eLearning Academy for the MCOR of Refinery Offsite Operations | RefinerLink

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ELearning Academy for the MCOR of Refinery Offsite Operations

By Suresh Agrawal and Raven Meyers

Sep 16, 2019

Keep on learning on our own will to keep our professional knowledge up-to date.


By Dr. Suresh S. Agrawal, Founder and CEO

Mrs. Raven T. Meyers, Creative Director





Continuous education is the migration and transition from the academic world to the real world. Academic institutions teach us fundamental foundations; however, application of these fundamentals are not always straight forward in reality. While we often use Google to instantly obtain information, this method of information retrieval is intermittent, and it does not sustain our professional capabilities in a systematic manner. 


Since technology and science evolves swiftly, formal academic training becomes outdated quickly. To maintain pace with knowledge advances, we must perpetually pursue continuous education to stay relevant.



Modes of Continuing Education


There are many options for continous training, but they vary in terms of cost, timings and suitability. When we commence our careers after formal academic training, we are presented with the following options:


  • In-house training – Many employers have programs for new-hire training, which are often generic in nature and do not focus on specific job responsibilities. They also require in-house expertise, which is difficult to sustain in today's environment. 


  • External public courses – Sometimes companies enroll employees in public courses, which can be expensive and inefficient for a large number of attendees. Often times, only a select few receive training each year. 


  An alternative approach is locally hosting private instructors, which can reduce employee travel expenses. This option; however, comes with the disadvantage of constant disruptions when attendees remain on-site.



  • Self–study manuals or subject related books – This option is always available and inexpensive; however, it is a slow process with limited effectivenss without a mentor. 


  • Online courses or eLearning – This approach has many names and many methods of delivery. Commonly termed “distance learning", this approach lacks direct human interactions. 



Comparative Cost of Continuous Education Options


Let us take a case study and compare costs for each method of continuous education - we will use a sample set of 10 students. 


  1. Number of students taking a course = 10
  2. Average per student Cost of 3 days’ public course fee + expenses = $4,800
  3. Average per student Cost of 3 days’ onsite course by external instructor = $1,600
  4. Average per student Cost of Self-study Course manual = $800
  5. Average per student Cost of eLearning course equivalent to 3 days’ public course = $1,200



As represented in figure 1, we can see that offsite methods cost nearly 4-times as much as other methods. As this example only represents one course, scaling this cost to numerous courses and numerous attendees will cost corporations millions per year.  


While the self-study option may be least expensive, it is considered impractical from a time management point of view. Hence, eLearning options is highly cost effective, sustainable and time efficient. With eLearning costing 25-30% of public courses, this represents is a large cost savings for corporations. As a result, the market for eLearning industry is about 325 billion dollars [1].





Attributes of an eLearning Curriculum


The following are common attributes of a typical eLearning curriculum:


  • Platform – Delivery platforms may be general with the likes of Thinkific, Teachable and uDemy, which lack customization flexibility.  Alternative options employ WordPress plugins like LearnDash, lifterLMS, and WP Courseware. While this approach provides more flexibility for corporate branding, they also come with higher development cost. Some curriculum is also available on YouTube, but they lack credentials.


  • Format – An eLearning curriculum can have combination of static slides, live narration or subtitles. Some curriculum are also interactive. There is wide variation in the delivery methods of eLearning contents that depends the complexity of lessons and target audience.


  • Progressive eLearning Mode – Just like a classroom learning, eLearning also follows a systematic method of teaching. Progressive learning relies on layering material in an orderly fashion and prevents users from skipping lessons. The conclusion of lessons often come with exams to earn the certification. Progressive learning often release lessons as payments are made by the user.


  • Globalization – An eLearning curriculum may be offered world-wide, hence requires consideration of multi-lingual contents, audio and captions. As content translation and multi-lingual recording is very expensive, most curriculum use language translation plugins or Google translators. 


  • Target Audience – eLearning curriculum audiences can vary from grade schoolers to professionals with advanced degrees (PhD, M.D, MBA). They can also target various professional levels from the executive management to fresh graduates. The curriculum can be very simple or it can have multi-levels courses. The course duration can vary as well.



An Example of eLearning Curriculum


Let's discuss how eLearning systems are applied in the refining industry. There are two areas of operations in a refinery, known as onsite and offsite operations. Onsite operations refer to process units while offsite refers to tank’s farms, product blending, and oil movement logistics. Offsite areas often lack of training opportunities and have high employee turn-over. There are very few or non-existent public courses that offer training opportunities for professionals working in the refinery offsite operations area.


A refinery can lose up to 50 million dollars a year because employees lack skill and knowledge. Our solution is the eLearning academy, which offers curriculum focused in training off-site personnel. The following is our approach to applying eLearning curriculum across all off-site job levels.


MCOR (Manage, Control, Optimize and Reconcile) curriculum – The four aspects of refinery offsite operations, shown in Figure-2, address infrastructure management, manufacturing control, production optimization, and hydrocarbon reconciliation [2]. 




The MCOR concepts apply to all levels of industry professionals, but knowledge depth varies by role. Thus MCOR curriculum addresses high level principles for executives and managers, while engineers will dive into more detail, as demonstrated in Figure-3. 




The engineer’s progressive eLearning curriculum, as noted in Figure-4, is further divided into three sub-courses for trainee, professional and expert levels. The key feature of this curriculum ensures that management and technical SMEs obtain equal exposure to the MCOR off-site concepts, though exposure and training rigor will vary. 




The challenge with 3 day public courses is that less than 60% of training knowledge is retained by the time the course ends. Attendees miss the timely opportunity to sync newly learned skills with hands-on experiences.


eLearning curriculum, on the other hand, applies a learn, practice, and learn approach due to progressive learning modes. Figure-5 illustrates how a simple refresher course of 12 topics can re-ground refinery professionals before enrolling in a more extensive curriculum.




As shown in Figure-6, curriculum duration can vary from hours to months depending on participant interest.  Extended learning periods simulate class-environments, but allows flexibility to manage daily workload. Participants can review topics as much as desired within the unlock period. All topics are always available to the enrollee for subscription-based enrollment.






We have discussed in this paper that

  1. eLearning based continuous education is the current preferred mode of training their employees by most of the corporation regardless of the nature of their business.
  2. The typical cost of eLearning is 25-30% of equivalent to a publicly offered courses.
  3. There is not restriction on time of the day or device of employee’s choice to take the courses.
  4. Progressive learning benefits the employee maximum in learn, practice and learn more mode.
  5. Course certification gives employer assurance of their investment and ROI.
  6. Employees can start from simpler curriculum and build their skill sets by progressing to higher levels of curriculum again in a progressive learning mode.




  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2018/07/31/e-learning-climbing-to-325-billion-by-2025-uf-canvas-absorb-schoology-moodle/#33d36a9b3b39
  2. https://www.oms-eLearning-Academy.com
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