Posted by Joan Phaup
Social networking, wikis, blogs, portals and collaboration tools offer powerful ways to increase participation and sustain momentum in learning communities – but how can these tools be blended to create strong learning ecosystems? Enterprise applications such as Microsoft SharePoint can play a powerful role here, through content management and information sharing.
I talked about this the other day about this with Bill Finegan, who is Vice President – Enterprise Technology Solutions at GP Strategies. He is an expert on information systems and operations management, with a heavy focus on learning technology.
Bill will be explaining Best Practices for Leveraging SharePoint in your Learning Infrastructure at the Questionmark Users Conference March 3 – 6 in Baltimore. His presentation will help people who are trying to map out their strategy for the evolution of their learning technology as well as technical professionals who are interested in discussing how to link systems together.
How are enterprise portal applications changing the learning landscape?
What we’re seeing in larger organizations is the need to move to what I tend to call a composite application approach (a mash-up), where the different enterprise applications are being linked to from one landing site, one location, one major hub.
This is allowing learners to get to their learning from the company portal site, one consolidated spot. It’s allowing organizations to tie learning into other enterprise applications such as SharePoint and enterprise Learning Applications like SuccessFactors, SumTotal, and Questionmark — something they haven’t been able to in the past.
I’ve heard you refer to the “portalization” of eLearning. Could you talk about that development?
We’ve seen it from two angles. One is the Learning Management Systems attempting to make themselves into that overall portal. You’ll see such as interfaces as the latest version s of SuccessFactors, SumTotal, Moodle, etc. They may have a portal look and feel with links out to different applications.
That being said, a lot of our customers are layering products like SharePoint on top of the LMS to have easier operability. Suppose they were using SuccessFactors as the LMS and Questionmark for assessments. They would leverage SharePoint as their intranet. If they had an existing intranet site, they would allow a subpage for learning, to give a more design-centered approach. With most LMSs going to a software-as-a service (Saas) environment, the portal allows a more personalized look and feel while not interfering what you are doing from SaaS perspective (no customizations, etc.) and allowing for cleaner upgrades and so on.
How can organizations makes sense of all these different possibilities?
By deciding on their approach to collaboration and their overall approach to social learning. Are they looking for a Facebook-type approach? An Amazon-type approach? What systems do they want to use, and how do they want to connect the dots? If they have five different systems but don’t want to go to five different pages, how do they want users to get where they need to go? Do they want to integrate through their LMS? Of do they want to put a portal on as the interface to their systems and use it to provide discussion threads and other collaboration tools?
How do you envision SharePoint, Questionmark and other systems working effectively together?
I view it as allowing for Questionmark functionality to get linked from and applied at a “presentation-level” perspective from SharePoint for notifications of available assessments — and to allow Questionmark to be the assessment engine underneath the portal. The portal would work the same way with other applications. The main learning technology applications become the proverbial “engine underneath the hood,” powering the systems in place but allowing for a more flexible and intuitive interface.
What would you like your audience to take away?
That Questionmark is ready for portalization, that portalization fits in with integrating Questionmark cleanly with other learning technical applications and that Questionmark and SharePoint can fit together in an overall mash-up/composite application approach.