Is there still life in UPK?

Is there still Life in UPK?

If, as an organisation, you have invested in Oracle User Productivity Kit (UPK) for the development of your learning content, you may, understandably, be concerned by Oracle’s announcement that UPK Support is being withdrawn. Despite the recent announcement that Premier UPK Support will now continue until December 2022, development in the tool will be limited to basic patches and service pack releases. The extension of Oracle’s Premier Support for UPK has however resulted in a resurgence of requests for our UPK Services. To meet this shift in requirements we have updated our UPK offerings to reflect what we hope are the changes in Content Author and Instructional Designer expectations, and offer our clients advice on how to make the most out of UPK, as well as manage its end of life and eventual migration to an alternative tool.

If you do have a current Maintenance and Support agreement but haven’t yet updated your UPK instance, I would recommend updating to the latest version, UPK Version 12.1 Enablement Service Pack 4, as soon as possible to reap any benefits of this Support extension. Oracle's terms are straightforward, provided that your UPK Maintenance and Support is still valid, you are entitled to download the latest version and receive their Support should you need it. If you are unsure about your UPK Support status, you should contact the Oracle Renewals Team and they will be able to advise you.

Contrary to what you may have heard, the withdrawal of UPK Support shouldn’t cause large scale panic because it doesn’t necessarily mean you must stop using it! At least not right now, or even before December 2022. Your UPK Licence is Perpetual, so you own it, but the lack of Support especially given the number of desktop upgrades we all experience could in effect mean, as an unsupported tool, UPK would be too risky to maintain for many organisations.

The biggest consideration is ensuring that you can continue to develop and maintain your learning content, and that your users can still access it. There is no set date or time at which point you will have to stop using UPK and migrate to a new tool. How often you upgrade other software that UPK may be reliant upon, crucially for example your internet browser, is a major deciding factor. As your other software continues to be developed and updated, your version of UPK may become incompatible. Considering these factors now will ensure you’re prepared for any potential migration of your learning content in the future.

Oracle's decision to extend Premier Support until December 2022 has resulted in many of our clients taking a more pragmatic approach to their continued use of UPK. Whilst many were considering or had chosen a replacement tool, based on Oracle’s original timeline to withdraw Support in March 2019, the time and cost was such that some were opting to abandon the creation of bespoke content. With the announcement of a four-year extension, you can now continue to benefit from a tool in which you have invested both in terms of purchase cost and content development time. The search and eventual choice of a replacement tool can now be planned when you have the time and budget or indeed when there is what we term a ‘compelling event’. Such an event could be a major upgrade or change in application, indeed any change that necessitates the re-recording of a large amount of UPK content. Typically, during the planning of an upgrade or new application, a business case is required to gain budget. The replacement of UPK with a new tool can be substantiated at this time.

Alternatively, you may wish to invest in a new tool in between major projects. Many of our clients have seen this as a window of opportunity for the selection and upskilling of their Content Authors. Some tools which seek to replace UPK are able to integrate the UPK source files (ODARCs) into their content libraries, thereby accommodating the ongoing development of learning and support content.

Of course, you may have content which is not subject to change. This is not an issue as UPK is SCORM compliant and can be packaged and deployed in all the major learning management systems for the purpose of tracking and reporting user activity and achievement.

Some of our clients have found themselves in a position where their internal UPK knowledge has depleted and they’re now uncertain whether it’s worth investing in training to bring new content developers up to speed. There are still organisations around that have a vast amount of experience in UPK and can either offer content development services or UPK training, neither of which need to be expensive. We offer facilitated UPK eLearning courses, classroom training and workshops as well as a schedule of open courses covering the latest version of UPK.

We have been working with UPK for more than 30 years and were saddened to hear that Oracle were sunsetting the tool. Naturally, we had to start looking for alternative products early and have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the market to identify a replacement tool that offers all the features of UPK, including recording, editing and publishing functionality, integrated help, eLearning simulations, translation facilities, and learning content management capabilities.

I am happy to say that we have found a suitable alternative, which offers all those key features as well as some enhancements, and a more up-to-date user interface. We are now able to offer these learning content development features within our own Larmer Brown Platform. If you would like to know about this, please get in touch.

If you have been developing learning content using UPK for some time, a big consideration is the resource you’ve already invested in your existing learning content. If it has been kept up-to-date, it’s a valuable asset. You won’t want to lose this when you do eventually replace UPK with an alternative tool. The good news is that you don’t have to write off your content, there are options for conversion and migration of UPK content. Firstly, depending on the tool you choose to replace UPK, a conversion process may be possible, although it can be costly and needs to be weighed up against the cost of recreating your content. Alternatively, you could host your existing UPK content and new content in parallel, offering users access to both via your Learning Management System – but you won’t have any editing capability for your legacy UPK content. You can download our UPK Migration Guide for more detailed advice on this.

The one piece of advice I have been giving to our existing UPK clients is don’t wait until you get to a point that you need to replace UPK. Start looking before you’re in a position where your users can no longer access your learning content, to allow yourself time to properly consider your options. We would be very happy to assist you in evaluating your options for UPK end of life. If you would like to arrange an informal discussion, please do get in touch.

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Janice Brown is the founding director of Larmer Brown Limited. She has worked with Oracle’s User Productivity Kit (UPK) technology since 1994 and has over 25 years’ experience in the design and delivery of end user driven implementations. Janice has Diplomas in Business Studies and is a member of the Institute of IT Training.

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