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Thinking Beyond the LMS: Four Ways a Learning Portal Strategy Will Improve Your Learning Ecosystem

It’s become an industry meme: we love to complain about our old-school learning management systems (LMSs). Virtually every training and performance technology conference I’ve been to, I’ve seen headline sessions with titles like “Is the LMS dead?,” “Why We Hate Our LMSs” and other similarly cheery titles.

The Learning Portal: Beyond an LMS

Our disappointment stems from a realization that our systems aren’t neutral. Initially, many of us believed the LMS could be a transparent entry to training content and reports. As we’ve gotten savvier, we’ve realized this isn’t true. Our LMSs too often add roadblocks through poorly designed navigation, irrelevant features and the lack of support for emergent learning strategies. Our LMSes have become restaurants with long waits, rude service, and poor ambiance—at some point, you avoid the place even if the food is excellent.

Unfortunately, upgrading or replacing an enterprise LMS is a complex (and sometimes impossible) task, with many stakeholders. So let’s disregard the false choices of whether or not to change our LMS. Instead, let’s think beyond the LMS to a more targeted, nimble and ultimately impactful learning portal-based model. To help you envision what I mean, I’d like to share four ways the AllenComm learning portal is helping our partners get around the technical and bureaucratic limitations of the broad, enterprise LMS.

1. Front-ends to Improve the Learner Experience

When you’re tied to a corporate LMS, but the user experience isn’t optimal, you have options. In these cases, a targeted “front end” learning portal doesn’t need to replace the LMS, but instead can hide it.

In other words, a learning portal built for your unique learner use cases and UX needs can become the face of your learning experience, organizing your content and features, while data is still tracked back to the corporate system. Front ends have become especially critical in AllenComm’s workflows when, for example, we’re addressing highly branded customer-facing learning needs or adding mobile access to existing courses or resources.

2. Feature Engines to Support Next-gen Learning

Another problem our clients face is the clash of newer learning strategies with older LMS data-tracking standards and features. For example, say you want to gamify your new curriculum using social leaderboards. Where does the data live for your real-time scores? Or you want to create action plans for ongoing reference as part of a skill-building program, but your LMS won’t store the data.

In these cases, we’re using web service-based feature engines to manage datasets and quickly allow our partners to implement advanced learning strategies (at a fraction of the cost of an LMS upgrade). Other strategy examples include microlearning, curation and personalization, social learning, reinforcement systems and performance tracking.

3. Program-specific Portals

Often, critical business programs benefit from their own learning portals, with custom dashboards, tracking, branding, UX and reporting. In these cases, we often move our partners beyond their LMS by building tailored program sites that move the learning from impersonal links in a catalog or SharePoint site to a focused portal that provides high-end design and features created specifically to make lasting behavior change. Like front-ends, a program-specific portal can still report standard data back to the LMS.

4. Intelligent Performance Support

Developing new skills is a process, not an event. But too often our learning systems treat skill-development as a checkbox. We’re exploring new approaches to using portals to personalize performance support, including task-based support, advanced visual computing to automate content delivery and ongoing micro-assessments to measure personal needs and assign individually relevant follow-up tasks. The right performance support portal can even help benchmark skill levels over time, helping you measure program ROI, not just completions or exam scores.

While venting about the limitations of the enterprise LMS may be therapeutic, with a modern, smart portal approach, we can sidestep the whole debate, simply, quickly and at reasonable costs.

We’d love to hear from you. What are the main constraints of your enterprise learning systems? And how are you addressing them?