction and environmental training and certification into. After looking at several resellers and distributors, combined with the cost of the site itself it may not be practical to institute our own insite training. I have just learned about portals and would like to know if they can be used to gain revenue as well by driving our users through the portal to service providers. Having the revenue will be one of our only ways of securing moneys to reinvest in our program, as we don’t charge the user for most our services. Would this be a ethical way to gain revenue? Any info?

B.J. Schone - May 5, 2009

Hi Troy,

This is a slippery slope, and it’s hard to give a recommendation without knowing more about your business. But, I’ll give it a shot…

If you are ‘pushing’ your learners toward a certain vendor or service to generate revenue (in order to fund their free training), I would make sure you’re being completely transparent with them. Make sure that they understand what is going on. For example, you may state something like this, “This free online course is being brought to you by XYZ company.” You may also want to provide a disclaimer stating exactly what you told me – that the free training is possible because of partnerships with certain resellers and distributors.

Again, this is tricky, but either way, I would just make sure that you’re being honest and up-front with your users. Good luck!

10. Catherine - February 19, 2009

Hi B.J.

Thanks for the quick reply. Ok, I get the Portal-LMS link. That’s how I am thinking ours will work. In terms of your wikis, discussion boards, etc are they connected to specific courses, content areas, work groups..or?? What techology appraoch did you take? Do you have password protected areas and different levels of access?

Hope that’s not too many questions…..

Thanks!

11. B.J. Schone - February 19, 2009

Catherine, it all depends.🙂 We group our resources together by topic or project. We have some password-protected areas that are limited to upper-management. You could handle this two ways: 1) Only show the restricted items (on the portal) to upper-management, or 2) Password-protect the resources themselves (so the user must log in once they click the link on the portal).

My best advice would be to do what makes the most sense for your users. Get opinions from your users, listen to their feedback, and continually improve your work. We are already working on version 4.0 of our portal! Good luck…

12. Catherine - February 20, 2009

Thanks B.J! I appreciate the suggestions.

13. John - March 3, 2009

Hello,

Our company started to use Joomla as it’s corporate portal and when we have faced with adding E-learning functionality we have choosen Joomla LMS .

See what happened at our website

14. Brent Schlenker - March 5, 2009

Hi BJ! thanks for sharing with the community. What a great topic. I sense a conference session in your future😉

Also, could you take a screen shot of your portal and then just blur out the details of the content? That way your readers can at least get a good look at the design elements…especially the layout.

You ROCK!

15. B.J. Schone - March 11, 2009

@Brent – I’d love to show even an outline of our portal, but I don’t think it’s possible at this point without me getting in trouble.🙂

IF I can add a blurred out version, I will, but I can’t guarantee anything. Sorry!

16. Jacquie - April 6, 2009

I am trying to set up an eLearning portal for my company. This is an extremely helpful resource, thank you!

17. Craig Weiss - June 5, 2009

I’m seeking to go the LMS portal route. Who are the players – vendors out there? Couldn’t care less where they are based – Europe or U.S. is fine. Advanced capabilities is key.

Any help would be huge!!!

Thanks in advance.

Craig

18. B.J. Schone - June 5, 2009

Hi Craig,

If you have technical skill and you want to build your own, I would suggest using WordPress (see this blog post: https://elearningweekly.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/build-a-learning-portal-using-wordpress/). If you are seeking a vendor provided solution, take a look at Mzinga’s offerings (Mzinga.com). I don’t know if they have a learning portal product, per se, but I would still recommend you take a look. Good luck!

-B.J.

19. Vad är lärportaler? « Learn2perform's Blog - September 1, 2010

[…] och observationer. Vill du läsa lite vad andra säger om lärportaler kan du börja med artikel Building a Learning Portal på eLearning Weekly eller Using Sharepoint på Tony Karrers […]

20. What is a Learning Portal? – eLearning Blog Dont Waste Your Time - June 18, 2011

[…] BJ Schone goes (thankfully) further in the explanation and says; “A learning portal is a web site that contains links to all different types of learning and training materials for employees at an organization. It may display upcoming classes, online courses, job aids, programs, links to web sites, etc. It may also include search functionality, a rating system, bookmarking ability, and more. The content displayed on the portal may be general to all employees at an organization, or it may be customized for that individual and the role they play. In a perfect world, the learning portal would be able to analyze the person’s department, role, and previous training history. It would then auto-magically determine learning resources that may be most valuable to that person. It may take a little while, but we’ll get there.” […]


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