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Learning and Assessment Strategies
Do you resent having to write learning and assessment strategies for your training programs? Do you write the strategy then ‘file’ it somewhere to be forgotten? You know you really should take time to develop your Strategy and keep it up to date – it really is the heart of your training system and it should tell your story. If you do think that the Strategy is a waste of time and effort, you are not alone. But, I would like to challenge you about this practice by telling you a story…. Just the other day I was asked to conduct an audit for a client to help them get ready for a regulator audit. Here’s what happened… My client has been operating as an RTO for a number of years and was confident that they had all the necessary training documents for each qualification they deliver. When I audit I always review the Strategy first then check for consistency of information across all other documents, website and pre-course enrolment information etc.
What did I find this time?
A whole lot of inconsistencies, lots of gaps and an outdated Strategy that was not supported by industry feedback. This is quite common when the Strategy is seen as the ‘compliance’ document with no relevance to the day to day operations of the RTO.
Why is this problematic?
From a regulatory perspective:
- The RTO must ensure that their strategies for training and assessment meet the requirements of the relevant Training Package or VET accredited course and have been developed through effective consultation with industry (SNR15.2)
- RTOs are required to use a systematic and continuous improvement approach to the management of operations (SNR 17.2).
From a business perspective:
- Gaps and inconsistencies in the Strategy are symptoms of inefficient systems and lack of continuous improvement – this is bad for business!
- Incorrect or outdated information is confusing and misleading for students – if students receive inconsistent information about courses offered they may choose not to enrol in your RTO – your business will suffer!
- Lack of documentation reflects poor systems – staff may tolerate this for a time but ultimately inefficient systems and work practices leads to staff turnover which can lead to increased recruiting and staff development costs!
The big concern is that the integrity of the training and assessment system is compromised and the RTO fails to meet Training Package requirements. This places the RTO at risk of non-compliance and can result in students not being job ready once they complete their training. This in turn can lead to reputational and financial risk, potentially doing damage to the business.
Strategy to the rescue?
So how will having a well written Strategy help solve these issues?
As I said earlier, the Strategy should be the heart and the anchor of your system, and it should tell the story of how your courses are delivered and assessed. The following diagram represents your RTO system and illustrates the Strategy document at the heart or the centre of the system.
The inner three sections represent the training and assessment system. The broken lines between these sections indicate that there are linkages across the sections. Once your Strategy is written it is essential that the development of all other documents aligns with the information in the Strategy. If anything changes in the way a course is delivered or assessed, the Strategy is the first to be updated and all documents within this system should be checked for consistency. The best way to minimise inconsistencies is to pro-actively monitor Strategies and supporting documents as part of a continuous improvement program. You can do this by scheduling reviews at key points in the year, monitoring Training Package updates and updating your Strategy and documents to keep up with those changes.
The outer circle represents your policy framework. Your training and assessment practices are bound by your policy approach and processes which in turn should align to the regulatory standards. Policies should clearly explain the way you approach continuous improvement of all aspects of your business. Your course development policy should clearly explain the importance of the Strategy and associated documents, as well as the process for maintenance and updating should be clearly laid out for all staff to see. No system is foolproof but adopting a strategy-centric approach on a foundation of proactive continuous improvement is a step in the right direction for maintaining a compliant and profitable business.
What should you include in your Strategy?
Before your write the Strategy, think about who will read it.
It should be a document that is read by management and by trainers and assessors so they know what is expected of them. It is not usually used as a marketing document but should inform the development of marketing documents for your website and brochures etc. With this in mind, start writing your strategy by telling your story – what course are you delivering, who will you deliver to, how will it be delivered and what resources (human, learning and assessment and physical) will you be using to do this. Once you have thought this through you are all set to go and develop or source those resources and start communicating to the market about what you do.
Do you have more that one story to tell for each qualification or course you deliver?
For example, do you deliver a qualification as a traineeship and also in a classroom format? If so, don’t assume that you will simplify the process by trying to explain everything in one document. It is much easier to tell your story accurately and clearly if you create a separate Strategy for each delivery approach. Your Strategy should include information on all of the points listed below.
- Course name
- Training package codes and titles of the units of competency
- Course description
- Industry licensing requirements (if relevant)
- Duration of course
- Target groups and entry requirements
- Consultation process
- Hours – timetable for the course
- Sequence and clustering of units
- Delivery methods
- Assessment methods
- Employability skills
- Learning resources
- Equipment requirements
- RTO Infrastructure support for the course
- Trainers and Assessors (staff matrix with details of qualifications, experience, currency in the field and professional development)
- Course and Assessment monitoring and review
Does the Strategy have to be just one document?
Your Strategy can be a suite of documents linked together to help tell your story. Sometimes RTOs try to include too much detail in one document. Also, there is no reason why you have to use a table format to present your information. If you want to tell your story effectively, create your own format. A few things to remember though:
- use a checklist based on the items listed above to make sure you have included all the required information
- if you decide to create separate documents such as a staff matrix, timetable and assessment plans then make sure that you reference them clearly. Use a statement like this: ‘This document should not be read alone. Please refer to the other documents referenced throughout this document.’
The Learning Community is happy to discuss this further with you. We conduct audits to help people better understand the gaps in their training systems. We can also assist by providing policies and we help establish effective, systematic continuous improvement systems in RTOs that encourage a ‘good for business’ approach to compliance management.
To discuss any other matters related to your RTO functioning, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org I hope this is helpful for you as you build your RTO
Gillian Heard has been working in the RTO sector for more than 13 years. A former director of RTOhelp, she has worked alongside more than 140 RTOs across Australia, supporting growth and solving problems.