‘Volume of Learning’ and ‘Amount of Training’ are important terms in Vocational Education, but can also be confusing. Both of these terms are fairly ambiguous as too are the rules to go with them.
Unfortunately, this ambiguity has, in some part, been the cause for some RTOs to deliver insufficient training. This can result in learners that are under-qualified upon completion of their units or modules. Just recently we heard about the under-qualified security guards that were hired in Victoria for COVID-19 hotel quarantine duty. Another example in the not-too-distant past was the Early Childhood Education training that was found to be widely unsatisfactory.
So what happened? And what can be done moving forward to ensure that training does what it sets out to do - prepare learners with the skills and knowledge required to work in their chosen field?
Here, we take a look at what is meant by Volume of Learning and Amount of Training, and what this means for RTOs.
Volume of Learning and Amount of Training
As described in the Australian Qualifications Framework, Volume of Learning refers to the amount of time needed for a typical student, (that being one that currently does not have any competency in the chosen area) to achieve the required learning outcomes set out in the units or modules.
* Certificate III qualifications are usually the basis for trade outcomes and undertaken as part of a traineeship or apprenticeship. In these cases, it may take up to four years to achieve the learning outcomes.
^ Certificate IV qualifications are often either:
- shorter-duration specialist qualifications that expand on existing skills and knowledge
- longer-duration qualifications that are created as entry-level pre-requisites for specific work roles
Source: AQF Volume of Learning Table.
This is different to Amount of Training, described as the time spent on formal learning activities such as classes, lectures and workplace learning undertaken by students.
As defined in Clause 1.2 of the RTO Standards Guide, RTO’s determine the amount of training they provide to each learner based on:
- the existing skills, knowledge and the experience of the learner
- the mode of delivery
- where a full qualification is not being delivered, the number of units and/or modules being delivered as a proportion of the full qualification
These two similar but different definitions have caused some confusion over the years. For one, they appear to describe the same thing, albeit in a different way, in different policies, with neither of them being precise about time requirements or guidelines.
In a nutshell, Volume of Learning includes Amount of Training, and not the other way around. Both of these guidelines are based around making sure that RTOs offer sufficient duration of training to ensure that students achieve the required learning outcomes.
RTOs must be able to account for any major variations from the time periods as set out in the AQF. Any decision made as it relates to course duration must ensure that the integrity of the qualification remains.
Some courses may be shorter than the time period described because the students already have experience and most of the required skills and knowledge. For example, if the student cohort is made up of experienced workers, a shorter amount of time would be required to appropriately deliver and assess the program.
What does this mean for RTOs?
RTOs must comply with the AQF when applying volume of learning to their programs, as well as develop and apply the necessary strategies for training and assessment that are consistent with the AQF.
But as you can see above, this varies widely. This range is meant to be a ‘starting point’ for RTOs when determining how much time is needed to deliver a particular qualification. And this issue isn’t new.
How much is enough when it comes to training?
Essentially, students who enrol in a course must participate in enough structured learning and assessment in order to obtain the skills and knowledge required to achieve the prescribed learning outcome.
If this sounds vague, it’s because it is. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all bad. Having no exact instructions allows RTOs a certain amount of liberty when deciding on the appropriate amount of training required for an individual or cohort.
As Voltaire (and Spiderman!) said,
"With great power comes great responsibility."
With the standards in mind, RTOs must ensure that that the training and assessment they provide enable every learner to achieve competency.
How you can measure if you are on track
How do you ensure that the volume of learning you’re giving your students is adequate? Systematic reviews are necessary, and evidence must be kept that shows revisions are being made when necessary.
Here are a few more things you can do:
- Develop a good Training and Assessment Strategy. ASQA states that, "Your RTO must develop a strategy for training and assessment for each training product you are registered to deliver.” And stick to it! It’s important to check regularly that your practices align with your plan.
- Formative Assessment is a method used to gauge student comprehension and learning progress throughout a unit or course. It is an essential tool, used to collect ongoing information about students’ areas of strength, and to target areas that may need more attention.
- Mapping is a highly commended method of validity and is used by RTOs to "demonstrate the validity of their assessment tools.”
If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it’s that there are many, many workers we consider essential. We have come to rely on a workforce whose skills and knowledge are derived from all levels of qualifications. It is essential that these workers receive adequate training in order to carry out their jobs effectively. Every individual in society has an important role to play. Let's see this as a positive for the Vocational Education and Training Industry and cease the opportunity to continue to create a world-class industry of skilled workers.