By Lisa Toenniges, CPT

To have a learning portal–or not–is the latest quandary facing many companies. Today’s technology makes it possible for employees to access an abundance of learning resources to help them do their jobs. However, with more resources comes the potential for chaos. Learners cannot find what they need, and company intranets become dumping grounds for material.

The choice to invest in a learning portal becomes clearer once learning leaders understand how a portal differs from a learning management system (LMS), and how it can provide employees easy access to relevant, appropriate resources just in time when properly designed and developed.

LMS vs. Portal

So, what is the difference between a learning portal and an LMS? An LMS is a software system that manages and administers the entire learning process, housing the course catalog, curricula, and employees’ entire training history. It also can house informal learning and performance support resources such as job aids, videos, communities, wikis, blogs, and so forth.

A portal, simply put, is an intranet site that provides a gateway to a company’s learning resources, including the LMS (if there is one), reference information that exists elsewhere on the intranet, and other company systems related to employee development. A portal also may contain overview and guidance to help employees make the best use of available learning resources. Although a learning portal is essentially a website, there still needs to be careful consideration when creating one.

Tips for Creating a Learning Portal

Determine the scope content. Thoughtfully consider every piece of content that could potentially be posted to the portal. Will the content be broad or narrow? Who will provide the content? Will the portal include sections for social media and general department communications? Will it just be the outer face of the company’s LMS?

Determine the sequence of learning. Will the portal contain discrete resources or a prescribed way for employees to go through learning?

Determine the taxonomy. How will learners access content and materials? How is content labeled and chunked? Will the portal have search functionality?

Determine the look and feel. How will it be branded? Who will create the portal’s look and feel?

Determine the technology. What is the best way to build the portal? Will it support mobile devices? Where will the portal be hosted? How will it be accessed? Will the portal be global? Does it need to be translated? How will the portal be maintained and by whom? How will it work with the company’s LMS?

Determine the marketing. A learning portal needs to be promoted. The larger the company, the more it will need to be marketed on a regular basis. Take advantage of the company’s communications tools, such as department and company newsletters, blogs, intranet, community boards, and so on. These should be used as much as possible to get the word out.

When properly considered, the question of whether to have a portal is easily answered. A well-designed and developed learning portal can prove to be a powerful tool for any company and a great resource for employees.

Toenniges_HeadshotAbout the Author

Lisa Toenniges, CPT, is the owner and CEO of Innovative Learning Group, a performance-first corporate learning company. She has more than 25 years of experience in the performance improvement industry and has consulted with many large companies about their learning and performance strategies and solutions. Lisa has devoted more than two decades to ISPI, rising through the ranks from a volunteer to serving on the Board of Directors. In April 2015, she completed her term as the Society’s past president; her other past Board roles were president, president elect, and treasurer. Lisa also is a past president of the ISPI Michigan Chapter and was chair of ISPI’s 2010 annual conference. For more information, visit