Rose Colored Glasses

Random Thoughts on Instructional Design

Learning Portals: Collaborative Tools That Work

Presenter: Dr. Chip Kimball, Assistant Superintendent and CIO, Lake Washington School District, Redmond WA

Dr. Kimball did a wonderful job of presenting how the Lake Washington School District (LWS) implemented of the Sharepoint portal platform.

The district needed a way to integrate their data to address accountability pressures, support increased requirements with fewer resources, and support fiscal responsibilities. They also wanted a way to provide real time information to stakeholders — when and how they wanted it, and to capitalize upon student skills, interests, and ability to multitask.

The purpose of the LWS portal project was to create a customized user experience that allowed for a variety of user roles. They also wanted to provide a common user interface that provided connections to datasets, used a single sign on, and to provided client notifications services.


Some of the challenges LWS faced in selecting and implementing a portal system were:

  • Technology changed quickly while culture changed slowly.
  • The early tools were typically primitive and expensive.
  • The portal marketplace is huge and often overlaps.
  • There are a lot of companies out there that claim to provide portal systems.
  • There is no one portal system that addresses all of a districts needs.
  • Portal successes are often invisible to the end user.
  • Scalability — can the tool be scaled to the needs of the organization or institution.
  • Adopting functionality that was easy for teachers and staff to learn.
  • Selecting a product that supports various teaching styles.

Once a portal or series of portals are selected it is imperative to nurture vendor partnerships, and assure that the tool(s) are easy for teachers and staff to use.


LWS used a three passed approach to implementing their portal system.

Phase 1

Microsoft Sharepoint was selected as the platform and both HP/Microsoft collaborated on the implementation. The district decided to use an Australian code set instead of implementing an “out of the box” version of the product. This decision turned out to be a disaster. The code was non-standard and required a great deal of customization.

Some of the other issues that they ran into in this phase are that the product was not as mature as they had hoped, and that providing different tools sets for different users introduced new levels of complexity.

Phase 2

LWS decided to retrench and implement Sharepoint out of the box functionality. They also decided to implement the easy function first then move onto the more difficult and items that would be transparent to the users in subsequent phases.

The product was implemented throughout the district on a per request basis and little training was provided. All authors were allowed to customize their pages and decide on what data they wanted posted and were it should be posted. Allowing the authors this type of freedom acted as a catalyst for a grassroots movement among the faculty and staff could really push the envelope. Some of the schools have even replaced their traditional websites with the portal. Juanita High School was the first school to replace their website

Phase 3

In the next phase of their implementation LWS plans on adopting a new calendaring application, provide home access, address back end data integration, and continue partner development.

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2005 by in NECC 2005.

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