The AQF, Volume of Learning, Regulation and RTO’s

So as some of you are aware (some more than others) I went to the Brisbane AQF Implementation workshop today.

It moved pretty slowly but I had always expected that and then the presentation moved to Volume of Learning, and what it meant and its implications and things livened up into a quite rigorous discussion let by Tony Feagan, whom I am sure a lot of you know are issues with the delivery of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and what implications the statements around volume of Learning would have on stopping the very shoddy delivery and assessment of this qualification that goes on in some RTO’s.

I want to move away from that particular discussion however and look at something that I have to admit vexed me a little more about the whole discussion and situation.  It seems and correct me if I am wrong that the Industry Skills Councils, who are tasked to administer and develop the VET qualifications, should be writing the qualifications in such a manner that it if assessed properly, the length of time it would take someone to be able to be assessed as competent in the Qualification would meet the Volume of Learning rules.  Therefore an RTO who was delivering a Qualification in under the time set out in the Volume of Learning would need to show how and why it was that they were able to do that.

But on the other hand, and again correct me if I am wrong, if the RTO can show sufficient evidence to support the fact that that it has meet the assessment criteria for the unit, then there is nothing that the regulator can do about them being under the volume of learning.  Which seems to me to mean that the ball is firmly in the court of the Industry Skills Councils to get this right and to actually put some robust assessment criteria, such as as some quoted today, in one of the hospitality qualification the student has to prepare a dish 57 times, successfully using all of the skills in the unit of competency.  Does this mean that they might do things like state the minimum actual placement (not simulation) hours that someone doing an aged care or community services qualification would have to undertake?

The other thing that vexed me as the statement ‘well if you have signed up to be an RTO then it is your responsibility to abide by the rules not ASQA’s job to crack down on you’ now while this is correct and is in fact the role of a regulator it strikes me that there is a deeper issue here as well.  Both the VET and HE markets in Australia (as they are almost everywhere) are commercial competitive markets, with a whole range of ways, from Fee for service, to traineeships, to shall we say bulk funding which is to a large extent (and going to become more so in QLD) competitive and contestable.  So it stands to reason unless there are actual, enforceable consequences around not delivery nothing will actually change.


I read this today and thought it was worth sharing with everyone and along with Inge‘s blog makes some interesting reading.  For me the jury is still out on the real value of MOOC’s and other large online courses and programs, why?  well I am just not convinced that in the long run we are actually getting any real tangible benefits from these programs.

That is not to say that I don’t see value in learning new things, and providing people with new ways in which to learn them and to interact and the like.  However without things like formal accreditation and assessment process how do we know what we, or in an organisational sense what has been learned.

The other thing that worries me about relates directly to the ease at which we can enroll in courses, any courses really, whether or not we might be able to or have the opportunity to utilise the knowledge gained from these courses.  I good enroll and complete a course in Astronomy, but unless I have an avenue in which to practice what I have learned, my knowledge is gradually going to fade away.  We all know that in order to keep ones skills in an area, that one needs to be able to practice those skills.  So if we do all of these courses and learn lots of things, but we never actually apply any of the things that we have learnt in the real world, what is the point, because that knowledge will degrade over time.

I think MOOC’s are a great idea, but like with a lot of these things we can get carried away on the idea, and the possibility and sometimes forget that there is and has to be real world applications for the skills that we learn.

Jonathan Walsh

This link directs to an post about two big problems with online college courses. They are as follows:

1. Online College courses have a very high attrition rate. In some cases 90% of the students who enroll drop-out.

2. Online college courses are inappropriate for struggling college students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment.

The estimate of 90% drop out rate applies to MOOCs. They are free and can be joined on a whim. Daphne Koller in her TED talk discusses how with a free and accessible online course there will be many who enroll due the consequence free nature of it. Many of these early enrollers lose interest or find they do not have time and drop-out. Those that remained are more dedicated and genuinely enthusiastic about learning. She also makes the point that even with this huge drop out rate a MOOC can still reach considerably more…

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Creating a Learning Culture

Creating an Organisational Learning Culture

or a framework that captures how an organisation thinks about learning can be quite challenging, if for no other reason than, there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle.  While creating or providing the strategic direction is clearly the role of executive and senior management, but how these members of articulate and reinforce that message, and what it means, needs to be as clear and as simple as possible.

So how do we create a culture in which learning is valued and promoted and seen as an integral part of the business, rather than just an add on that can be ignored, or not taken seriously.  You need to be able to show how learning functions sit with the organisation and what the purpose of creating this culture is.  As I have said before, I think that I have it a little easier than most when it comes to this as the organisation that I work for has ‘Leading through Learning’ as one of its central values, and as an L&D person that makes my job much easier when it is there in front of everyone’s face.  Having a model which explains how learning fits in and how the organisation view and seeks to create a learning culture to help immensely and serves as a way to articulating the vision for learning within and organisation;

Developing a Learning Culture

A model like this simply explains the various parts of the puzzle that lead to the development of a learning culture.  From here it then becomes an issue of expanding what each of the parts of the model mean within your particular organisation, who is responsible for them and how they are supported.

