DISCUSS: Is Ultilearn fit for purpose?


Not fit in my opinion. I opened the ‘cadet security brief’ presentation once about 6 weeks ago to review it for a new recruit intake.

Ultilearn now won’t let me open it for a second time.

No response from the help desk.

We were only able to train our recruit flight because another sqn somewhere have it on their website. Ironic?


I can, by using the “view” eye icon


as a side note, from the Minutes of ACMB and CEB 2018 it seems that some people high up recognise the need for change too.

Page 7
The REDACTED also highlighted serious concerns
surrounding Ultilearn and its business continuity following the
resignation of key volunteers. It was the opinion of the ACMB that
alternative on-line delivery options should be explored, perhaps using
non-public money, to ensure the continuity of an online training


I suppose they could always use Moodle… Just like the Defence Learning Portal has been doing for years.

I have always imagined the original conversation went something along the lines of:

Gp Capt Mid - “I’ve heard of Ultilearn!!”

nodding and applause around the table

Everyone else - “Let’s buy it!”


Seems we considered moving to Moodle in 2012 but was veto’d as we wanted to go for a tri-cadet force solution . . .


Ahh… Classic!


Ultilearn is not fit for purpose in any way shape or form to be honest.

  1. How can you have an exam where a cadet can get 50% and pass and the cadet next to them can get 90% and fail simply because he got two questions wrong in one area?
  2. It crashes regularly
  3. The content is out of date and the format of presentation is poor, our cadets are used to better- that’s what they get in schools.
  4. Any more time spent in front of screens simply turns cadets off, they spend so much time in front of screens at school that they want something different at cadets.
  5. It requires large investment in IT if you want more than a couple of cadets at a time to use it.
  6. The security is so over the top, my defence gateway account is easier to get into.
  7. The content is too complicated at the higher levels- teach aircraft engineering graduates that sort of stuff.
  8. I know lots who dont use it, it wastes too much time and resource and not fit for purpose.


These are all policy issues, either the classification system itself, or just a side effect of the move to e-learning. These are not a failing of Ultilearn itself.


Ultilearn is a classic example of HQAC acting in haste and repenting at leisure. Except their haste and repenting is causing problems for squadrons.
For several years there were various moans and gripes about the old exam system; materials weren’t up to much, it took ages to get results back and apparently the exams were produced using a computer from the ark which was on the verge of collapse.
IMO the materials were better before than now and given how many questions on ultilearn come from the old paper exams I think someone somewhere was fibbing and just couldn’t be bothered.

Is ultilearn fit for purpose no, and the current classification system has more flaws (sic) than the Burg Khalifa.


I think that there are several things here, my ten cents:

Ultilearn itself. It’s a poor piece of software and I’d be hugely embarrassed to sign off on it, but the bottom line is that it does generally work. That said, a vast improvement in the software would help to allay some of the issues:

  • It’s far too clunky which makes actually taking exams slow - as people have posted above, IT is generally limited and this doesn’t help with getting cadets through exams (faster exam = more cadets through)
  • The password system in particular hugely slows us down, finding out when cadets are about to take an exam that they can’t log in - and we now need to get the OC (for some truly bizarre reason) to personally log in to his emails to reset it. Yes, we could put steps in to mitigate this all but ultimately we’d be creating solutions to problems that should simply never exist in the first place.

The Content. Hopefully on the mend - at least HQAC seem happy for volunteers to help with this (I should know, having re-done the MAS syllabus)

Agreed - we should have some additional, less-technical subjects regarding aviation and the RAF to sit alongside. Think I’ve suggested these before, but subjects like air traffic control, the RAF Regiment/RAFP/Fire services/Logs/Medical could be a lot more appealing to the less STEM-minded cadets.

The policy

I don’t have a problem with this concept in general - you need to know the whole subject to a reasonable level, rather than just parts of it to a high level. I do think that it should be done on LOs though rather than individual pass criteria, so that you need to get 50% on 3-4 groups of 6-8 questions each, rather than 50% on 8-10 groups of 2 questions each.

One of my main gripes with this is that you presently have a 7/16 chance of passing a given criterion; round it to 50%. That means statistically, you should get around 5 of the criteria on the first attempt, 2 of the remaining 5 on the second, 1 of the 3 on the third, 1 of 2 on the fourth and pass the final one on the fifth or sixth attempt - simply by guessing.

This would be a large issue were it not for the fact that the exams are “open book” anyway, and include “online resources”. I had a cadet on a former squadron who was lazy and not especially bright, but was clever enough to realise that he could simply copy the question from Ultilearn on to Ask Jeeves (is that still a thing) and it would generally tell him the answer.

On the plus side, this means that the quality of the material doesn’t actually matter, as you can simply tell your cadets to do that and never have to bother teaching them at all.


Indeed, I just took the first few criteria of Pilot Nav (a subject I’ve never studied) and passed them all quite happily by just Googling the answers.


Which is why I find it incredible that cadets still fail these exams…
Not only do they clearly not know the subject well enough, but apparently they can’t use Google properly either :stuck_out_tongue:


Need to get them on a Cyber course :grin:


Oh you mean that thing which can mean hours sifting through random websites that have the vaguest connection to what you are searching for.


Is it not ironic that the ultilearn exam system is ‘open book’ yet we have no books.
No books is at the heart of the problem, it seems that schools still have text books and teachers I know use them as a primary resource if they are new to a topic, yet books were considered ‘old hat’ by HQAC . A couple of teachers I know who teach science and geography say the text books are invaluable as they follow their scheme of work, which the exams are based on.
Why can’t we bin the online rubbish and go back to books and paper exams? The cadets still have books, write on exam papers and tests at school, so why not the Air Cadets. Pre ultilearn I never saw a paper exam, crash or go into “egg timer” mode and then crash.

  1. You ain’t doing Google proper
  2. That’s true about paper exams not crashing but in my time as a cadet we had papers arrive misprinted and therefore no use, papers damaged when the Adj’s coffee got knocked over on the desk requiring some of them to be redone and, as The air cadets are famous for, completed papers getting lost in the post on the way to be marked so they weren’t perfect either (even though I would still prefer to go back to proper written tests so agree with you there).
  3. Agree that the training materials are in dire need of overhaul, electronic versions are better as in principle will be easier to update and you can print it off if like me you prefer to read off paper. But I understand the materials are being improved and they would always welcome your input as a volunteer.


On top of that electronic learning is becoming the norm…large international companies, like the one i work for are minimising and streamlining L&D in favour online learning solutions…its only a matter of time before the education sector plays catchup


Sounds like somebody else doesn’t know how to use Google either…


Looking at Ultimedia’s website, the e-learning platform they apparently implemented for Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS sounds great with the “The intuitive nature of the system” and a back-end that was “Intuitive to edit and easy to create new interactive courses” and don’t forget "Complete with certificate management, version control and ease of branding"


Anyone got any contacts that can give us a sneaky look? :joy:


My suggestion has always been to have a function to print paper exam straight off of our system, which can then be sat under exam conditions at the unit and then marked on squadron and the results uploaded to SMS.