Understanding Oracle UPK Professional

What is Oracle UPK?

Oracle UPK (User Productivity Kit) is primarily a content development tool that can capture system process steps in any IT system and from a single capture create multiple online and documentation outputs to accelerate User Acceptance Testing, Training, User Adoption and Knowledge Retention. In addition, Oracle UPK can significantly ease the burden of Process Documentation, Compliance and Application Support. Oracle UPK is currently shipped in two versions; UPK Standard and UPK Professional. In this article I will seek to clarify the differences.

Both versions of the Oracle UPK include the same content development tool with all of the same features and functionality. The difference between the versions is the deployment and tracking capability.

The online and documentation outputs produced by the development tool can be deployed to the relevant audience using the standard methods and infrastructure already in place in your organisation. The online outputs are essentially web pages that can be served up to end users using any web server. The documentation is produced in Microsoft Office or PDF formats and can therefore be distributed via network shares, document repositories, intranet sites, email, print, etc.

If you wish to track who is accessing the content, one option is to use the Oracle UPK Knowledge Center. This is essentially a web based portal utilised for content delivery, tracking and reporting. There are two versions of the Knowledge Center; Standard and Professional, and this is where the two versions of Oracle UPK differ. UPK Standard includes the content development tool and the Standard version of the Knowledge Center. The Standard version can be used to deploy one or more outlines of content to users but it is not possible to restrict access by user. If a user has access to the Knowledge Center in the Standard version of Oracle UPK then they have access to all of the content available; either full outlines or sections of an outline. The user can access the content in any order and, although the Knowledge Center will bookmark the last visited item for when the user returns to the site, there isn´t any way for the end user to track personal progress and previously viewed items.

Tracking and reporting on content and assessments is available to Managers and Training Staff in the Standard version of Oracle UPK using a built in report writer. However, the only information about the user that can be included in the report is their username. Reporting based on department, location, manager, etc. is not possible without connecting to other data sources.

What is Oracle UPK Professional?

UPK Professional includes the content development tool and the Professional version of the Knowledge Center which offers advanced functionality and is known as a Learning Content Management System (LCMS).

An LCMS provides an online portal for delivery of content to end users. The deployment of the content and associated assessments can be based upon factors such as the user´s job role, department or geographic location. All activity performed by the end user in the LCMS is tracked and the tracking information can be reported upon or exported to third party systems.

An LCMS should not be confused with a Learning Management System (LMS), which can offer the majority of the functionality of an LCMS plus advanced features such as resource management, career development, competency framework and budgeting. An LCMS is often used as a stepping stone to an LMS, as the implementation of an LMS can be a lengthy and expensive deployment.

Prior to Version 11.0 the Standard version of Oracle UPK included the content development tool and a deployment tool similar to the Standard version of the Knowledge Center, known as Usage Tracking. The Professional version of Oracle UPK consisted of two tools; the UPK Developer and an LCMS called Knowledge Pathways. Knowledge Pathways included three main interfaces, resulting in effectively four separate applications to capture, deploy and track content. When developing UPK Version 11.0, Oracle took elements of Knowledge Pathways and integrated them into UPK resulting in one content development tool (UPK Developer) and one deployment tool (Knowledge Center).

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The Professional version of the Knowledge Center brings many advantages over the Standard version:

Knowledge Paths

Knowledge Paths allow Training Managers to create bespoke courses of content and assessments. The Paths can be made up of one or more Activities, each of which can contain a pre-course assessment, an entire or partial outline of content and a post-course assessment. A curriculum can be enforced within the Paths to ensure that a user works through an outline of content and proves their proficiency in that area, using the assessments, before they can access further material.

The content inside each Activity can be automatically tailored to the user based on their responses to the pre-course assessment. If the user proves that they are proficient in a particular area of the content, by achieving a predetermined score on the questions associated with that area, then they can choose to opt out of that area of content.

Knowledge Paths are assigned to users either directly or based on the User Groups that they belong to. User Groups are often created to represent the different job roles in an organisation but could equally represent departments, divisions, geographical location, etc.

