Training and Certification at Sage (UK) Limited

Background

Sage (UK) Limited provides software and services to more than 800,000 UK businesses ranging from start-ups to large companies. This software ranges from accounts and ERP, HR and payroll, forecasting and business intelligence to customer relationship management, e-business and help for start-ups.

Services include Excel Support, HR, Health and Safety Advice as well as training courses at local centers throughout the UK. The company is a subsidiary of The Sage Group plc, a global supplier of business management software solutions and services, principally for small to medium-sized enterprises.

Scenario

Sage (UK) has been offering customers a wide range of classroom-based courses on its main software products for over 20 years. The company introduced self-study courses around eight years ago, aiming to provide customers with a blended learning solution. Sage’s self-study portfolio offers self-paced e-Learning and text-based workbooks covering a range of software products. Initially, Sage worked with local colleges to administer paper-based certification exams. But in response to the ever-increasing demand for self-study courses and accreditation, Sage sought a customisable, cost-effective solution for creating, hosting and administering their own exams.

Training and Certification

Today, Sage offers classroom-based and customised on-site training, self-study workbooks and e-Learning courses to customers who want to learn and achieve recognition of their skills by gaining Sage accreditation.

The company’s self-study workbooks include a time-restricted version of Sage software, a series of study books and a registration key to access the relevant certification exam.

“To enhance our customers’ learning experience we make extensive use of Questionmark’s flexible open assessments in the form of online tests, end-of-book quizzes, “says Sage (UK) Senior Self-Study Developer, John Dingli. “These enable learners to re-affirm their learning and revise content at their own pace”.
 
Before taking the Sage Certification exam, learners are also encouraged to take the diagnostic assessments, created using Questionmark, to help them determine their readiness for the live Sage Certification exam. The open assessments included with the workbooks and the diagnostic tests offer students instant online results and feedback on any incorrectly answered questions.
 
Aside from the self-study workbooks, people who want to gain Sage accreditation can also choose to purchase a certification exam from the Sage Training website or by completing a classroom training course.
 
Certification exams are administered using Questionmark Secure, which provides a safe online examination environment by locking down a participants’ desktop. This prevents web browsing, on-line chat and use of any software

Value of Diagnostic Testing

John highlights the importance of diagnostic tests in directing people to appropriate learning programs and testing their own preparedness for certification exams.

John explains: “Our self-study model encourages learners to initially use the text books to understand the Sage product functionality. Using the software provided, the learner can then practice their newly learned skills. This enables people to learn and to practice in bite-sized chunks. To reaffirm their learning, students can then complete the online ‘open’ tests that are available at the end of each section. Students can revise and re-take tests, as necessary. Once the course is complete I recommend everyone takes the course diagnostic test, to measure their readiness. Then revise and re-take the test if necessary. Once they feel ready, candidates sit the Sage Certification exam to extend their learning development and to prove competency to existing or prospective employers. This process works well for our customers; it engages the student to learn progressively through ‘read it’, ‘try it’ and ‘test it’ sessions.”

Multiple Question Types

Sage uses a variety of question types in Sage Certification exams, workbook tests and diagnostic assessments.

One of the reasons we chose Questionmark is that we can use many different types of questions to keep our tests lively and engaging,” says John. “It’s really important when you are learning online to maintain high levels of interest, and being able to use many different question types helps us achieve this. We use Hot Spot, Drag and Drop, Multiple Choice, Multiple Response, True/False and Matching questions. We also use Adobe Captivate to create software simulations within our Questionmark assessments. So customers can really benefit by testing their understanding using a simulated version of the software, online.”

Careful Authoring

John and the Sage self-study team create the self-study workbooks and author questions relating to the learning material, selecting question types that are best suited to the subject matter.

“We develop large topic banks of questions and then grade the questions in terms of subject matter, question type, suitability and difficulty level” John explains. “We then put together exams that contain around 60 questions, chosen at random from the topic banks that store around 120 questions per exam. Our aim is to provide the customer with the most effective, clear and varied questions to test their understanding whilst keeping the subject matter lively and interesting. That means participants might answer a graphical, drag-and-drop question followed by a text-based, multiple response question, the next.” 

Reporting and Support

Although participants receive automatic online feedback for Questionmark open, diagnostic and workbook tests, the results of certification exams are conveyed by email and/ or letter. Successful candidates receive a recognised Sage Certificate that contains the Sage brand and accreditation stamp. On the rare occasion when a participant questions the test results, the team can pull detailed results using Questionmark’s reporting tools to track the participant’s performance in each topic area.

“Any gaps in our own learning of Questionmark functionality and extent are effectively and swiftly plugged by the professional people on the Questionmark support line.”

Moving Forward

Questionmark is also used in various other business areas of the Sage Group. The application of tests, accreditation and exams is growing progressively across the wider business and this includes meeting the learning and development needs of several internal departments as well as external partners and individual customers.

“Questionmark plays an integral function in accomplishing our ultimate training model,” says John. “This model will offer our customers an effective blended learning solution where the learner is guided through a simple process to become competent and accredited with using our software.”