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Is a learning portal different from an LMS?

It isn't, really. But it is. It's a fine line between them.

While both terms are often used interchangeable, there are situations when learning management system is a better choice of words than learning portal — and the other way around.

It's somewhat like the difference between an iPhone 6S and your iPhone 6S.

An iPhone 6S has a 4.7" display, four available colors, touch ID, a 12-megapixel camera and a 5-megapixel one, great video quality, iOS 9 technology, and a bunch of other features.

Your iPhone 6S is rose gold, has a 4.7" display, your fingerprint for the secure access of the phone, your amazing pictures from Bali or from your back yard, with your friends and family, your selfies, your videos of your kids and pets, your documents, your apps, your everything. It's still an iPhone 6S, but it's your iPhone 6S.

Likewise, a modern LMS comes with a comprehensive set of features: a sleek user interface, content authoring tools, gamification, 10+ types of assignments, collaboration tools, translation tools, integrations with other systems, reporting tools, mobile apps, etc., etc. Check out the features page of NEO LMS to get a glimpse into what etc., etc. means.

A learning portal is the equivalent of your iPhone 6S. It is exactly what your school uses to support every aspect of online education. It has the same sleek user interface, but it is customized based on the specific needs and wants of your educational institution and its students.

A learning portal is all about the users

The most important keyword regarding a learning management system is management. An LMS is used by teachers and administrators to create courses, assess students, and monitor their learning. LMSs were created to respond to the administrative and managerial needs of schools and universities.

Regarding the learning portal, the stress goes on the word learning, as it is like a gateway between users — the learners — and the learning content. A learning portal is all about the users and their learning needs.

A learning portal addresses a specific audience. The same LMS can be used by a kindergarten, a middle school, and a university. Since the age of the students is so different, the learning portal of the kindergarten will differ from that of the university.

Differences can be both in terms of how the portal looks like — more pictures than text for the kindergarten, maybe — as well as in terms of features. The possibility for parents to log in and check how their kids do at school seems a more desirable tool for learning portals that deserve K-12 students, rather than university students. A translation tool can be very useful in schools with international students, or for courses of foreign languages, but it can be easily skipped in the case of English-only schools, or for math or science online classes. One school may need an integration with OneDrive, while another may opt for integration with Google Drive.

Each educational institution can pick and choose the LMS features they need in order to create engaging online classes for their students, and personalize their learning portal.

A learning portal is all about personalization

Teachers can use the learning portal to design personalized learning paths for their students. Once a student logs in — let's call him Ben — he can see a personalized dashboard with various aspects that are of his interest:

  • what courses Ben is enrolled in;
  • where his progress is exactly;
  • what courses he needs to unlock, or simply finish by the end of the semester, or any other deadline;
  • how many points he has, for doing certain learning activities, like a quiz, or watching a certain video;
  • what's the score of other students at the same learning activities;
  • how many badges he has, and of what type;
  • what he needs to do to get another badge;
  • when his next assignment is due, and what type of assignment that is;
  • what notifications Ben has — from a certain discussion in a group he is part of, a message from a colleague, or from the teacher;
  • and so on, and so forth.

The customized learning path allows Ben to make progress in his learning without feeling like just another brick in the wall. The learning portal is designed for his needs and contributes to an overall personalized learning experience.

To sum up

A learning management system is a software that educational institutions buy in order to manage diverse aspects of online education.

A learning portal is just another face of the same LMS; it is the customized end result that students use in their learning.

There may be a fine line between a leaning management system and a learning portal, but it exists nonetheless.

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