Before you begin—planning for distance learning
Key considerations for providers
Providers may choose to deliver VET courses using distance delivery methods for a variety of reasons. These reasons might include:
- the geographical spread of enrolling learners
- the learner cohort prefers learning ‘out of hours’ due to work or other commitments
- possible access to the best current industry practices
- the ability to offer a wider variety of units of competency as elective units for part of a qualification.
Delivering by distance should not affect the confidence of employers that VET graduates in the workplace will safely and productively apply the skills described in their qualifications.
No matter how you choose to deliver to students, you are required to develop, document and implement approaches that ensure students gain all relevant skills and knowledge. This requirement includes providing access to suitable resources, facilities and trainers.
Training package and VET accredited course requirements
Central to any delivery method is the requirement to ensure that the integrity of the specific training package or VET accredited course requirements will be maintained. Training packages and VET accredited courses are developed to meet the training needs of specific industries and sectors. They are also regularly reviewed and updated to ensure they remain current and relevant.
Some VET courses cannot be provided easily via distance delivery. In particular, the assessment requirements of a unit of competency may identify specific environments or equipment that a remote student cannot readily access.
In deciding to deliver by distance, you may determine that you need to implement a variety of delivery methods and technologies to provide a VET course. You will need to ensure your documented training and assessment strategies clearly express how each part of the course will be provided so that all workplace skills and knowledge requirements are addressed.
Other regulatory or funding requirements
Some VET courses are also subject to additional regulatory requirements required by a licensing body. Although ASQA does not regulate these additional requirements, if an RTO is promoting to learners that they will be entitled to a particular license (such as a White Card or registration as an Enrolled Nurse) from an industry regulator, the RTO must comply with the additional requirements imposed by that industry regulator.
If you are delivering a VET course that has an additional licensed outcome, you must confirm with the applicable industry regulator that distance delivery is suitable.
You must also check the terms of any contract arrangements with state and territory funding bodies that your RTO might have to ensure these agreements allow for distance delivery.
Who is the learner cohort?
Who you deliver to is just as important when deciding whether distance delivery is a suitable mode. Clauses 1.1 and 1.2 of the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 (Standards for RTOs) require RTOs to ensure the training they provide considers the existing skills, knowledge and experience of the learner so that the learner can meet the requirements of the unit of competency.
You should also consider other characteristics of your learners, in addition to the relevant skills and knowledge for the specific VET course. Learner characteristics which will influence available distance or online delivery methods could include a student’s:
- ability to access any required technologies
- underpinning competencies in information technology
- experience and self-motivation to learn on their own
- competing pressures that may impact on self-paced study time
- other work commitments that may preference study to ‘after hours’
- travel needs.
Your RTO must understand who the target learner cohort is, including the characteristics of each student, before designing a distance delivery learning program. There are various methods which can be used to deliver remotely; while not all of these methods suit everyone, really knowing who your learner is will help in deciding the best delivery method.
How much and what type of distance learning?
You must ensure that the amount of training provided for a VET course aligns to the training package requirements, the skills, knowledge and experience of the learner cohort and the delivery mode chosen.
Competency-based training environments focus on demonstrated competence against industry-defined standards of performance, rather than strict course durations. In this environment, learners are not required to study for a specified number of weeks or months. Competency-based training is the concept that individuals learn at different rates as well as through different modes and different environments and that the skills and knowledge that a student has acquired previously are able to be formally recognised.
If you provide access to online learning content or paper-based resources for a certain time period (for example, 12 months), this does not automatically indicate that the amount of training provided is equal to that length of time. In this instance, duration is the period of time that a learner had to access course materials rather than to the duration of the structured program being provided.
You must consider what types of learning opportunities the resources supplied provide, and the frequency of access to these opportunities, to determine the amount of training. You must also be able to describe how a student is able to reflect on and absorb the knowledge, practise the skills in different contexts and learn to apply the skills and knowledge in the varied environments that the ‘real world’ offers before being assessed.
For more information on the amount of training provided for a VET course, refer to ASQA’s fact sheet.
Access to technology
Providing training by distance delivery requires the learner to have access to particular types of technology. The specific technology requirements will vary based on the mode of training and the specific resource needs for the VET course.
Do not assume that all students have access to a computer or a reliable internet connection with an unlimited plan. When designing a learning program, you must consider whether the learner cohort will have access to the required technology, or if alternative delivery modes can be provided. If alternatives are not viable, your delivery strategy (and future marketing and enrolment plans) must make clear the types of students who cannot be enrolled with your RTO.
Your plan might identify other types of technology requirements needed, including:
- cloud-based file hosting services
- video conference facilities
- online recording tools
- printers and photocopiers
- mobile phones.
For all technology requirements, consider if your RTO will provide the resource or if the learner must provide the resource, and what to do if the learner is responsible but unable to provide the resource. You should also examine any possible privacy or security concerns and how records can be maintained of training or assessment completed. This is particularly important when it comes to international students.
If you are intending to deliver online using a learning management system (LMS), you should choose an LMS that allows for easy navigation and usability, uniformity across units, and that provides clear instructions. You must also ensure you can retain a record of the student’s work and retain backups of these records.
Support for trainers and assessors
While trainers and assessors are skilled in VET and the industry area they deliver to, if the person has not delivered remotely before they must be provided with sufficient professional development in the delivery mode/s and supported to develop their skills.
Regardless of the mode of delivery, the motivation and confidence of the trainer and assessor can considerably impact the learning experience for the student.
All VET courses delivered by an RTO require documented training and assessment strategies which explain how a course is delivered. The format for these strategies can be determined by the RTO but must meet the requirements of Clauses 1.1 and 1.2.
You may need to develop different strategies for different delivery modes or target groups/student cohorts.
For more information on training and assessment strategies, refer to the Users’ guide to Standards for RTOs 2015.
Advantages and disadvantages of distance learning
The following lists of advantages and disadvantages of distance learning include findings from the NCVER research report, Online delivery of VET qualifications: current use and outcomes.
External resource links
Disclaimer: the following links are provided for reference purposes only. ASQA does not does not necessarily guarantee, approve, or endorse the information or products available on these sites.