“Over the next five years LMSs will look more like portals and feel less like platforms.” The Evolution of the LMS: From Management to Learning, by Beth David, Colleen Carmean, Ellen D Wagner, 2009.
More than halfway into this projection, we still see LMSs and platform LMSs—but the portal is definitely emerging, organically, as a preferred choice for effectiveness and efficiency.
Why is this shift occurring, and why should we care? To tackle these questions, let’s discuss 1) how an LMS is different from a learning portal, and 2) how a platform solution is different from a learning portal solution.
LMS / Learning Portal – What’s the difference?
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between an LMS and a learning portal. At a minimum, an LMS consists of the standard features necessary for delivering, tracking, and reporting on SCORM-compliant online training. On the other end of the spectrum, an LMS may have additional feature sets like content authoring, content management, and other bells and whistles. It serves training administrators well because it administers and tracks e-learning, but learners may feel like they are marooned on an island of formal learning.
A learning portal, however, is an online hub of activities related to training and performance. It includes all of the standard LMS feature sets, yet it is also a place to provide informal learning interactions such as forums, wikis, and blogs that facilitate collaboration; provide social marketing tools to promote the content; or incorporate ecommerce to sell content or goods related to the content. It’s a place for learners to feel more engaged, find a cornucopia of training modalities, interact with each other, find information and activities pertinent to them and their role, and even contribute their own content. So, rather than an island of formal learning, the learner has a virtual learning map with bridges to all types of instruction.
And it’s not just a hub of activities for learners, it’s a hub of data and reporting for administrators. All of those activities that take place in a learning portal can be tracked and reported. Also, a learning portal can pull in data from other systems and allow administrators to see correlations between learning and company performance or any other important metrics that demonstrate how strategic learning is and its impact on the bottom line.
So what about platform systems?
A platform solution can mean a one-size-fits-all, all-things-to-all-people behemoth. In the case of a platform LMS, you will find one system that is supposed to do everything: cradle-to-grave HR processes, training delivery and tracking, robust content management, course authoring, an entire social media universe, etc. And it may sound like a dream to have only one vendor/one system/one contract to manage and get all of the stakeholders’ needs met – but that dream could turn into a nightmare when you try to make it meet everyone’s needs. The downside to the platform model includes:
- Administration and management – costly steering committees with lengthy processes are often needed to make decisions about system changes, customizations, utilization by a new department, etc.
- Weak functionality – because the system must meet so many different needs it is unlikely to have strong feature sets in some or many of its different business functions, for example, a system with strong HR process functionality may have weak training management functionality, resulting in the need to customize.
- Customization limitations – in a platform environment, customizing something like the content management functionality may have an impact on the training management functionality; making a needed customization out of reach, or impossible, or at least a drawn out process.
- Cost – platform systems tend to be extremely expensive to implement, maintain, and have additional, high expenses for customizations or tweaks to try to get the system to do what you want.
Have you ever wished that you could just design the solution that would be just right for your needs? That’s what a learning portal allows you to do. With the standard LMS features as its engine, you can add custom features or integrate with your preferred tools for course authoring, robust content management, social media management, and other systems like your HR, financial management, or performance management systems.
Allen’s learning portal provides the formal island of learning, and all of the bridges that you may need—with all of the standard LMS functionality you need, many of the other bells and whistles, as well as an elegant model for integrating with your other favorite learning tools and performance improvement systems.
So don’t get marooned on a one-size-fits-none island. Allen can help you figure out what bridges get you where you want to go.
Tags: Learning Portal, Learning Technology, training company,