Learning portals an enhance a learning management system’s usability and functionality.
By Chris F. Willis, CEO, Media 1
Are your learners disenchanted with your corporate Learning Management System (LMS)? If so, they’re not alone. The enterprise LMS does little to help learners navigate to learning that is pertinent to reaching their personal goals.
Some companies are turning to learning portals to overcome usability issues with their corporate LMS. The SharePoint platform offers the ability to design a program or department-specific portal to guide learners down a tailored learning path. SharePoint offers social learning elements and has the ability to dynamically deliver learning content specific to that learner’s role, geographic region, or other custom criteria.
The two methods of course delivery seem at odds. The LMS is a secure repository for the enterprise to push learning content to its population, track learning consumption, and report progress. In contrast, SharePoint offers a secure portal to help guide learners down a pre- or self-defined learning path, pull resources from multiple sources, and interact with other learners. The enterprise needs security and accountability; learners need context and guidance—but they still want autonomy in selecting learning that is meaningful to them. Both sides benefit from connecting employees through social media.
So Why Have an Enterprise LMS?
An enterprise LMS provides a single repository of courses and secure record of completions. The LMS can securely track an individual employee’s learning journey for both compliance and employee development. It also can report aggregate data for program analysis and budget considerations. This is exactly the type of “management” functionality the LMS was implemented to perform. In its next logical evolution, the enterprise LMS is moving beyond course completions and stepping toward talent/performance management.
Any failure on the part of the LMS is not in its back-end functionality but in the way it interfaces with learners. Today’s time-strapped learners need the quickest route to learning success in each of the various learning paths they may be pursuing simultaneously. At work, they want the same easy access to online media and social communications that they enjoy at home. Some LMS providers are bolting on social learning elements. But many of these efforts are proving clunky, at best.
And Now for Something Completely Different
Here is where the learning portal really shines—not as an enterprise LMS replacement, but in enhancing its usability and functionality. Traditional online courses continue to be securely housed and tracked in the LMS. The learning portal can not only deep link into LMS courses, but it’s free to guide learners to non-traditional resources and learning opportunities. Its social learning elements can be used for targeted learner discussions and for connecting mentors and peers. The portal can facilitate cohort group learning and experiential assignments over time, with convenient linking to the learner’s calendar.
Will SharePoint learning portals replace the corporate enterprise LMS? To paraphrase that oft-used quote by Mark Twain, rumors of the death of the LMS are premature. The corporate LMS is not dead—but it is evolving, as are SharePoint, social learning, and learning portals.
Chris Frederick Willis is CEO of Media 1, a custom developer specializing in social learning portals for onboarding, sales, and leadership. She has led dozens of corporate learning projects from conception to delivery, and speaks and writes about social media and collaborative learning. Willis is presenting “Think Outside of the Course: Cohorts, Communities, and Curriculum Portals” at Training 2011 in San Diego in February.