The Amount of Training – Part Two

Introduction

Back in September last year, I posted – The Amount of Training – Part One. If you haven’t read that, then it is worthwhile reading part one before you dive into this article. This article is going to focus on the important factors that relate to how to describe your volume of learning in your training and assessment strategy. Also in September, I posted an article laying out the requirements for the training and assessment strategies and provided a template which we have designed and use in the course of our work. This training and assessment strategy includes an excellent section that relates to this article in terms of providing you with a suitable layout and framework to describe your volume of learning. You can access this article and training and assessment strategy template at the following link (Click).

In this article I want to talk about how to describe the amount of training in the context of the volume of learning. In Part 3 of this series, I will talk about how to provide a justification (rationale) for this and what are some of the considerations when you are writing up a rationale in a training and assessment strategy. Here we go.

Describing your volume of learning

An important point that we established in part one is that the standards for RTO’s do not make reference to the volume of learning. The standards only refer to the amount of training. But the amount of training is a sub component of the volume of learning and we need to recognise this. We also established that assessment is not training. It’s always interesting when a client identifies that the learner is attending class one day per week over a 40 week program and based on a seven hour day that is 280 hours towards their amount of training. Is it, or is there any assessment happening during that time? Is there time scheduled in that program for learners to complete written knowledge assessment or participate in role-play assessment activities? The answer to this is usually yes and this differentiation between training and assessment in the time allocated was simply not considered.

Sometimes I go through an entire program with the client to identify how much time is allocated for assessment and it is usually quite surprising. On average this is usually about 1/3 of the time. So, where we had allocated 280 hours for the amount of training, we are now only allocating 186 hours with 94 hours allocated for assessment, as an example. This simple reality is really the basis for determining the overall volume of learning. We need to separate all of the activities into time allocated for training and time allocated for assessment. The best way to describe this is to provide you a little case study on which we can build a framework that describes the volume of learning. This is actually based on an audit I did just last week and when I wrote up my audit report I actually thought to myself that this is a classic example that we could use to train clients.

Case study: Client X

Client X in Brisbane is delivering the CPC10111 – Certificate I in Construction as a VET in Schools Program. The information provided in the training and assessment strategy was confusing and contradictory. The strategy identified different time allocations in different parts of the document. In one section, they were referring to the nominal hours and in other sections they were making reference to time allocated for self-paced study and work placement but these were not reflected in the overall allocated amount of training. None of these hours either calculate correctly or can be verified. I should just say at this point that, this is quite typical.

It’s at this point in the audit, that I usually put the strategy aside and work with the client to unpack exactly how the course is being delivered so that we can establish the actual time allocation. I really make a big point in the first edition of this series about the need to be real. Including time for activities such as 15 hours of “self-paced learning” per week that has not been developed or can be verified is a waste of time and counterproductive from a compliance perspective. I call this “magical time”. It dose not really exist but we included it to make the volume of learning look better. No!

Sorry, back to the case study,,,

Through discussion with client X, we established that the learner will typically complete the course in one year consisting of attending the training program one day per week. Over a typical academic year, this equates to 40 days. So, we know that the learner will be attending training and assessment 8 hours per day on average for 40 days resulting in a total attendance time of 320 hours. This time can generally be divided into time spent doing training and time spent doing assessment. The training includes both theoretical classroom-based training and practical training in a workshop. Equally, the assessment includes both written knowledge assessment and practical observation assessment in the workshop. Through conducting an analysis of this time over the course duration we determined that the course is actually being delivered something like this:

8 hours per day x 40 days = 320 hours, consisting of:

  • 2 hours per day x 32 days in class training = 64 hours
  • 6 hours per day x 30 days skills training in workshop = 180 hours
  • Total amount of training so far 244 hours
  • 2 hours per day x 8 days in class knowledge assessment – 16 hours
  • 6 hours per day x 10 days skills assessment in workshop – 60 hours
  • Total amount of assessment so far 76 hours

Once we had established a model for the face-to-face time, we now need to verify the claimed self-paced study. Client X confirmed that this is not formally conducted. There are activities within the learning material that are suitable for this purpose and other activities are allocated by trainers as homework. The current allocated 80 hours would require learners to be completing approximately two hours of self-paced study per week fully dedicated to this particular subject. Of course, the learners may also have homework allocated from other subjects, so the organisation needs to determine how much time is viable to allocate to learners as a compulsory homework. In order for this time to be verifiable, it would need to be compulsory and developed into a formal self-paced learner guide which the learner completes and submits for feedback from the trainer. The organisation would need to retain this completed self-paced learning as evidence of the learner’s participation in training. Assuming that the organisation can establish this arrangement and implements this self-paced learning we have an additional 80 hours that can be allocated to training. Client X felt that this was totally reasonable and they felt confident in developing these arrangements. Great!

