Whatdotheyknow FOI - Ultilearn

Saw this on whatdotheyknow.com today and it amused me - thought it was worth a share:

[quote]Dear Air Cadet Organisation,

The ACO has and still is, putting a lot of time and money into
Ultilearn, a system purchased to move Cadets onto electronic exams,
one of its primary goals being to save paper and the associated
costs of printing exams.

It is obvious to anyone who has used the system, that it is not fit
for purpose and ongoing attempts to make Ultilearn work with other
systems the ACO uses (communication with SMS for example, to report
completed exams, add classifications, auto order certificates) are
not working fully. The ACO is trying to make Ultilearn do a job it
was not designed to do and it has been implemented "half
baked"without this integration already working or all major issues
ironed out.

With this in mind, I would like to request some information about
the process the ACO went through when deciding on a system for
online exams, the initial costs and the ongoing maintenance costs:

What was the procurement process for the new online exam system?
Was the requirement put out to tender, or any internal expertise
consulted? What was the initial criteria?

Why was the project not delayed, or other software considered, when
it was found that integration with other systems would be difficult
or impossible? Or when flaws (still un-resolved, such as the lookup
of cadets searching the entire ACO, rather than just one Sqn), were

To that end, was Moodle, or any other system initially investigated
or considered for the task?

Who made the final sign off for the purchase of Ultilearn? Were
they considered to have to relevant technical qualifications to do
so? If they cannot be named, please just consider the second part
of the question.

Was an on going maintenance contract initially agreed with
Ultimedia, or has that been arranged since, owing to the ongoing
technical problems and development work?

Were any volunteers approached for advice, or with an aim to
develop a bespoke in house system?

What has been the total to date cost for the purchase, support and
maintenance of the Ultilearn exam system?

Yours faithfully,

Concerned member of the ACO[/quote]

I’m looking forward to reading the answers to that one!!

Breath holding not advised I would say.

The questions asked would open several dozen cans of worms, so would as much as possible remain unanswered.

But we all know most of the answers are effectively - No; Don’t know; Didn’t do it and it terms of cost too much for what it is, or, whatever management speak faff they can come up with to avoid direct answers.

But as you say the answers would be interesting.

One of the problems will be that at least one of the instigators has or will starting a new job soon.


you all know what to do!

ACC Learn is there for you to populate with courses.

Just request a course to be made and you can populate it with material and use it.

It’s moodle and ready to go!



[quote]What was the procurement process for the new online exam system?
Was the requirement put out to tender, or any internal expertise

Ah, that’s an easy one…

One of the RCs said “I’ve heard of Ultilearn!” and everyone else said “Fantastic!”.

Seems pretty standard decision making process for Corps policy, procedure and procurement meetings.

This may be interesting, if they reply at all

GHE2 - what’s that noise we can all hear old chap?

As an FOI, there is a set time period to reply, think it is 28days.

Didnt realise there was Website to look up this kind od action and would be interested in the answer. All be it, that whilst someone is writing the answer, (required by law) they will not be doing there normal ATC job, so in a round about way, is wasting time?

It did go a bit silly a few years back with all sorts of seemingly trivial requests which ground a few wings a regions to a halt. I know that in one situation it was causation of a camp being shelved because 1 full time and one part time member of admin staff were engaged in reviewing a pile of documents for redaction in time for the deadline.

Just before Christmas was attended the wings training officers conference. Since the introduction of utilearn the number of cadets taking exams in my wing has dropped 80%. This is a staggering number and proves the this system is not fit for purpose.

Biggest bane for my cadets since they brought Ultifail (sic) in. I appreciate the ethos behind moving to an online system but to not bring over all the material needed for a lot of the subject LO’s is to my mind, idiotic. I have a lot of CI’s on my squadron and when some (I stress some as the rest will do this) are asked to go away and come up with the rest of the material from the net to make a presentation, the overwhelming reaction is a negative one. Picking up an old ACP and reading verbatim out of it was never good but sometimes on an evening where staff don’t turn up or things happen out of the usual, it could be used as a ‘stop-gap’ method. Which brings me on to the next point…

Another thing the ‘grown-ups’ seemed not to think about was computer access. Not all squadrons have anything like the IT infrastructure required to make Ultilearn work and if the Civcom is not paticularly flush with cash, it becomes frustrating having to try and teach with one very old laptop and a modem! (worst case scenario I’m sure)

Our Group Captain attended a recent OC’s conference and was properly shocked when we all said the problems were still ongoing with Ultilearn as he had been told that it was all sorted out, working well and cadets/staff loved it!

It will be very interesting if this FOI does actually work.

I’ve heard that Ultimedia, the operators of Ulilearn has the MOD of the largest customer (now the ACF also use Ultilearn) and are not getting paid until issues are sorted…

how long it will take for Ultimedia to react to their biggest customer not paying them will soon tell how effective and reactive Ultimedia are!

Yup, and the above is one of the reasons that the Moodle trial at HQAC is no longer progressing

Wait, do we know that Moodle was considered?

But…we don’t.

Wait, do we know that Moodle was considered?[/quote]

Not originally though. Back then it seems that nothing else was considered. The whole system seems to have been adopted because someone said “Hey look at this!” and perhaps because Waitrose (or someone like that) were also a customer.

It would appear that nobody gave proper thought to the requirements of a new system. The important questions of project planning such as: What does it actually need to achieve? How should it do it? How does it need to interact with our current systems? were apparently not considered.
Hence the continual bodge-job we’ve endured whilst Ultimedia try to modify their system to work in a way that it was never designed to do, so that we could interface it with SMS.

When someone finally realised that Ultilearn might not have been the ideal choice, some expert opinions were sought from within. Moodle was one option which was being considered as a possible replacement. Of course, by that time the ACO had already invested heavily in Ultilearn.

The problem with Ultilearn is that it’s an e-Learning platform and we don’t deliver training that way - we actually teach in person.
All that was needed was an online exam system. Even in that capacity Ultilearn is convoluted and fiddly.

I’ve just this week sat an assessment for an organization using Moodle and I can tell you, it was a breeze!

In my opinion, Ultilearn is quite possibly the single biggest waste of time and money the ACO has made in the last 20 years (right up there with those pop-up display boards, magnetic signs, and hideous yellow marquees which we were all supposed to get, but which 80% of squadrons I know never received).

That was something I heard over 12mths ago…

I’m going to get this flown over HQAC & Whitehall until somebody takes notice!

One has to ask what the hell they did in 1993/94 that tops Ultilearn!

I joined.