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The navigation of each Activity can be defined. The collapsible outline structure can be hidden from users if required, and users can also be permitted to work through the outline in any order or forced to take each item in the order in which they were authored.

Icons against each item enable users to clearly see which items they have previously accessed; they indicate whether the item is partially or fully completed and whether the user has passed or failed an item. If a user leaves a Path they can continue from the point that they left or start again.

Notebook

Users are able to bookmark pages of content similar to the favourites feature inside an internet browser. Comments can be added to each entry and a hyperlink to the page is also included.

Expert Advice and Feedback

Experts can be assigned to Knowledge Paths to provide support to end users. Inside the content pages the end user can click an icon to open the Question window. Previously asked questions can be viewed from here, or the user can ask a new question relating to the content or associated business process. The defined expert or experts are then sent an email closing the question or leaving it open for further comments. The end user is sent an email notification for any answers provided.

Similar functionality is available to provide feedback on the content. Feedback Monitors are defined against the Knowledge Path and reviewers and end users can provide feedback using a similar screen to the Question window. Again, email notifications are provided.

Custom User Fields

One of the strongest features of the Professional version is the ability to customise the information that can be stored against each user. Custom User Fields can be added to the user profile screen to record any required data. The user profiles include by default Last Name, First Name, Username, Email, Password, Start and End Dates, the Active flag and permissions. Custom User Fields can be defined in a number of formats such as free text and selection lists and can be optional or mandatory. The big advantage of Custom User Fields is that they can be used to group and filter the reports from the Knowledge Center.

Custom User Fields are often used to map the organisational hierarchy of an organisation by including Team Leader, Manager, Director, Department, Division, etc. Other uses include geographical location, job title, payroll number and qualifications.

Advanced Reporting

The reporting capability of the Professional version is far superior to that of the Standard version as a higher level of detail is captured around the content, assessments and questions. The Custom User Fields provide grouping and filtering capabilities and the ability to integrate any third party Business Intelligence tool introduces a wealth of functionality.

Progress percentages, number of attempts, scores and time taken for each subject, as well as pre and post assessments are captured per user. Course usage statistics and even individual question responses are also captured. Each end user has the ability to view a Usage Summary Report which includes their progress. Team Leaders, Managers and Training Staff can be assigned the ability to report across the organisation. Oracle has provided a data model and database views of the database to allow the information captured to be reported on any third party Business Intelligence tool, for example; Oracle Discoverer, Crystal Reports, Business Objects, Cognos and even Microsoft Excel. The reports can easily be integrated into the Knowledge Center interface as an external report.

By leveraging existing third party Business Intelligence tools and resources you can easily, and with little cost, take advantage of their advanced features including graphs, dashboards, drilldowns, export to other file formats such as PDF, scheduling of reports and delivery via email.

User IDs and Custom User Fields can be passed to the external reports for grouping and filtering but can also be used to enforce secure, hierarchical reporting. For example, a Team Leader could run a report and, based on their User ID, the report would only contain the information about the users that report to them. A Manager could run the same report and see a wider range of data.

Third Party SCORM with Version 11.1.0.1

With the release of UPK Version 11.1.0.1 Oracle has added support for third party SCORM content in the Professional version of the Knowledge Center. SCORM is a set of technical standards for eLearning tools which define how content should be written and structured so that it can be read by compliant LCMS and LMS systems. This means that any content that has been created with another tool can be imported into the Knowledge Center, tracked and reported on as long as the content adheres to the SCORM standards.

The Knowledge Center can now become the single point of all eLearning content for your end users. Soft skills training can be integrated with systems training as well as other assets and skills can be utilised.

Summary

Organisations who require a robust platform to deliver and track both UPK and third party e-Learning content will find UPK Professional provides an affordable and simple solution.

Whether for compliance or simply to meet the demands of the organisation, bespoke Knowledge Paths and a role based deployment can ensure targeted learning with the standard and external reports providing distributed hierarchical reporting, secured, grouped and filtered using the Custom User Fields.

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