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Seb Anthony

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Training Portals



Over the last few months, I have been involved in the creation of a number of user manuals and job-aids for this company that I am currently sub-contracted to. I suggested that it would be a good idea to place this in an easily searchable form online, through their intranet, extending the ease of keeping things up to date and ensuring that each site has access to the same materials.

The company intranet is sorely lacking in content and over the last year or so it has been around, fewer and fewer users have accessed it. From this, I suggested that I create a 'training portal', a place users can come to to gain information and knowledge on how to use the system effectively. I saw this also as a way of distancing the learning from the failing intranet. The company think it is an excellent idea and have let me run with it.

The trouble I have (!) is that I am working with a blank canvas. I am going to visit each site and ask the users for their input into what features they would like to see on the portal and what they would actually use (two separate issues methinks!), however, I was wondering what features the community consider are essential to include, and what you think I should put to the user base to see if they would find benefit from the functionality.

I would like to incorporate a greater feeling of unity between each site - they are remote clusters of a few people all performing the same role, but there is little contact between sites. I think that if done correctly, the training portal can help to address this and encourage a greater interaction and knowledge sharing between them.

Currently, I am considering putting in place:

* A personal space for each member, which could include a skills matrix, a blog possibly.
* A discussion forum where members can share ideas and discuss issues they encounter
* Quick answers to common problems - maybe through a wiki or easily edited format so that experts can share their knowledge.
* An easily searchable knowledge bank for the use of the system.
* A series of simulations to walk the users from the start to the end of the process.
* Guidelines, upcoming updates to the system and any other news related to the system.

Is there any other functionality you would recommend I put in? As I said, I am going to go to the people that matter and ask for their opinion on what to include, but I think that if I have as many different options as possible at the start, it means that something useful will not be overlooked.

Any help or advice you can provide will be invaluable.


Lyndsey Thomas

7 Responses

  1. Good ideas
    I think you have some good ideas here as to what to include in your portal. It sounds to me like you would be well advised to opt for something like Moodle which is free and covers most of these bases.

    If you are planning to include a Q&A section and/or FAQs, you need to be aware that there is going to be a resource issue arising from this. Questions that come up regularly on the discussion forum should be transferred over to the FAQs, together with a definitive answer. Who will do this? Also, if there are lots of questions, and no answers being posted, your resource will soon go the way of the intranet. People need to be educated in the idea of a collaborative user community, since they are mostly used to being “told”.

    Also, I would suggest that, in their profiles, people identify their skills, to make it easier for people to find mentors. You might even opt to identify “superusers” or “gurus” (choose your term) for each subject area/sector.

  2. Architecture
    Hi Karyn,

    I’ve been looking at both moodle and drupal as an open source platform I can use, and I’m leaning at the moment towards Drupal ( It seems to be more in line with my concept than moodle. Are there any other open source solutions people would recommend me to investigate?

    As to the resourcing issue, I think it will fall to me to perform this (at least initially), but it would be good to get the key players in the company to commit to helping out if required.

    And I like the idea of identifying superusers for the system. The company are lacking in this area at the moment and it would be good to identify a few people in key locations who can act in this role.

    Thanks for your help!


  3. Why not use a wiki
    If you want to do all these things a wiki is probably the best bet. You can restrict it to your colleagues or have it open. It allows RSS feeds, blogs, file access, comments etc. Tikiwiki is a good starting point and is free up to a certain size

  4. User Driven Content
    It sounds as if what may work best is for the users themselves to have some ownership over the content. It is important to know what technology and communication channels the staff habitually use and feel comfortable with and emphasise these factors in your design. Perhaps there is room for self authoring of learning aids by selected Subject Matter Experts too, to create a user driven and constantly updated source of information… your use of user profiles, if marketed properly, could create some real energy among the network of ‘early adopters’ of your portal. It is a huge subject area and one we at Simulacra look at daily.

  5. Examples of other portals
    I work for Academee, the learning solutions speacialist, and we have developed learning portals for a number of organisations. You may find it useful to read the ‘Learning Portals’ article on the Academee website, which looks at what makes a successful portal, and also has links to examples of learning portals and esurrounds at DWP, RBS and Finning.

  6. Thanks!
    Thanks very much everyone – I’ll no doubt be back to puzzle over and iron out a few more difficulties in time!



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