The Learning Management System (LMS) was originally designed for “managing” learning across the enterprise. That is, the true customer or end-user for the LMS is the training department, often charged with keeping track of who has taken what course. To use the analogy of a university, the LMS is the administration office. You remember, the face-less bureaucracy that tracked courses and credits earned. The administration office is not what inspires college students to achieve higher levels of learning. Although it publishes a list of courses, and tracks student progress, it is not often the first place students turn for information about what courses are the most interesting and desirable. Your friends tell you that.
Somewhere along the line we put too much faith in the LMS to propel learning and enhance business impact. Now, more than a few companies are taking a second look at the LMS with an eye toward improving or enhancing it. Some see the future in SharePoint, and no doubt this solution holds a lot of promise. But I’m going to focus on another solution that is gaining traction; the learning portal.
The learning portal is a Web 2.0 tool that creates an inspiring and motivational experience for the learner, offering multiple pathways to gaining new knowledge and skills leading to higher levels of performance. A learning portal might include an assessment that measures an employee’s current skill-level against the expected level of proficiency. Another area of the portal might include links to relevant books, articles and courses on a given subject or competency, prioritized by popularity. Still another area of the portal might provide video clips of executives sharing stories and best-practices for leadership.
As you read this you might be asking yourself, “well yes, but can’t an LMS do all of that?” An LMS may have all of these functions, but there are three things that make the learning portal special:
- Focus – the learning portal is built with the learner as the main customer, not the training department, and this can make a big difference.
- Customization – the learning portal is customized for specific audiences and topics, so it does not overwhelm the learner.
- Guidance - the learning portal provides pathways that help the learner navigate to a higher level of performance.
At its heart, the learning portal is about motivating the learner to take action. To go back to the university analogy, the learning portal is the inspiring professor that opens your mind to new perspectives and motivates you to seek knowledge and truth.
I believe the LMS, or something like it, will always be with us because tracking learners is a necessary function. However, learning portals, whether built on SharePoint or Web 2.0, will eventually take center stage and become the primary source for employees navigating through their career journey.