Client X had also allocated in its training and assessment strategy, 80 hours allocated for work placement which is based on the classic two weeks work experience completed in Year 11. This time is currently not compulsory but is encouraged. It is understood that the majority (as much as 90%) of learners currently complete the work placement. There is no current structure to this work placement as structured workplace learning. Structured workplace learning is where the organisation allocates specific tasks based on the units of competency to the learner to complete during their work placement in order to deepen their understanding of how these skills are applied in the workplace and their ability to perform tasks (see Part One). Whilst not supervised by the trainer, the learner is supervised by their workplace supervisor. If the learner can maintain a basic workplace training record of the completed task, then this also contributes to the amount of training.

Client X identified that that it is difficult for a small number of students to complete this work placement and this is why the activity has not previously been compulsory. I recommended Client X make the activity compulsory and establish a flexibility arrangement for those learners where it is just not possible. I often give this advice in audits. We should always plan on the majority and not the minority. You need to see the student cohort as one with identifiable characteristics and plan your training around that. Yes there will be exceptions and you can deal with these as they arise. So, Client X resolved that it would make the work placement a compulsory activity and develop a suitable workplace training record that allocated relevant tasks drawn from the unit of competency where the learner will complete these during work placement and keep a record of this. Obviously this will be noted by the workplace supervisor and reviewed by the trainer to monitor the learner’s progress. Great, that is an additional 80 hours.

So, assuming that Client X can establish appropriate structure around their self-paced learning and structured workplace learning, the final description of the total volume of learning would look something like this:

Example: Client X

During this course, learners will complete one day per week attending structured training and assessment over the school year. This includes attending the RTO one day per week for 8 hours per day over 40 weeks. The time spent at the RTO is allocated to classroom based training and skills training in the workshop. Time is also allocated for both written knowledge assessment and practical skills assessment.

The learner will also complete self-paced learning each week of approximately two hours of homework and is required to complete a two-week work placement. Both self-paced learning and work placement are a compulsory component of the course. These require the completion of mandatory learning activities both under the learner’s own direction as homework and under the supervision of their workplace supervisor during work placement.

The allocated hours are as follows:

Training

  • 2 hours per day x 32 days in class training = 64 hours
  • 6 hours per day x 30 days skills training in workshop = 180 hours
  • 2 hours per week x 40 weeks self-paced study = 80 hours
  • 2 weeks x 40 hours per week of work placement = 80 hours
  • Total amount of training = 404 hours

Assessment

  • 2 hours per day x 8 days in class knowledge assessment = 16 hours
  • 6 hours per day x 10 days skills assessment in workshop = 60 hours
  • Total amount of assessment = 76 hours

Volume of Learning

  • Total amount of training = 404 hours
  • Total amount of assessment = 76 hours
  • Total Volume of Learning = 480 hourss

The Course Program available at annex A, provides a framework for the training and assessment activities and shows how these activities are sequenced and structured over the course duration.


I just want to point out a couple of important things about the description above. It’s important to note that we have separated out the time allocated for training and the time allocated for assessment and brought these together to describe the overall volume of learning. Some of you will be wondering, why we did not get to the magic number of a minimum of 600 hours for this AQF level. The reason for this is that the above program is really squeezing out as many hours as possible from a student in year 11. It is also critical to acknowledge that the above hours are realistic hours. We didn’t attempt to fluff out the hours just to simply get to a magic number. Client X has an excellent training program with structured training and plenty of opportunity for learners to practice their skills prior to their assessment. I confirmed through the audit that the learning aligns with the requirements of units of competency so there is no doubt in my mind that the learner is getting the benefit of excellent training. I would have absolutely no problem this client going into an audit with the national regulator.

Do not believe these random stories on LinkedIn where auditors apparently make a course non-compliant because it didn’t get to some magic number. I am sure that some would disagree with me but this has simply not been our experience since the introduction of the new standards and that is because our clients develop well-structured programs with progressive skill development leading to assessment. Good training design will trump an artificial requirement for minimum hours any day of the week.

