In Conclusion

Where Have All the Learning Portals Gone?

Many learning portals are still there — somewhere — but no one is using them. As learning evolves, so must how learners access resources.

Business woman with binoculars spying on competitors.

Fifteen years ago, the learning field thought the learning portal was going to be a powerful tool to drive employee performance improvement. Now when I look around, it is hard to find the 2016 “All Star” learning portal. While almost every learning management system provides a central entry page for each learner, these systems tend to be fairly nondynamic and only lightly personalized.

What happened to the magical learning portals of our dreams? Here are some observations across enterprises:

  • Direct access to learning. Employees prefer a direct link or URL to a specific learning resource or class. While they may have to sign in, many systems allow for embedded login, skipping the need to go to a portal page.
  • Some assets aren’t official learning resources. Employees increasingly use learning assets such as corporate video segments, external knowledge objects like TED Talks, social network conversations, and other options not officially considered learning resources — and often cannot be handled or tracked by an LMS or learning portal.
  • Personalization, please. The learner is usually not interested in the entire library of corporate learning assets, even if it is organized neatly on a learning portal page. Learners want a highly personalized perspective, sorted learning resources for their roles, certifications, performance goals and learning history. If they do want a learning portal, they want it to be aligned to their needs and requirements.

Learning portals made sense when the primary objective was to manage access to a select set of syndicated learning programs, often mapped to certification or compliance requirements. As the learner has become more involved in choosing from a wider, often more open set of resources, today’s learning portals need to be much more adaptive and personal.

In 2016 and beyond, the ideal entry point for a learner into learning resources might look like:

  • A knowledge scorecard. The learner would benefit from a scorecard that shows key competencies, skills or certifications, all color coded by readiness or gaps for each learner. This scorecard could serve as a coach or guide for an employee approaching their performance review or who is mapping their learning commitments for the quarter.
  • Social knowledge connections. The learner might value perspectives from fellow employees who could provide knowledge on key topics mapped to the learner’s scorecard — and to be linked to them through internal social networks.
  • Assessing, secretly. Many employees would value the ability to have an off-the-record assessment of their knowledge or readiness on a key topic as private feedback to facilitate skill acquisition.
  • Daily mentoring questions. My colleague Marshall Goldsmith advocates for a small set of personally selected questions that an employee could answer every day to help them achieve desired changes. An example might be, “Have I finished the sentences of my teammates?” Seeing a pattern of one’s responses can strongly affect change efforts.
  • Integrated search. Ironically, most systems are not searchable by internal corporate engines. So if an employee starts a knowledge search, they may not get access to the best elements behind the learning system’s firewall. Why not use search — even using ads on the side of the page — to suggest and link to learning resources.
  • A learning app. Imagine an app, downloaded or a native software version, that could provide learners with the aforementioned resources mapped to their needs and patterns of use. While it might sound just like a mini-portal, the learning app would be engineered more tightly to an employee’s user experience and have a mobile or desktop version that would be easy, simple and persistent.

As the world of learning evolves, so must our perspectives of how our learners access resources. Clearly, learning systems can provide a variety of resources, prompts and reminders to employees about their choices. Learners will increasingly drive more of their own learning choices, and we must move beyond the static learning portal to a dynamic, integrated set of apps and access points for learning.

Elliott Masie is the chairman and CLO of The Masie Center’s Learning Consortium and CEO of The Masie Center, an international think tank focused on learning and workplace productivity. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.‌com.


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