Photo credit:Sarah Haase

In March 2019, Microsoft launched the Preview of the Custom Learning Portal, a SharePoint Communications site template with an app used for sharing learning resources for Microsoft 365. The learning resources are maintained by Microsoft centrally from, but can be ordered into playlists and integrated with an organisations own custom content.

It has since been renamed as the Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways site.

During Microsoft MVP Summit, REgarding 365 gathered some members together in the Microsoft Treehouse, a meeting venue built in and around the Redwood trees on the Redmond campus. We discussed the Learning Pathways site and approaches to learning and user adoption.

The discussion panel was filmed as a 360 video, to bring the roundtable treehouse meeting immersive experience to you.

I summarised some of the points made during the discussion but I do encourage you to view the full video and hear the whole discussion.

Thank to our panelists for your sharing your deep experience and thoughtful opinions – Loryan Strant, Sarah Haase, Tracy van der Schyff, Paul Swider, Jethro Seghers, Steven Collier, Simon Denton and Daniel Glenn.

Thanks to Microsoft’s Anna Chu and Sonia Atchison for hosting the discussion in this amazing venue.

Opening Statements

Loryan 2:46

The learning pathways site is great because it’s a good starting point. Loryan compared it to the SharePoint 2010 Learning Hub.

The content is fantastic, but there needs to be strategy to that considers how people want to learn, rather than thrusting some resources at them. You can give some people a bunch of resources, but they want a person in a meeting room taking them through training. Understand how people are using the tools in Microsoft 365. Match up the usage data of a tool like Planner with analytics that shows whether or not they have viewed the Planner training video.

Have an all encompassing strategy. Don’t use the learning portal on it’s own.

Sarah 4:43

Sarah says the learning pathways site gives organisations a running start, showing how some of this learning content can come together. Getting an initial vision can be the most difficult part in getting started.

The learning pathways site is also good for organisations that aren’t rolling out Microsoft 365 in a big bang approach. They can customise and choose what’s available, which products display and which don’t. If you’re from an organisation that doesn’t have all the features turned on, and you buy a training solution off the shelf that mentions all those features, you’re showing things your users can use. Theres almost no better way to alienate your users than to tell them about a great feature and then tell them they can’t have it.

Think about your personas, your key users that you need to talk to and make sure you’ve considered how they will consume the content in the learning pathways site. Round it out with other types of content.

Get started with the site early during your Pilot process. Your Pilot group of users can give feedback on the learning pathways site, can help you tweak it and make sure the design is just right to get it ready for the masses.

Tracy 6:24

Tracy has been building learning portals for years, but for each new customer has to build it again. She uses existing Microsoft resources and thinks they have improved a lot over the last year.

But tools don’t fix problems. People fix problems. Techy people know how to find help. But a lot of people don’t go and look for help. Even though the learning portal brings the existing Microsoft training resources into our tenants, it’s still going to take more for them to search for help. There’s a big culture change bringing in tools to help people. Be careful of putting something on SharePoint to help people to learn how to use SharePoint. They might be afraid of using SharePoint which means they aren’t going to use the learning pathways site.

Help people to trust IT. Help them to trust their own intuition and build up self esteem, not being afraid to try things on their own PC’s.

The learning pathways site is a great tool, but please remember to work on your culture. This site is just a small piece in the puzzle.

Paul 9:02

It’s important to spend the time up front to get everyone on the same page. It assists in the migration project because your beginning to speak the same language. Today, Microsoft 365 has so much depth. There are so many more apps in the collaboration space. That makes learning more complex. This idea of having a portal that can enhance the learning across Microsoft 365 is a beautiful thing.

Jethro 10:40

There’s a lot of great things about making existing content available in the portal. But there are also risks. Don’t give the impression that you simply deploy the learning pathways site and the job is done. Customers can see a solution from Microsoft and think it’s a total solution, even if Microsoft didn’t intend it to be a total solution. You have to use a full strategy, identify how people learn and prefer to learn. Take the training materials provided and shape them to achieve your goals.

Make sure that you implement the learning pathways site as part of a training framework.

Steven 12:40

The Learning Pathways site is customisable. It looks pretty out of the box but it’s not about your company. It’s only going have significance when you link it into your company content, your strategy, including your applications. Include your companies values and goals for learning. You can’t convice people to use technology. You can convince people to work in a different way because your business wants to work that way.