Hang-on,,, sorry, I should just clarify, this is true, except in Victoria. I do acknowledge that there are a number of cowboy auditors operating out of the Melbourne office of ASQA who basically make up their own rules and apply zero educational logic or understanding of VET to their decision making. The Melbourne office exercises no control or moderation over these bad apples and there is just no explaining or rationalising their audit decisions. VET regulation in Victoria at the moment is truly toxic. The ASQA Melbourne office is killing VET delivered by private providers in Victoria!

Sorry, just needed that little rant! 🙂 In all other States and Territories, we find that good educational logic applies within a framework that requires the RTO to accurately document the amount of training and the course structure. Thank heavens for the sensible logic of the Brisbane Office and the influence it has! Except in Victoria. 🙂

The importance of the course program

I have mentioned on various occasions in our audit guide and in my presentations at conferences, et cetera, that a consistent requirement from the national regulator in regard to training and assessment strategies is the need for the strategy to describe a learning and assessment framework. A learning and assessment framework describes the planned learning activities across all modes of delivery and the planned assessment activities. Note that I am referring to the activity level. I am not simply identifying units of competency which are scheduled to be delivered in certain days or weeks. I am suggesting that you need to break your course program down to a level of detail where you can identify each activity. Now, an activity might be an hour, a day or it could be two days or whatever. The important thing is the activity is defined within a supporting documents such as a session plan or an assessment instruction. We can say that X activity is scheduled to occur over two days on this specific week and we can go to the session plan and identify the agenda and teaching points and activities which are required to be completed over those two days. The important thing is that the activity is identifiable and assessment events are scheduled in the program to occur after the learner has had an opportunity to develop their skills. It makes sense.

If you make claims in your volume of learning about particular modes of delivery and assessment activities then these need to be described in the course program. Most course programs only describe the time that the learner is actually on-site with the RTO. So, if the learner is spending one day a week at the RTO then the course program only reflects this time allocation and activity. As we described above, this time can often be separated into different components which can include theoretical learning in the classroom, skills development in a simulated workplace, time allocated for assessment, et cetera. You need to think about these different modes of delivery rather than simply bundling them all into “classroom”. We also need to reflect in the course program the activities we have nominated as non-supervised activities such as self-paced learning and structured workplace learning, and non-supervised assessment work to name a few. If we expect the learner to complete two hours a week of self-paced learning then we should identify this in the course program by identifying the actual self-paced learning activity which is scheduled to be completed in that week.

The following table is taken from a course program that we prepared for a client a while back. It is from a Diploma of Leadership and Management and allocates the activities that are scheduled to occur each week. This is just a three-week snapshot. It should be noted that each of these activities is defined within its own supporting document. The classroom sessions are defined by a developed session plan. The self-paced training activities are defined in a developed self-paced learner guide, and so on. The program shows how the time allocated to all of these supervised and non-supervised activities is sequenced and structured over the course duration:

The key point about the course program is that, it provides justification for your allocation of time in the volume of learning. If you nominate self-paced learning and don’t reflect this in your overall learning and assessment framework or course program then it basically does not exist. The number of times I have seen an audit report from ASQA identifying this as a non-compliance would blow your mind. Check out the training and assessment strategy template that I have provided at the following link for a course program that gives you the structure to describe all of your activities (Click).

Conclusion

My objective in this article is to provide some guidance to those who are seeking to describe the volume of learning within their training and assessment strategies. The key point is that it needs to be real. Resist the urge to artificially inflate your hours to simply get to an amount of time. Make sure that you think about the different modes of delivery within both the supervised time and non-supervised time the learner is engaging in training. This also applies to assessment. Sometimes the learner will be completing theory assessment in class which is supervised and then will be preparing project submissions at home which is non-supervised. We need to take account of all of this time and to accurately describe it within our overall volume of learning. It really is important to differentiate assessment from training.

Lastly, the course program is critical to telling the story about how these activities are sequenced and structured over the course duration. Make sure that all activities are accurately displayed within your course program in their sequence including supervised and non-supervised activities. It is totally reasonable to indicate that a non-supervised self-paced learning activities should be completed by particular week. This should be in the program.

In the next and final part of this series, I will be talking about how to provide a rationale around your training particularly where your hours are lower than the benchmark volume of learning. This article will focus on clause 1.2 of the standards for RTO’s and I know will be very helpful for many.

Good training,

Joe Newbery

Published: 28th March 2019

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