Super Portal

It's A Super Portal!

How to turn your learning portal into a superhero that vanquishes training challenges.

Learning portals are assumed to have superhero qualities that, in a perfect world, let them overcome learning challenges in a single bound and demolish roadblocks with bolts of logic. In a perfect world, each learning portal would be as intuitive as Amazon and as searchable as Google. Achieving those goals isn’t easy, but it is possible.

What Is a Learning Portal?

A learning portal and learning management system (LMS) are two sides of the same coin. “The LMS is a place to manage class registration and reporting, while a portal is built off the LMS as a place to access training materials,” explains Shannon Poser, VP, Operations & Brand Development, ERA Real Estate.

Adds Emily Wilson, director of Solutions Management at SAP SuccessFactors, “Typically, a learning portal is the entry into the LMS. It also may be a tab or a plug-in within the LMS. In a broad sense, a good learning portal is a destination.”

The first step toward making your learning portal a superhero is to make it the learning destination within your organization. Rather than have multiple sites for different types of information, everything should be accessible from one, easy-to-navigate site. The portal should include the full range of learning, from just-in-time knowledge and short videos to full-fledged classes and informal, outside presentations. For your portal to become the go-to place for learning, several elements must come together. Specifically, learning portals should:

  • Include external sources. SAP, for example, augments its internal instruction with links to outside materials, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs),, and TED Talks. Some clients also provide access to huge libraries of narrated presentations.
  • Be easy to navigate. Offering 5,000 classes is pointless if no one can find them. Information is only one click away in ERA Real Estate’s portal, Poser says. Rather than overwhelming learners, pare educational offerings to only truly relevant, timely material that can be found and accessed quickly and easily.
  • Support self-directed learning. “A learning portal should ensure that self-motivated learners have the tools and resources they need,” says Karen Schmidt, partner, Next Level Exchange. This means including not only the information they need to learn, but also the things they want to learn. Many of those resources will be recommended by their peers. This approach also requires balancing formal and informal learning, because informal experiences can be as enlightening as some formal courses.
  • Be smart. Mimic Amazon’s customer interface, which knows users’ purchase history and can make intelligent recommendations. When applied to a learning portal, this means recognizing users, knowing their learning history, and suggesting relevant follow-on topics based on peers’ actions and recommendations, as well as Learning and Development’s (L&D) expected coursework.
  • Be interactive. Outstanding portals are dynamic and highly interactive. As Poser says, “if it’s not engaging, you’ll have a tough time getting learners to return. Gamifying learning makes it even stickier.” ERA does this by asking agents to overcome several client objections. When agents succeed, they get a commission in the game.

More Than a Course Catalog

Learning portals should be more than a course catalog. “Only so many options should be available during onboarding, for example,” Schmidt says. “The portal should guide learners through the various phases of their career development with tiered studies, so they only are limited by their own desire to progress.”

Ideally, self-directed learners should be able to choose the learning that’s most appropriate for their career development.

Organizations approach portals in many different ways. “SAP SuccessFactors is developing algorithms for a recommendation engine that takes what it knows about each learner and his or her job and then makes recommendations based on what’s important to him or her,” Wilson says.

Make the Experience Irresistible

One of the biggest problems with current learning portals is that they provide a poor user experience. Courses may be hard to find, hard to access, or not designed for use in the field. ERA Real Estate’s portal considers these factors and ensures that materials are only one click away from the LMS. Agents can access just-in-time learning in their cars outside a listing.

“Portals and their content need to have a consumer look and feel,” Wilson says. “Business software should match the quality of the software people use in their personal lives.” This is especially important for the extended enterprise and for customers, where training is either optional or purchased as a service.

For content, “focus on providing fresh, relevant information. Constantly add new approaches, methodology, scripts, and articles,” Schmidt advises. Providing current examples and multiple ways to deliver the material helps the information resonate with learners. To do that, Poser says ERA talks with its agents and brokers about what they need, and ensures that information can be accessed as easily from a smartphone as from a PC.

ERA Real Estate’s learning portal includes more than 40 videos built into its LMS. “Open the portal and all the content is there, including a student guide and downloadable script of the video, along with supporting documents such as spreadsheets,” Poser says. Audio downloads are available, too, so agents can listen, for example, to a listing presentation just before pitching a prospective client.

“We encourage agents to take the training themselves, in their own environments, but trainers can use the materials in classrooms, too. Agents are expected to listen to the material, take a test, and, finally, build an action plan that incorporates this knowledge into their businesses. ERA encourages its agents (who are independent contractors) to share their plan with their realty office managers and coaches,” Poser says.

Videonitch, a video training developer, developed its portal as a plug-in after realizing that many LMS systems weren’t designed to stream video. Consequently, many of the videos it produced couldn’t be shared easily, says Chief Learning Officer Ed Flahive.

“We’ve produced three- to four-minute segments on leadership development, skills training, and tips for video production,” Flahive says. He also has recorded subject matter experts to develop a library of resources for Videonitch’s new hires and contractors.

The technology is optimized to allow streaming in low-bandwidth environments, to minimize latency. That makes it accessible to field technicians. One client that licensed the plug-in finds it particularly valuable for its field technicians. They can go to a client’s site, enter the portal, type in a customer’s error code, and pull up the video discussing that particular code and how to resolve it.

Portal to the Future

“Learning portals are heading away from structured, managed systems to more Google-like experiences,” Flahive says. Users want to enter the learning portal, type in keywords, and get a three-minute answer. L&D leaders want to conduct analytics around those interactions to track who is consuming which data, when, and how. Learning portals that are tightly integrated into LMSs support that.

Immediate access to digital resources is becoming increasingly important in organizations throughout the world. Whether professionals need just-in-time technical knowledge at a client site or want to spend their commuting time developing soft skills, a learning portal makes accessing relevant information fast and easy.

Putting Video in Your Learning Portal Is Easier Than You Think

When it comes to receiving information, 75 percent of employees— including 59 percent of senior executives—report they’d prefer to watch a video rather than read text in articles, e-mails, or other documents.

Fortunately, for most Learning and Development organizations, embracing video is easier than you think. New “corporate YouTube” video platform solutions simplify many of the greatest challenges to making video a part of your learning portal.

Putting Video in Your Learning Portal Is Easier Than You Think

By Ari Bixhorn, VP of Marketing, Panopto (

When it comes to receiving information, 75 percent of employees—including 59 percent of senior executives—report they’d prefer to watch a video rather than read text in articles, e-mails, or other documents.

Fortunately, for most Learning and Development organizations, embracing video is easier than you think. New “corporate YouTube” video platform solutions simplify many of the greatest challenges to making video a part of your learning portal.


Modern video platforms are designed specifically for the enterprise, and most feature pre-built integrations for common tools such as SharePoint, Saba, Salesforce, Skype, Jive, Wordpress, and more. These integrations make it simple to provide video anywhere your people already go for information.


Most organizations have been creating video for 20 years now but have little to show for it. Files are too big to share, or worse, are incompatible with employees’ newer devices. Today’s video platforms put an end to these frustrations by accepting any size recording in virtually any format and automatically converting each for optimal playback on every device.


Gone are the days of manually tagging video files. New corporate YouTubes can automatically index every word spoken or shown on screen in every video, enabling your employees to easily find and instantly fast forward to the specific information they need in any recording in your entire library.


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