Give your UPK Content a Face-Lift
When Oracle announced end of life for User Productivity Kit (UPK), we undertook a comprehensive analysis to identify alternative products. What we realised when we were reviewing these other tools was how much the market has changed and as a tool that is now more than 20 years old, UPK is not only competing with new functionality, including multi-media content and mobile learning, learner expectations have also changed. With greater workloads and increased multi-tasking, learners no longer have the time to spend completing lengthy training courses. In recent years we have seen clients move towards the development of smaller, bite-sized pieces of content. UPK content hasn’t always delivered this.
Designing UPK content with these updated learning styles in mind can be achieved using UPK. It’s a shift in instructional design methodology that is required, rather than an immediate change of tool. In order to support clients who have chosen to retain UPK, at least in the short term, we have been investigating quick and simple ways to make some improvements to UPK content design as well as the user interface. Minor tweaks to skins to improve look and feel, adjustments to context areas and conversion of content to video or web-page format, can help ensure your learning content meets some of the changing expectations of your learners today.
Update the Style
Let me give you some examples, starting with the renowned UPK ‘bubble’. The main purpose of UPK’s action bubble is to tell the learner what to do and how to do it. The why is included in Explanation Frames, both of which, as standard, appear as a yellow box or bubble. With some basic changes to the skin and some instructional design consideration, you can easily make your UPK content more engaging and less ‘wordy’ for your learners. It also ensures your UPK content is aligned to corporate style and offers a more modern look and feel.
The option to change the look of the bubble is available from UPK Version 12.
Make it Lean
In addition to restyling the UPK bubble, consider what content you need to include in each action bubble. Do you need to specify everything that you want the learner to do and include the template text? There are some instances when this isn’t required. Don’t give the learner more to read than is necessary. This just makes the learning cumbersome and lengthy.
In my example below, I changed the look of the Explanation Frames, by creating them using Web Pages. This gives the learner the option of viewing them or not, by providing a clickable link. If they’ve already completed a course but need a quick re-cap, for example, they may not want to have to click through all the Explanation Frames. By including links to the Explanation Frames, which they can open if needed, we are enabling the learner to decide how much information they need.
Traditionally in UPK, Developers have tended to record every single navigation step in a system process, with action bubbles for each. I would question whether this is always necessary, i.e. showing every single line being completed. If your learners are proficient enough to understand how to fill fields in an application, you could simply say that this page will be completed for them.
In addition, by default, UPK provides standard phrases as part of the Template Text. These phrases can be edited, so if you think the String Input text is too wordy, change it!
Also consider the screen resolution that you use for recording. 1024 by 768 has always been the standard resolution used, but it does mean that learners are scrolling over the screen a lot. Maybe increase that resolution.
Enhance the UPK Player
Do you actually need all of the learning modes that are provided as standard? Which one should be the required mode that the learner must complete? You can decide this yourself; traditionally Know It mode has been the default required mode, but perhaps this should be Try It, if tracking and reporting isn’t a priority.
You can update the style of your concept areas within the UPK Player by adding styles to web pages and applying these to all areas throughout your structure. You can also make your concept areas more interactive by adding links to additional web pages, and this is all possible out of the box in UPK.
Taking this a step further, you could create an eBook using UPK, which is effectively like a packaged, electronic course that links directly to specific, relevant course content. This can be created as a web page with links to your learning content. One of the restrictions in UPK is that you can’t dynamically link to a topic, so you couldn’t have a link in an eBook directly opening a course topic. However, what you could do as a workaround within UPK is convert your See It Mode topic to an MP4 video, then link directly to this. There is no need to re-record, as the Player2Movie functionality allows existing topics to be converted to MP4 video.
With the increase in use of video-based learning, we can see a big benefit to offering eBooks that include links to UPK recorded topics. Taking this another step further, if you create a HTML page in UPK, or put your existing content into a HTML page, you can embed your links to the See It videos. One of the challenges with UPK is that it’s not responsive and provides a pretty poor end user experience on mobile devices, when compared to more modern tools. By converting your topics to video format and creating these eBooks as HTML content, your learning content can be responsive in nature and will provide an improved mobile device experience. The example here was created using a standard UPK html page with some Bootstrap html code inserted.
If you have a third-party tool that can create websites without the requirement for hands-on coding, that will also work within a UPK Concept Pane. We use a tool called dominKnow Flow to create fully responsive courses which we can then also run independently from the UPK Knowledge Center.
The example on the left shows a course created in dominKnow which includes links directly to UPK Content, in the form of videos.
Enhance the UPK Knowledge Center
If you use the UPK Knowledge Center for deployment of your learning content, then this is the ‘shop window’ for all your learning. Whilst it may not be practical to change the style of the Knowledge Center because updates to UPK could mean losing your code and therefore your updates, you can change underlying CSS and XML files to add your own branding.
Alternatively, you could add a new landing page (as can be seen in my example shown below), which is more engaging and responsive, and provides links directly to your UPK learning content, reports and user management. Learners can be directed straight to their content, rather than having to go via the Knowledge Center landing page.
If you would like to use the Knowledge Center as a portal for additional learning resources, for example, you could also turn on an information area on the right-hand side of your Knowledge Center landing page, which acts as a mini-website. All areas of text are individually tagged and therefore can be changed. Unfortunately, there isn’t much more you can do out of the box to change the structure.
There are many other changes and tweaks that could be made to your existing UPK content, or adopted as you develop new UPK content, which would help to refresh its look and feel and better meet the needs of today’s learners. I have only included a few examples here.
If you’re continuing to develop new systems-based learning content, as well as maintain your existing content, using UPK, then a strategy that considers the ongoing value of this content to your learners is imperative. There should be a compelling reason to update your UPK content, rather than making changes for the sake of it, but by making some small changes to your instructional design practice this will not only make content more learner friendly now, it will also support you in terms of an eventual migration when you move to a new tool.
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