The KnowPap browser-based e-learning environment on paper production has been serving learning institutions and businesses already for 20 years. KnowPulp, the equivalent e-learning environment on pulp production, also celebrates the same landmark anniversary this year.
KnowPap and KnowPulp are exceptionally versatile databanks with international significance
Both learning environments are repositories of very extensive amounts of information, implemented as the result of fertile cooperation between each of the most important companies in the Finnish forest cluster.
“Former forest sector firm Valmet in particular played a special role in providing us with multimedia content. The technical training centre of AEL also contributed written material from the sector. The first version was largely derived from the input of these two sources,” says Jari Hämäläinen, research programme director at the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) and head of the initial KnowPap development project.
This starting content was instrumental in ensuring that the first version of the learning systems was a success. In fact, the reception was so good that companies took it directly into use and later decided to fund its further development and maintenance.
Several major companies in the field, such as Stora Enso, UPM, Metsä Fibre and Metsä Board, continue to use the KnowPap and KnowPulp learning systems still today. Various equipment suppliers, original contributor Valmet along with Andritz and Sulzer Pumps Finland, were also involved in development of the e-learning content. In addition to these companies, more than 100 other players in the industry have contributed valuable material.
Know products assist a wide range of users
The versatility of the learning environments is reflected in the way the systems have proven adaptable for many different kinds of user groups.
“KnowPap can be used to help improve competencies on an independent study basis, but it is also great tool for educators,” says UPM training manager Jari Nyström.
UPM utilizes the platform to support its apprenticeship training programmes. Nyström emphasizes the importance of the learning environments’ around-the-clock availability alongside production.
“KnowPap makes it possible for people in the control room to be learning things while the machines are running. Employees can retrieve the exact information that they require from the Know systems, so it’s not always necessary to arrange separate classroom training,” he says.
Stora Enso’s human resources development manager Sari Pöllänen agrees with Nyström and adds even more uses for the system.
“We utilise the Know platforms in various projects as well. When we update or renew processes or individual devices, for example, we consult the platforms for the relevant basic information,” she says.
Equipment manufacturer Andritz frequently uses the Know platforms in the induction of new employees and as a resource to support everyday work responsibilities.
“Almost all of our technical employees are engineers, but they are not all process engineers. These people might need some reinforcement to boost their own technical training, something that can easily be found on the platforms,” says Andritz’s development engineer Taina Lintunen. “Sometimes more experienced staff can use it to check the meaning of terms that are new to them.”
The youngest users of the Know systems are now younger than the platform itself, while others have been using the learning environments regularly for each of the 20 years that it has existed.
The KnowPap development team meets regularly. Pictured from right to left: AEL development director Kari Kaihonen, UPM training director Jari Nyström, Andritz development engineer Taina Lintunen, AEL training specialist Laura Hakonen, Prowledge managing director Mikko Kittilä, and Prowledge team members Tuomo Dahlman and Juha Kittilä.
From Tekes concept to industry fixture
KnowPap and KnowPulp were created in the 1990s as the result of a Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes) project coordinated by VTT. The VTT technical centre maintained the platform for a few years and established the first user groups. It wasn’t in VTT’s interests to assume management of the Know systems long-term, however, so the technical training provider AEL entered the picture as an appropriately neutral party to continue as administrator of the systems.
VTT may have relinquished its maintenance duties, but it continued to be a major user of the platform.
“The systems were especially useful for researchers that participated in forest industry projects but whose expertise lie in other areas,” explains VTT’s Hämäläinen.
The platforms were transferred to AEL ownership in 2011. After the first research project, a company named Prowledge, a developer of learning environments for the forest industry, has been responsible for the Know systems’ technical implementation and content input.
Prowledge’s managing director Mikko Kittilä has a strong understanding of the paper industry.
“Back when I was studying I missed having a place where I could check where a particular detail was located in the larger process, or that showed the overall picture of various processes,” he says. “Now there is such a place, and it’s already become a concept in the field.”
The KnowPap learning environment has expanded to contain so much information that the Finnish language version now contains over 1.2 million words and close to 8,000 images. Both KnowPap and KnowPulp are also available in English, and parts of KnowPap have been translated into Spanish as well.
The study material utilises a wealth of pictures and diagrams to makes things clear and easy to understand.
Know systems have been around almost as long as the concept of e-learning
KnowPap and KnowPulp have been at the forefront of the recent evolution that has seen all manner of instructional materials become increasingly digitised and made accessible online. During the early days of the platform in the 1990s, many companies were still without webpages and scanning slides into the network was considered very progressive. Assorted animations and simulations not only helped users to conceive difficult concepts and processes, but also lead the way in terms of development in the field. Distributing material online was considered the peak of high tech.
A great deal of attention was devoted to designing the basic infrastructure of the system. Several large working groups composed of Finland’s leading experts planned the content and VTT usability researchers performed numerous user surveys at various development stages.
“Maintenance and development of the platforms has provided AEL with many invaluable lessons about the functionality of digital learning materials in practice, making our training institute an e-learning pioneer,” says AEL’s development director Kari Kaihonen.
In today’s world, where e-learning has become an everyday event, the value of KnowPap and KnowPulp now lies in the rich and comprehensive data they entail. The platforms are actively maintained to make sure the information they hold is always up to date. Some of the simulations models accessible via the platforms are not available anywhere else, even via the Google search engine.
KnowPap and Know Pulp promote lifelong learning
KnowPap and KnowPulp are widely used for independent study, occupational training, and to support everyday work and education in the workplace. In addition to AEL, 30 other schools and learning institutions use the platforms in their teaching.
“Here at AEL, the systems are actively used in the areas of forest industry training, energy sector process training, and maintenance training,” says AEL training specialist Laura Hakonen.
“The platforms ensure uniform professional competence in the field. Both are unparalleled as comprehensive basic guides in an electronic form,” she continues.
Even though the platforms were originally developed for the forest industry, they are well suited for use in the energy sector, for instance. In addition to comprehensive data on paper and pulp technology, the platform also contains large amounts of material on maintenance and automation.
Contact for more information
Kari Kaihonen, AEL development director
email@example.com, +358 (0)40 764 7960