Customisation of Learning – Connecting L&D and VET

A lot of training providers talk endlessly about their ability to customise a program to meet the needs of an organisation.  However, how many of them actually do it or do it in a way that really meets the needs of the organisation?



I think unfortunately, or fortunately for those who do, not many.  Often in the VET sector customisation means little more than choosing different electives, although not too different or there might not be someone able to train them. Unfortunately in most cases, just changing electives is not really customisation, it is far more a case of here are the options we are offering what would you like to choose. This of course is not something that is just confined to the VET sector, a great many licensed and proprietary training programs offer very little in the way of real customisation, however it is the ability to customise training to suit specific organisation and even individual need that is a strength of the VET system.

Customisation is building the training program in such a way that it achieves the goals that the organisation wants.  It is about using their documents, their policies, their procedures.  It is about building a program that produces a participant who has the skill set that the organisation requires, and who is able to utilise that skill set in their work.  The common complaint about this kind of customisation from providers is that you still have to do what the training package says, they have to be assessed on the performance criteria and you have to make sure that the skills and knowledge which are taught to the student are not so workplace specific that they are not easily transferable to other workplaces and roles.  Now of course, this is true, but I don’t think that anyone ever said that what was listed in the performance criteria was all a program could to contain.  It doesn’t say anywhere in the packages that you cannot add additional information or assessment or training.  What it says is that this set of skills and knowledge, assessed against this set of performance criteria is the evidence that is required to deem this person competent in this Unit of Competency.

The other issue that is often bought up is where there is something in the performance criteria that for whatever reason the organisation doesn’t do or does completely differently.  An example of this is a unit of competency around strength based practice in support work and counselling.  There is a process mentioned in the performance criteria which while correct and used by a lot of practitioners, is probably not used, described differently, or used differently, by equally many practitioners.  So (leaving aside questions whether or not the criteria should actually even be in the unit) often staff undertaking this unit end up being trained in something that their organisation does not use and in some cases is actively opposed to the use of.  This also then tends to mean that where that unit is an elective and can be left out it is, which may dilute the overall strength of the qualification from the organisations perspective.  It may also mean that the organisation may then have to go out and source additional training or develop it themselves, around the content which is contained in the unit.   So what does customisation look like here, for an organisation that doesn’t use the particular segment of the unit of competency, given that we know that in order to meet the performance criteria it can’t be left out, and it needs to be assessed.  Having done this on numerous occasions the answer is in general remarkably simple, do both and assess both.  Assess the accredited unit according to the performance criteria and the other according to what the organisation wants.  It is then a case of explaining to the students that while you have provided them with two options, one is the preferred method where they work now, but there are other organisations which may prefer to use the other method.  Is it a little more work?  Yes, but it will also makes the organisation much happier than saying well we have to teach them this method because that is what the training package says and then let them come up with a solution around how to train their staff in their preferred method.

Customisation is also about little things,  like making sure that when you are talking about documents and policies the examples you use are, where possible, from the organisation itself.  It is about using the language of the organisation as well, particularly if you are talking about reporting lines, hierarchies and business processes and software.  It is about sitting down with the manager, the L&D person or whoever you are working with and saying, what are the skills and knowledge you need your staff to have at the end of this and what tasks do you expect them to be able to undertake and then structuring the course around that.  Take the time to cluster and structure delivery and assessment so that it makes sense in the context of the work environment.  There is very little point in training someone in a skill they are not going to use for 6 months.  It is better to provide them with the training in proximity to when they will use the skill, to enhance the retention of the skill and knowledge.

Customisation is actually an enormous strength within our VET system.  This becomes particularly evident when it is compared to many of the other proprietary training programs that are out there, most of which can’t be changed or customised to suit particular circumstance, because the material is copyrighted and licensed and often, because of this the people delivering the training have no say in the content or its delivery.  So in order to meet the criteria of the provider that owns the program they have to deliver it in, often, a very particular manner which unless you are training large numbers of people or spending large sums of money on the training are probably not going to be altered by the program owner.  This ability to customise should not be taken to mean that we can and should ignore the rules of the VET sector, things like Volume of Learning, and the rules relating to assessment and evidence, however the space circumscribed by those rules allows us much more latitude to be able to develop and deliver a program that meets the needs of our clients than most licensed training would ever be able to do.

The real problem is that most providers seem very reluctant to do it.

Anyway that’s my opinion.


Paul contacted via;

Rasmussen Learning Solutions

Spectrum Training

About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

4 Responses to Customisation of Learning – Connecting L&D and VET

  1. basdenleco says:

    Hello Paul,
    I do not disagree with the sentiments expressed but believe that what you refer to is contextualisation and not customisation as used to be intepreted in Workplace Training and Assessment.

    From earlier days the following is offered

    • Customisation and Contextualisation
    o There has long been confusion about the terms ‘Customisation’ and ‘Contextualisation’, and the two have often been used interchangeably.
    o Source: Training Packages at Work, Back to Basics vol.2
    Customisation and Contextualisation
    o The distinction is between:
     The delivery of the qualification – contextualisation, and
     The structure of the qualification – customisation
     Customisation in Training Packages, is referred to as ‘packaging’ or ‘packaging rules’
     Source: Training Packages at Work, Back to Basics vol.2
    o A form of adaptation to take account of the needs of particular industry, enterprise or learners
     RTOs can contextualise units at delivery point by:
     Adding to the elements and/or performance criteria
     Adding to the range statement
     Adding assessment related information to the evidence guide
    RTOs can contextualise units by:
    o Adding specific industry terminology to the performance criteria as long as this does not distort or narrow the competency outcomes
    o Amending or adding to the range statement as long as the breadth of application of the competency is not diminished
    o Adding detail to the evidence guide in areas such as the critical aspects of evidence or resources and infrastructure required, where the competency is expanded and not limited by the changes
    o Involves making the units more relevant to the user, but in doing this it is imperative that the standard is not changed or undermined
    o All Training Packages have rules about what can and can’t be done to contextualise the units
    o Changes to the number and content of elements and performance criteria are not acceptable
    o The clustering of units of competency for a specific need
     May form the basis of a specific training or learning program (different from the qualification outcome but may contribute to the qualification)
     May be drawn from different qualifications or represent units drawn from two or more Training Packages
    Packaging Rules
    o Set out the allowable combinations of units of competency for the purpose of creating an AQF qualification (these can be found in the introduction to the qualifications framework or in the qualification statements/information).
    o Are simple and flexible enough to give maximum choice
    o Ensure that the integrity of qualifications are retained

  2. PatriciaMilo says:

    You are right Paul about using a company’s documentation and language when delivering training. There is however a problem with assessing outcomes that are not in the training package or unit. What if someone passes all assessments aligned to the unit outcomes but didn’t pass the extra work specific assessment. You will have to pass them for the unit/training package because they have satisfied the criteria. So they are deemed competent but not in the area the organisation needs. What do you tell the organisation…. technically this person passed? I am hoping that to enhance customisation, skill sets might be an answer. Put some units together from whatever training package that really meet the organisation’s need. Describe it as delivering a skill set for that particular organisation and you are really customising and providing staff with skills they need.

    • pauldrasmussen says:


      I think Skill sets are one of the most under utilised concepts within the Sector. Too many providers and facilitators look at the qualification picture and forget about skill sets.

  3. Julian Hinton miame says:

    Interesting debate. Very comforting to know that the ethics and practices of a very small private RTO( that I just happen to work in) meet the benchmarks in these areas.

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