A well thought out discussion of 70:20:10

L&Dtrendcather's Blog

criss angelWhen I visited Las Vegas in 2010 I went to the Luxor to watch Criss Angel’s ‘Mindfreak’ show with my family. This unique illusionist – with his punk-like appearance – cleverly tripped us up. After the performance you can see how the audience is discussing how various tricks are done. In our L&D discipline we are also often tripped up. Not deliberately but as a sort of side effect: by concepts, ideas, or models that are in fashion. Something crazy happens to these models, concepts and ideas when they are transformed from a conceptual model into a straitjacket or recipe. After a magic show the audience wants to know how the tricks are done, but with a ‘trending topic’ in our area of knowledge it seems as though that urge just vanishes. In a certain sense I think it is a shame, but in another sense it is a great reason for a…

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Why be an Enterprise RTO

Why are we an Enterprise RTO, what purpose does it serve?

This was a question I have asked of me recently by a number of people both inside and outside of the organisation, and in answering it I realised that while I and probably a handful of other people in the organisation could actually explain what purpose it served for us to be our own RTO, we did not as an organisation have this purpose articulated in any of our learning documents.

So what is the answer well here is what it now says in our Organisation Learning Framework:

4.0 RTO Training

4.1 Objectives

UCC operates as a Registered Training Organisation to instantiate the organisations learning objectives.  The prime purpose of the RTO is to provide accredited training outcomes for staff and volunteers and the staff and volunteers of other UCQ Service Groups and to support the Organisational Learning Model.  Operating as an RTO provides the organisation with the ability to control and contextualise the content and delivery of these outcomes in a way with meets both legislative requirements and organisational need to ensure the best possible outcomes for both staff and volunteers and the organisation as a whole.  Where appropriate and when capacity is available the organisation may choose to utilise the RTO to deliver accredited training to external parties.

As an RTO UCC seeks to:

  • Become a leading provider of Training and Organisational Development services across its core business areas to both internal and external stakeholders;
  • Ensure that any training provided meets and exceeds the expectations of those individuals and organisations to which it is provided; and
  • Maintain the highest possible standards with respect to content, facilitation and the development of training.

I have underlined what I think are the two main reasons, the purpose for us having and maintaining our RTO status;

  1. To provide Nationally accredited training for our staff and volunteers; and
  2. control and contextualise the content and delivery to meet organisational need.

Now you might say, but you can achieve both of those outcomes without being an Enterprise RTO, you just need good partnerships with good external RTO’s who are willing to do those things and to some extent you would be right, however, in my experience when the rubber hits the road on these sorts of things very very few external RTO’s are actually willing to do number two.  A lot will say that they are but very very few actually will.

There is another reason though, which I think is far more compelling and that is one of knowledge and experience.  We are one of the largest community services organisations in Australia and have a relatively diverse business across three main stream, Children and Families, People with Disabilities and Crisis support, and we have some of the best and most experienced people in the world working in the organisation.  I often joke with people that if I need to know something about one of the areas of our business I just have to walk out of my office and turn left.  I have experts with years of actual experience in their respective fields I can access in our Head Office alone, without looking into the actual services, programs and regions and most of them have training qualifications.  So why would we go to a TAFE or a private RTO to have our people trained, it is highly unlikely that the trainers have the same or better experience than the people we have within our own front garden and when you add to that an experienced and dedicated L&D team who can package the content provided by our own subject matter experts, there seems little reason to go outside.

When you think this way about why we have an Enterprise RTO it also does something else, it informs us of what our scope should be and when (and we do) we should partner with external RTO’s.  You wont (and probably never will) find Cert IV in FLM or TAE, or the Diploma of Business on our scope, despite the amount of staff who may ask for it.  Why, because it is not our core business, our core business is Community Services and to a smaller extent Health and that is where our scope sits.

And it is that idea of core business and doing what you are good at that really explains why we are an Enterprise RTO.

Chief Learning Officer 2013 LearningElite Awards

Chief Learning Officer 2013 LearningElite Awards

Government Funding, RTO’s and Organisational Learning

As some of you are aware I posted recently about how organisations fund their L&D;

from which I got a number of interesting responses.  One of the types of responses worried me however and points I think to what is a major issue within the training industry within Australia.

A number of responses revolved around using the traineeship and apprenticeship funding to basically fund organisational L&D, saying things like, ‘maximising these funding arrangements can offset the costs of training in other areas.’   Now while this is in essence not incorrect it seems to point to an attitude among a not insubstantial number of players in the L&D industry in Australia which is it seems to attempt to maximise the amount of government-funded training in order to create, and this is a term someone used in conversations recently, ‘a slush fund to provide other training.’  With attitudes like this is it any wonder the government has changed the way in which it deals with the trainee and apprenticeship funding.

Sure it is attractive for organisations when a RTO comes along and says we can do all of this training of your staff for you and it won’t cost you anything, in fact if we structure it right and you put enough people through than we can give you a discount and you will actually make money on the deal, but is it what the funding was designed for and is it actually going to train the staff with the skills they are going to know.  In a lot of cases it seems that the organisation would have got a far better result from choosing skills sets or non accredited training to put their staff through, rather than a qualification, simply because it was free or they would make some money out of it.

It has got to the point now that it a vendor/provider starts saying things like ‘well we specialise in finding ways to be able to fund the training at little or not cost to you,’ then I stop listening and it would take something substantial for me ever to consider them a vendor that I would deal with.  I am not interested in the funding, I am interested in the training.  I am interested in it being what we want both from an organisational and a staff point of view and provides us with the outcomes that we need.

We do ourselves a disservice as an industry when we focus on how, and how cheaply we can fund the training that we deliver to staff.  Lets stop talking about the funding and start talking about the training and the outcomes and what it is we actually need from a vocational training system in this country.

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