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Learning Portals


Learning Portals

David Wilson
Managing Director, eLearnity

The last 12 months has seen a clear shift towards wider adoption of technology in the training and education market place. This is as a result of a number of key drivers – not least the inexorable growth in use of technology across the business, and of course a massive growth in opportunity caused by the Internet. One key recent development has been the growth in Learning Portals.

The term “Portal” appeared out of net-speak to mean a place to go, bringing together people, services, products whatever, all related to a specific theme or interest. Thus there are portals for Accountants, for Lawyers etc., actually for pretty much anything that someone believes there’s value and business to be done with people of like interest. Over the past 12-18 months this has been given a new twist with corporations starting to develop their own portals as they understand the broader value of the portal model over and above their basic “web site”.

Given the above, it is therefore not that surprising to find that we have also started to see the proliferation of such animals in the HR and Training and Education arena. These include public portals for HR or Training, and also Learning Portals providing an aggregated set of courses and training services from many suppliers in one place. Learning Portals in particular, represent a very significant development in the way Training and Learning can be offered and consumed and therefore represent a very significant issue and opportunity for Corporate Training and Development.

It would be nice if “Learning Portal” was actually used consistently. The reality of course is it isn’t. Learning Portals differ significantly in focus and structure, and differ significantly in who is creating them. So taking our basic definition of a place to go, bringing together people, services and products relating to Learning, let’s develop these themes further and explore what a Learning Portal really is, and why Corporate HR and Training should take notice.

There are basically two main types of Learning Portal. One is an external place, one is an internal place. The first is focusing on providing access to external training and learning services. The second is focusing on providing access to all training and learning within the company. Let's call the first an External Learning Portal and the second an Internal Learning Portal. To confuse things an Internal Learning Portal will also provide access to things on an External Learning Portal. Whilst there is definite value in just managing access to external training, the biggest value is in integrating the two. In other words in developing an Internal Learning Portal that also includes use and a management of external Learning and external Learning Providers. External Portals are effectively gateways to external courses and providers, automating the catalogues, availability and registration processes to external courses. For e-Learning, this will also include the delivery process as well . But that’s another topic completely!

A big focus of Internal Learning Portals is, probably for the first time, to provide a single complete view of all the training and learning within the company. This is more than just providing a big catalogue of courses. For the Learners, it provides the ability to search, register and access the learning directly through the Portal from their desk. It should provide tracking of their personal training plans, and their future and historic commitments and achievements. It may tell them what skills and experience they might need to progress to other levels in the organisation, provide competency maps and assessment, and discussion forums related to key learning themes – online learning communities. This may be the single most significant step in really empowering staff in their personal knowledge and development.

For management, the benefits are even bigger. Administration is automated. Access and registration
can be controlled and configured for exactly who can see what, who can request what, and who has to authorise it. The cost of training administration can be significantly reduced whilst at the same time extending the learning options available.

But the key benefit probably lies elsewhere – it is one of information. For probably the first time, you will have access to a single set of management information about the complete training and learning process across the company including all internal and external training. Who, what, when, who with. And with that information comes real control. The ability to restructure individual and fragmented courses into coherent long-term development programmes. The ability to integrate e-Learning or online delivery into classroom activity. The ability to selectively outsource or insource programmes. The ability to really control preferred supplier relationships. And most importantly, the ability to directly measure and track the effectiveness of these changes on demand. All through a single place. If you are developing a Corporate University, the Learning Portal is effectively the tangible manifestation of this for the Learners. It’s the place they go to engage with the Corporate University.

So hopefully the message is delivered and accepted: Learning Portals are significant. Your next question should be about what and how, rather than why.


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