September/October 2001 // Spotlight Site
A Trek Through the LSCHE Web Portal
by Ed Fernandez
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Ed Fernandez "A Trek Through the LSCHE Web Portal" The Technology Source, September/October 2001. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

por-tal (p?ɬ¥ŕtl, pōŕ-) n. 1. A doorway, entrance, or gate, esp. one that is large and imposing. 2. An entrance or means of entrance: a portal of knowledge.

One of the episodes of the original Star Trek series that never fails to intrigue me has Kirk, Spock, and Bones encountering Mr. Atos and the Time Portal. It seems that the inhabitants of a doomed planet had discovered/invented a very unique gateway that allowed them to travel anywhere and be in any time. As a youngster, I thought that all quite amazing and even fantastic. How marvelous it must be to start at one place and, from there, be able to access all kinds of other places, people, knowledge, and experiences.

While this may have simply been the product of some sci-fi writer's imaginings, the idea of the portal as a passageway from one point to a host of others is quite real, especially in the "cyberworld" of the information age, for it is here that the idea of the portal can be realized. In this context the Learning Support Centers in Higher Education (LSCHE) Web portal, a product of the Winter Institutes of Learning Assistance, is a useful and multifaceted information source for people working in the field of learning assistance and represents a significant step toward professionalizing this field.

Creators Frank Christ and Rick Sheets anticipate common questions about learning support centers and have designed a well-organized and convenient site to meet that need. Through LSCHE, users can access bibliographies, publications, conference itineraries, listservs, and extensive related links.

People seeking information about learning assistance will appreciate the depth and breadth of this site. Topics include "About Learning Support Centers," "Guide to Learning Skills," and "Resources." Everything is located in one place, and the site is easily navigable.

The LSCHE site also supports general discussion about what learning centers are, what they do, and how they define their missions. It provides background and context, definitions and distinctions, standards and qualifications—there are even ideas for naming (or renaming) a center. Each discussion is supported with an explanation and an appropriate rationale.

When it is completed, one of the most useful sections for people already in the field will be the Resources section, a helpful collection of materials and information for learning support specialists. The subsections "Articles/Presentations," "Periodical Directory," and "Books and Reviews" will give staff the opportunity to stay abreast of research and to interact with the academic community. In addition, the subsection "Employment Opportunities" will allow its users to target potential employers; likewise, LSC program directors will be able to ascertain prospective talent more readily and efficiently.

Of particular interest in "Resources" is the subsection titled "Online Teaching/Learning." This subsection provides links to such established resources as WordSmyth and TeleCampus and provides a nucleus of material from which this part of the site may grow as well. It also offers suggestions for online course development based on the perspectives of both instructors and students. As distance learning rapidly advances from hopeful promise to common practice, the information and research contained in this part of LSCHE can assist instructors in formulating ever more useful and pedagogically sound distance classes. Though its content remains rather meager, this feature nonetheless shows promise as a guide for the creation of successful online courses.

LSCHE makes an important contribution to the field by finding and collecting relevant materials, programs, services, and resources, thereby saving people the time and frustration of an exhaustive literature or Web search. Moreover, another great strength is its solicitation of materials from its users. Scattered throughout the site are convenient, easy-to-find links to the authors' e-mail addresses that invite suggestions and feedback. Nowhere is this more evident than in the "Resources" section, where Christ and Sheets repeatedly ask users to submit relevant publications and bibliographies for inclusion. The subsection "Research and Scholars' Library" (as yet unfinished) is being built with the help of materials donated by users. The site also features links to major organizations and associations such as NTA (National Tutoring Association), TIDE (Technology Institute for Developmental Educators), and the Winter Institute and offers links to helpful articles on specific topics such as "Program Components and Their Relationship to Student Performance" by Boylan, Bliss, and Bonham (1997). Through this one site, learning support professionals have easy access to these and other important resources, allowing those in the field to review current research and practice without much effort and thus serve their clients more effectively.

LSCHE's ultimate legacy may be its role in professionalizing the field of learning assistance. The site was created and is maintained by two of the most respected names in the discipline; in turn, its contributors include people such as Martha Maxwell, Gwen Enright, Hunter Boylan, and David Caverly—the "heavy hitters" in learning support. More than just substance, their participation also gives the site a great deal of credibility. LSCHE will likely one day be a comprehensive database about learning support.


Boylan, H. L, Bliss, L. B., & Bonham, B. S. (1997). Program components and their relationship to student performance. Journal of Developmental Education, 20 (3), 2-8. Retrieved August 23, 2001, from

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