Using UPK to support Blended Learning

For some time now, organisations have been moving towards eLearning, driven by the lower cost of delivery and the need to reduce off-the-job time, while coming to terms with new systems and applications. Cost, however, is not the only reason to go down this route. There are also strong arguments that learning can be more effective if presented as a Blended Learning programme of classroom and eLearning elements.

Oracle´s User Productivity Kit (UPK) creates custom built eLearning that will run in four different modes, providing the building blocks to support a highly effective Blended Learning approach. In addition to the four Player modes, Training Manuals and Quick Reference Cards can be published directly from the same UPK content that has already been developed. This can be useful for those who like something tangible to annotate as they learn.

In this article, we will look at a number of challenges for training delivery and consider how UPK can be used to overcome these.

Challenge 1: eLearning is often theoretical and not connected with the actual work or process to be learned

Historically, eLearning content has been expensive to develop and had to be sold in volume to recover the development cost. This has meant that, in order to be applicable to the widest audience, the content must be very generic in nature. Users of this type of content often feel that it is not relevant to them and hard to relate to their situation. As a consequence, they find it hard to maintain motivation to complete the courses and do not retain the learning effectively.

Because UPK content is recorded on your environment, using your processes, data and terminology, the learner will more easily identify and connect with it. The user will be able to immediately see the relevance of the training to their daily job and therefore understand and retain the content more effectively. This approach is made cost effective by the unique power of UPK to create custom content very quickly and deploy it in various modes without additional work.

Challenge 2: People have different learning styles and the training programme must cater for these in order to be effective

The UPK Player package generates four styles of learning output which will go a long way to catering for different learning styles.

Challenge 3: eLearning may be a culture change for the organisation

In fact this is the case for most organisations. Even those who have delivered successful eLearning projects, in many cases have not managed to get to the point where it has been accepted across their entire organisation. We have found that the best solution is to deliver a Blended Learning approach.

A classroom session would start with an introduction to the background and concepts behind the subject area. The Instructor would then introduce UPK and use it in a variety of modes to teach some key processes. Having familiarised the class with UPK as a learning tool, the students are encouraged to learn on their own using their preferred modes, while the Instructor is on hand to help out with any problems or questions. By the end of the class, the students should have had practice with UPK and feel comfortable to continue self-service learning to complete the topics relevant to their job role.

It is important that there is a structured Blended Learning programme in place to ensure that the learners continue with the eLearning. Help should be available in the form of telephone support, user clinics or proactive mentors, to ensure that the momentum is not lost and that the learning is completed in time for the system go-live. UPK Usage Tracking is a critical tool in the context of managing progress with the learning objectives. It can report how the learner population is making use of the content and what scores are being achieved in Know-it mode.

Challenge 4: The Forgetting Curve

The ‘learning curve’ is usually depicted as a steep hill that we have to push users up to get them confident and competent to use the application effectively. Unfortunately when we get them there, they immediately begin to slip down the ‘forgetting curve’. To minimise this, we need to ensure that they have an opportunity to put their learning into practice before the knowledge begins to fade.

We therefore need to close or bridge the time gap between the learning and the practice by either delivering Just-In-Time training or providing regular opportunities to practice until the system is in use. UPK can help with both of these approaches. Because the See-it, Try-it and Do-it mode supports are always on tap, the users can refresh their knowledge immediately before using the process on the system.

There are always some processes that are only used at quarter end, year end or in special circumstances. A classroom training programme is not well positioned to provide Just-In-Time training for these situations, yet these are the very processes that the users will most need help with, due to the infrequency of their use. With UPK, the users can refresh themselves on the system steps and then follow up references to supporting information in documents, illustrations, websites or any other relevant organisational knowledge source.

Challenge 5: Ensuring that eLearning takes place

Training managers can plan and deliver classroom programmes in the knowledge that those attending are taken out of their working environment and given dedicated time to concentrate on learning. Of course, this certainty is impacted somewhat with the advent of smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices. Nevertheless, we can still say, with a degree of confidence, who has attended training and that they have been taken through a defined curriculum.

Achieving this certainty with eLearning is much more difficult. If we make content available to users and leave it up to them, we can be fairly certain that the pressure of the ‘day job’ will prevent them from completing the learning and being prepared to use the system. The training may be Just-too-late rather than Just-in-time! We need to create a properly managed programme with defined learning objectives, tracking and various interventions to ensure that staff are encouraged and supported through the Blended Learning programme.

The following elements should be included in your Blended Learning programme, to make up a controlled system:

  • Introduce UPK in short classroom sessions
  • Set objectives, with target dates for completion of learning modules.
  • Involve Line Management to encourage/enforce completion of the training.
  • Use Usage Tracking to provide information to Line Managers about the progress of their staff.
  • Use Know-it mode to get feedback on the achievement of learners and to encourage users to achieve a standard.
  • Use mentors to ask the learners how they are getting on and check if there are any barriers impacting their progress.
  • Schedule clinics and online forums to answer questions, get feedback and provide encouragement.
  • Report to management, showing progress with classroom and online learning.

Experience shows that a well designed Blended Learning programme, based on quality UPK content, and delivered with management support and commitment will be more cost effective and successful in creating a competent user community than classroom training used in isolation.