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Why Portals Are Widening


As great as they are for the advancement of learning, such technologies are only as good as they’re used.
 
By Gary Bragar
 
Buyers hearing about learning 2.0 portals might have read a 2009 survey from Training Industry, Inc., which found nearly 60 percent of companies plan to either launch a new portal or upgrade their existing portals. To better understand the value of learning 2.0 Portals (as part of my NelsonHall “Targeting Learning BPO” research, to be published October 2010), I interviewed two dozen learning BPO providers—including Expertus, from whom I received a demo as they recently launched a social learning platform. Named ExpertusONE, it uses Web 2.0 technology and provides a single platform for formal, informal, and collaborative learning with access to learning resources.
 
Here is just a sampling of benefits I found.
 
 
Ability to consolidate learning information from multiple legacy systems into one portal and view:

  • All mandatory company training programs along with due dates, brief description and time required, and a click-of-a-button launch of a selected training program;
  • Recommended learning and ratings by peers who have already taken programs; and
  • The latest blog on topics related to specific interest areas or job functions.

Ability to obtain insights from, and ask questions of, peers via a chat feature within the portal
 
Access to SMEs 24 x 7—via the portal—for assistance when new learning programs are launched and a question arises. Imagine no need to make a call!
 
Ability to link training to talent management and create career paths and development plans, etc.
  
How much of an impact can be made? On September 15, 2010, Expertus was awarded the Virtual ILT contract by a Global Software Company, using the ExpertusOne platform, with projected cost savings of $5 million by reducing travel and event expenses. In just four months, another client achieved a 388 percent increase in course registration volume, a 178 percent increase in new courses offered, and a 123 percent increase in new learner registrations. EMC implemented a learning portal and obtained a 50 percent increase in portal visits, a 55 percent increase in self-service registration, and a 15 percent reduction in support costs.
 
 
One corporate user in an eLearning blog said, “We implemented a learning portal at work several months back, and it has turned out to be one of the best things I could recommend to an organization for improving access to learning materials. I’ve realized that a learning portal creates a self-service environment for users that can’t be beat.”
 
 
Of course, many learning 2.0 portal providers are in today’s marketplace, including Norway-based Edvantage Group. It recently announced a contract to provide a learning portal for an educational organization (MOT) working with young people in Norway and South Africa to improve school environments via social learning methods such as peer-to-peer communication, exercises, stories, role playing, and dialogues with other young people.
 
 
As neat as learning portals sound, and they are, I’d be remiss as an analyst if I didn’t provide some advice here to buyers. If you decide to implement a learning 2.0 portal, be careful not to pick a provider based solely on its technology offering—technology is only as good as it is used. You’ll want a provider that can teach you how to manage it, or manage it for you: 1) Putting all the different learning environments, curricula, and social networking functionality into the portal; 2) Ensuring that content is continually updated; and 3) Communicating the value of the portal throughout the enterprise, and conducting virtual learning demonstrations on how to use and best leverage the portal.
 
 
You will also want to make decisions on other portal-based aspects, such as whether you want to provide all employees with unlimited access to learning or add in certain restrictions, whether all courses will be free or some will be fee-based, etc. A savvy learning provider can guide you through these types of decisions and build them into the system for you, as required.
 
 
Social learning and web 2.0 technology can markedly improve organizational learning capabilities. However, as this is relatively new, to help expedite successful implementation and adoption, organizations will need to provide change management, including training and communications, which is where learning providers can help.
 
 
In summary, though it will take time for organizations to adopt and deploy, Learning 2.0 portals will increase for several reasons:
 
• As M&A activity continues, combining both companies’ learning systems in one portal improves efficiency and reduces costs.
 
• Employee self-service is a growing trend as organizations implement it to reduce costs, improve employee satisfaction, and deliver the Web 2.0-type capabilities that millennials and their Gen X counterparts expect.
 
• As the recession ends, companies will place more emphasis on investing in their staff, and learning portals will make it easier and less expensive for them to do so.
 

Gary Bragar is the lead HR outsourcing analyst for NelsonHall’s HR outsourcing program. He can be reached at gary.bragar@nelson-hall.com.

Tags: Contributors, Engaged Workforce, Learning

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