E-learning is emerging as a popular learning approach utilized by many organizations. Despite the ever increasing practices of e-learning in the workplace, most e-learning applications fail to meet learners' needs or serve organization's quests for success. Significant gaps exist between organizational interests and individual needs when they come to e-learning, which make e-learning applications less goal-effective. To solve this problem, a performance-oriented approach is presented in this study. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are set up to clarify organizational training needs, and help learners establish rational learning objectives. In addition, ontology is used for constructing formal and machine-understandable conceptualization of the performance-oriented learning environment. Using this approach, a KPI-oriented learning ontology and prototype system have been developed and evaluated to demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.