Surprisingly, it’s very product centric out of the box. Reorganise it. Turn it into something more scenario based. Share different stories such as how you holding effective meetings, or personal productivity stories. Pull these together with different lessons on the products.

Make it path of a journey. Some people like to work through a pathway. Link through to learning communities on Yammer or Teams to have related conversations.

Use the learning pathways site to promote the learning communities and a learning drop-in center, a physical place to go and get help.

Lastly, consider bringing in other learning content together with the Microsoft 365 content.

Simon 14:56

We’re sitting in a Microsoft tree-house meeting space that has taken many different tools to make. The learning pathways site is just one tool in an arsenal of tools. It’s also v1 of the tool. Microsoft is going to do a whole lot more with the site.

We can get a lot of help from the Tell Me feature directly within the product. Simon would like to have seen the learning pathways site be surfaced within those areas, in the context of somewhere where people are actually doing something, rather than having to go to a destination to do it.

That said, Learning pathways site is free, it has a lot of product material, a lot of features, you can add it into SharePoint quickly, you have a web part to drop it into the right places. You need a broad toolset to aide learning. One tool just aint going to work.

Daniel 16:34

The best feature of the learning paths site is that the content is updated for you. However, the site can still become stale. Any customised learning content that you provide will become out of date. If you create your own videos, the product is changing all the time.

You have to keep that content up to date.

Today, the learning pathways site is not a Learning Mangement System. Activity is not being tracked. You’ll need to make use of quizzes and forms for people to fill out and gauge how people are interacting with the learning content.

Darrell 20:09

The learning pathways site is malleable. Microsoft 365 is changing so frequently, we can’t keep custom resources up to date. We need to rely on a base level of resources that are maintained by Microsoft.

The good thing about the learning pathways site is that you can reorganise the resources to support scenarios. If you learn some basics in SharePoint, you can create a page and embed a custom playlist that wraps an organisations own story around the scenario.

Think about the possibility of connecting user groups to resources. Record online meetings and presentations. Make the learning pathways site a place to see resources with people the recognise. People can share their stories of how they are using the technology and the stories can be added to the playlist, or the page where the playlist is embedded.

Open Comments

Loryan 23:52 Are you going to get an executive to sit and watch training videos? No. You’re going to pay a trainer to come in for half a day and do two one-hour workshops.

Sarah 24:32 Every company I go to, it’s amazing how different people are and what they want. Some companies… you have to work so hard to get people to show up and they’ll only show up in person. Other companies, you can get 130 people along to the first session, but they all want to attend via Skype for Business.

Daniel 26:12 You can stall enabling your users because you’re planning too much. If you plan for too long, your users are getting lost. Take a phased approach. Do a little planning. But get some resources out there.

Make it a responsibility of someones job to keep them maintainted.

Jethro 27:29 We hear the terms ’user training’ and ‘adoption’ interchangibly. They’re not. User training is not adoption. It’s not because they know how to do something, that they’re going to do it.

Training is getting people to know and understand how to do something. Why they’re doing it, or what the benefit is for them or why they should be doing it something completely different.

Tracy 28:52 If I had to take Teams and show people how to create a channel, its this small [small importance]. If I show them about naming conventions and when you’re using too many channels, it’s a business governance thing. It’s company personal. People don’t put the effort in and think that Microsoft must give them all the guidelines.

Paul 29:45 One benefit of this learning pathways site is improved accessibility. Today’s world, we should be focused accessibility, inclusion and broadening our reach.

Steven 30:22 The learning pathways site is one way content. Lessons you sit and watch. But it’s never going to answer everyone’s questions. You need to have the next place for them to go. Having a community is an effective way to do that, if stoke and culture it. You can’t just leave and expect peoples questions to be answered.

Simon 31:20 We’re not Netflix. Views matter to Netflix. People watch stuff and they get a return on investment. Whereas learning media, the return on investment is any value someone creates when they learn how to do something.

There’s more valuable comments and opinions within the video. I encourage you again to watch it. If you have any experiences and opinions to share about the Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways portal, share them in the comments below. Or get in touch. I’d love to hear your feedback.

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