For the last year, I have been developing a learning portal in the U.S. Navy Inspector General Office. The purpose of the learning portal is to support the certification program for the inspector generals. In addition, I've built learning portals at other organizations and have learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Before I share what I have learned from building at least five learning portals, let me give you an excellent working definition of learning portals. According to ScienceSoft (a software consulting and development firm), a learning portal is a "website that offers learners interaction and collaboration on eLearning content like courses, presentations, podcasts and tests as well as content management for eLearning providers." The key features of learning portals include "learning content management," "learning content delivery," "analytics and reporting," "communication and social learning," and "security." A well-built learning portal is the cornerstone of an effective learning and development strategy.

  • When building a learning portal, always remember the learner's journey. A good learning portal needs to support the learner in acquiring knowledge and developing their skills. As learning and development professionals, we often forget what it is like NOT to know the subject. What may seem intuitive to the training professional is not always so for the learner. Test your learning portal design with the learners and take their observations seriously.
  • Keep the learners' behavior change in mind when building the learning portal. When I first started building learning portals, I was tempted to include much content. As a result, the learning journeys were unfocused, and I often confused the learners about what was important to know and what was nice to know. Yes, I had learning objectives I communicated to the learner initially. But it wasn't until I asked the learners' managers how they wanted the student to change in terms of knowledge, skills, and abilities that I understood how to focus the learning portal's content.
  • Offer the same content in different delivery modalities. For example, I teach a college course in website development. I have PowerPoint lectures with audio, screen recordings where I built websites, and a textbook with many coding examples. All three modalities reinforce the same concepts but in different ways. For example, when I redesigned the supervisor certification program at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, I had a core set of leadership development concepts that were presented as PowerPoint lectures, case studies, role-plays, and reflective journals. These different learning delivery methods reinforced the core leadership concepts. A good tip is to mix the different delivery methods using Bloom's taxonomy.

A good learning portal can be the best training and development tool you have. You need not have the latest technology to build an effective learning portal; focusing on the technology can obscure the true purpose of the learning portal. As long as you keep the learners' needs in mind while fulfilling the organization's strategic goals, you can create a great learning portal.

Meet the Author

Dr. Bill Brantley is the president and Chief Learning Officer of Brantley Advanced Social Science Applications (BAS2A). Dr. Brantley was awarded the 2019 Emerging Training Leader by Training Magazine and is a Certified Professional in Talent Development, an ROI-certified professional, a certified data scientist, and a Certified Professional in Training Management. Dr. Brantley is an adjunct faculty member for the University of Louisville and the University of Maryland. He is the author of the Persuasive Project Manager (2019) and Four Scenarios for the Future of the Federal Government (2019).

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