Learnings for Adults
Learning Portals: Windows to the World of Learning
November 22, 2010

Today, ‘learning’ has replaced ‘training’ and learners are taking increasing responsibility for their own development. Only 17% of learning and development professionals responding to the CIPD’s 2006 survey of learning and development said that the formal training course takes priority in their organisation. In order to support this shift, it is important that organisations provide learning tools that enable learners to take control. One highly effective way to do this is to develop a learning portal.

What is a Learning Portal?

A learning portal is basically a website that offers learners or organisations consolidated access to learning resources from multiple sources. Typically, a learning portal offers personalised capabilities to learners, providing a pathway to other learning content. It also enables collaboration with other learners and learning facilitators. Some learning portals are designed to work on additional platforms such as PDAs and mobile phones.

At Academee, we believe that a learning portal should provide a rich learning environment. It should help the learner to identify learning needs, and then help plan a learning journey to achieve individual goals. The best learning portals have a ‘diagnostic’ element, which evaluates skills and competences. More sophisticated portals actually offer a ‘career-mapping’ service, linking skills and competences to clearly defined job roles within an organisation. Individual learners can then identify the learning they need to undertake to develop the necessary skills and competences to move their careers forward.

Windows of Opportunity

Because individuals learn in different ways, a learning portal should offer a range of options. Obviously, a learning portal is an ideal gateway to elearning. However, it can also direct learners to suitable face to face learning courses, discussion groups, podcasts, factsheets, publications, other websites and a wide range of additional learning options. Learning portals are becoming valuable ways to link people in organisations with a coherent and personalised range of tools, resources, content and processes. Web-based technology provides tremendous flexibility for learners to access what they want when they need it, wherever they are. As such, portals enable just in time learning, and provide a flexible, dynamic, affordable and easily accessible environment for learners.

Learning across Organisations

The need for capability across organisations to enable competitive success is an increasing issue for the boardroom. Learning portals allow large numbers of employees to manage their own personal and professional development without a high central administrative overhead or HR support requirement. Portal solutions can be designed to be flexible to meet the needs of the organisation and its employees. A well-designed portal should comprise a toolkit of applications such as diagnostics, capability matrices, learning solutions and evaluation tools that directly reflect the structure and needs of the business.

Online portals can be easily updated and maintained – and then instantly distributed to large number of people at different sites around the world. By including online communities, such portals can help to facilitate communication between dispersed teams.

Beyond Learning Portals

Learning portals can also be supported by coaching. Once again, while portals obviously lend themselves to ecoaching, the learner’s journey can also be supported by face to face or telephone coaching. At Academee, we have developed CoachingZone, a sophisticated online booking facility for individuals to arrange coaching time with their coaches. Academee also creates esurrounds. Usually, these are designed to support a face to face learning programme and so do not contain the wide range of learning options that a sophisticated portal does.

A typical esurround may provide programme details and an online booking facility, learning resources, pre-workshop activities and post-workshop evaluations. An esurround greatly enhances any face to face programme by helping to engage learners, streamline the administrative aspects of the programme and increase learning benefits.” Even though portals are the most-desired user interface in IT, the concept of portals remains among the most misunderstood by customers and most abused by vendors. Portals provide selected audiences with access to and interaction with relevant and personalized information assets (information/content, applications/data and business processes), knowledge assets and human assets.”

Benefits of Learning Portals

Deliver effective blended learning solutions. Portals can integrate different learning methods to make the overall learning experience more consistent.

Give learners choice and control. Individuals choose their learning path and learn what they need, when it suits them

Track learning progress. Individuals and organisations can see how learners are progressing.

Measure the impact of learning. Learning portals make evaluation easier. Skills and competences can be evaluated pre-course, post-course and at future dates, to really measure learning benefits

Cut down on administration time. Streamlining booking and evaluation procedures saves hours of office time Branded learning. The portal can be employer branded and so become a real extension of the employer brand – helping to engage employees to ‘live’ the brand involve learning facilitators. Learning portals enable facilitators to engage with learners more easily, and can also provide resource areas just for facilitators Everyone benefits. Learning portals are great news for individuals, learning facilitators and organisations

Article by Gene Phifer

About author

Dr Shailesh Thaker

Dr. Shailesh Thaker is a world-renowned management thinker and trainer on organizational behavior and development. He is the CLO of Knowledge Plus Inc., a highly reputed training firm based in Ahmedabad, India, helping organizations to achieve international benchmarks in management practices.

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