School leaders recognize the importance of having a web portal that provides one-stop access for news and information about their school or district. The question is whether to create such a portal from scratch or use one of the models offered by various web-based education sites.

There are several advantages to using a predesigned portal model:

• Ease of development;

• Speed of getting online;

• Broad functionality that meets most schools’ needs (features such as identification systems for all users and the ability to customize the information that is presented); and

• Original content provided by the site’s sponsor.

Furthermore, the best education web portals offer the ability for users to customize the look and functions of their portal itself to meet their specific needs.

But preset portals have some limitations, as would any “one-size-fits-all” product. Therefore, administrators should consider how they will use the portal before deciding whether to build or buy.

They should keep the following questions in mind:

• Who will use the portal (teachers, students, staff, or parents), and for what purposes?

• What functions are needed for each type of user?

• Can commercial portals provide functionality for each user?

• How much will it cost to create a unique portal? Are these resources available, and could they be put to better use?

• What are the update and maintenance issues involved with building a unique portal? What about security?

abstracted from “Portals for Education: Build or Buy
Converge, November 2001