Organizations possess incredible intellectual capital. The challenge has been, and continues to be, providing access to that capital and assembling it for development of best practices and collective learning. The critical and differentiating force of countries, organizations, and individuals lies in their knowledge and intelligence and how they use it in the new knowledge economy. eLearning is critical to the success of individuals, organizations, communities and economies in the commencement of the knowledge economy. eLearning portals offer customization, 24/7 accessibility, convenience and flexibility, cost effectiveness, just-in-time user-centric learning, and centralized management of knowledge
In a IDC and eWorld survey (www.idc.com, IDC #24788, June 2001), training and education was rated in the top three applications integrated with U.S. organization Web sites. Nearly one-third of U.S. organizations have their training and education integrated with their Web sites. Training and education ranks third in priority (behind customer service and support and customer relationship management.)
eLearning components include: learning management system (LMS) or learning content management system (LCMS), content, collaboration, testing and assessment, skills and competency, e-commerce, and Internet video-based learning. A complete eLearning portal represents the total integration of multimedia, instructor-led, and real-time training � in a human, collaborative environment.
When implemented correctly, eLearning portals can help organizations develop and maintain a competitive advantage in the following areas:
� Recruitment and Selection: the attraction, evaluation, and hiring of new employees.
� Retention: the retention of intellectual capital (human capital).
� Learning and Career Development: classroom training, online learning, and other forms of learning activities.
� Rewards, Recognition, and Response: the recognition of individuals according to their ability to meet/exceed performance expectations as defined by the organization (according to appropriate business goals.)
� Succession Planning: the identification and development of peak performers with the appropriate competencies and skills needed to advance within the organization.
Essentially, an eLearning portal is a virtual environment set up by an organization to give users access to knowledge. The eLearning portal is an intelligent portal. The portal advises users on what skills and experience they need to advance to other levels in the organization, provide competency maps and assessment, and discussion forums related to essential learning themes � online learning communities. It recognizes what the user knows, certifications earned, experiences, and his ideal learning style.
The complete or full-service eLearning portal supports the learning cycle with different components of eLearning. Many of these components are foundational to the learning process and are critical in creating a full-service eLearning portal. All components of a full-service eLearning portal are fully integrated with seamless transition from one component to the next.
The full-service eLearning portal is comprised of three stages: assessment, competency and learning evaluation.
� Assessment: assessing the learning needs of a user begins with an evaluation of his knowledge or competencies. This knowledge assessment is then compared with the competencies required for the job.
� Preparation: the user makes preparations for fulfilling his learning need through creating a plan from the list of learning activities that would best meet his need.
� Learning: the user engages in learning activities to build knowledge and develop competency (from experts forum to community collaboration.)
Portal technologies supporting open standards can be easily integrated into an organization's existing infrastructure. The portal needs to be operating system � and web server-neutral so that enterprises can host it on the platform of choice. The portal solution should be deployable and accessible across a variety of platforms and devices. With a platform, application, and device independent architecture, the eLearning portal provides optimal flexibility.
The ability to provide mobile, distributed workers organized access to the applications, knowledge, and information they need for sound decision-making has become vitally important for businesses striving to be productive, agile and profitable. The attractiveness of Web-based computing, combined with the need to expedite information access and learning, has fueled adoption of eLearning portals.
eLearning portals will drive the evolution from the information economy to the knowledge economy. Moreover, new technologies and the power and connectivity of the Internet will enable eLearning technology, content and service companies to develop critical learning resources � revolutionizing the way we mentor, train and learn. eLearning portals will be portable. The continued knowledge revolution will allow the eLearning portal to bring all information into a distinct, consistent, easily used interface while being fully integrated with other enterprise systems.
Bray J. Brockbank is a business, technology and marketing consultant for Learnframe, a KnowledgE-Commerce and eLearning infrastructure technologies company. [email protected].
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