Designing an accredited course is a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together

So you want to get a new course accredited for VET delivery?

The process of new course accreditation can be very long and complicated –it’s like putting the pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle together. So we thought it might be helpful to share some of our learnings on the topic. We hope you find them helpful!

1. Consult with industry

Once you have identified the need for the course and have thought about what is going to be included in the course it is essential to consult with other experts. No doubt you are an expert in your field and your opinion matters! But, an essential part of the course accreditation process is talking to other representatives from industry and/or community groups. If they agree with you and are enthusiastic about the need for the course, then it is critical that you collect evidence of their enthusiasm and engage them in an ongoing advisory role. Whilst we understand the need for commercial sensitivity when developing a new course, it is essential that you gain cross industry support i.e. government (if relevant), support from a variety of commercial organisations, member associations and support from your Skills Service Organisation. Without this support it is unlikely that your course will be approved. To complete your application you are required to complete an Application for Course Accreditation and a Course Document Template. These documents instruct you on how to provide evidence of industry engagement.

2. Allocate sufficient time and resources

Establish a project team who will take responsibility for developing the course and liaising with industry and the regulators. Make sure that all meetings and communications are documented and filed for inclusion with the application. Also make sure that the people charged with responsibility for course development are given adequate time to get the job done. Don’t assume that by bringing in consultants that you can let go of the reigns and absolve yourself of responsibility. Remember you are the experts.

One serious problem we have encountered with some clients is the gross underestimation of the time required for completing the course accreditation process. Some of the biggest challenges include:

  • getting the industry advisors together,
  • gaining and keeping the attention of senior management to ensure their approval,
  • researching the possibility that your course might already exist,
  • writing the units that will satisfy all interested parties, and
  • writing a convincing argument for the need for the course.

Then of course the application review process by the regulator can take several months. How long will all this take? In our experience you can expect it to take about 12 -15 months all up, if you are a skilled project manager!

3. Be clear about the vocational outcomes

We often find that developers with a great idea for a course run into trouble quite quickly if they come at it from a knowledge point of view rather than a vocational point of view. Don’t get us wrong – knowledge is important – but for best results you must first think about the job that a person would be equipped for once they have completed your course. What are the vocational outcomes of the course? The easiest way to think about this is to find a job description for the job/role. If you can’t find one, write your own. The next step is to flesh out the detail about the types of jobs (vocational outcomes) by specifying the skills and knowledge required to do the job. You need this detail once you start writing the units. Now identify your key target audience.

Once you have your job description, break it down into the key parts of the job– these become the basis for the units of competency that make up the course.

Then you need to consider how to put these units together into a course. Are all units of competency core units i.e. are they all essential? Do you also require some elective units that would be relevant to a varied target audience or that relate to a particular specialisation?

4. Do the research

You may think at this stage that you are set to start developing each unit. But wait – you must ask yourself a few more questions:

  • Is there a Nationally Endorsed Qualification that replicates my course?
  • Are there any Nationally Endorsed Units that I can include in my course?

Where do you go to find out this information? Visit and search for courses with similar names or units of competency by key topic areas.

Have an open mind to what you might find. Don’t be precious about your initial ideas. Your road to course accreditation will be much easier if you can find Nationally Endorsed units to be included in your course. In fact you should even be prepared to abandon the idea of a new course and learn how to customise an existing Qualification to suit your needs! Why? Because you don’t want to reinvent what already exists. Your research will hopefully identify some units that can be used within your course. On the other hand, if you find units that initially sound like they might be useful but you then decide that they are not suitable, you can reject them. Just make sure you justify your decision.

As part of your research check out the Australian Qualifications Framework website ( to:

  • Determine the criteria for each level and to determine where the proposed course fits within the framework.
  • Consider the Volume of Learning for the qualification you are proposing. The AQF includes details of the required Volume of Learning for each qualification level.
  • Start thinking about how long your course will be i.e. the complexity of each of your units,
  • Consider how much supervised learning and assessment is required and how much time students would be required to spend in supervised learning activities….

You will be required to provide such details when completing your application.

5. Write the units of competency

If you are feeling confident with your overall course outline and AQF level and you have decided that you will need to write units of competency you should use the unit template provided in the Course Document template to draft your units. Try following the steps below to draft your units.


  1. Write the title (less than 100 characters)
  2. Breakdown the task
  3. Write a descriptor
  4. Write the unit Application
  5. Develop the Performance Evidence Requirements
  6. Write the Knowledge Evidence
  7. Go back and write the Elements
  8. Write the Performance Criteria

Once you have followed through with the process check back to the beginning to make sure that your title still makes sense. Then go back to your overall vocational outcomes. Once each of your units has been drafted piece all the units together in the context of the vocational outcomes. Check that the units make sense and that there are no gaps. In other words, consider whether a person would be equipped to perform the job roles you have identified by completing the course you have designed.

6. Think about delivery and assessment options

When you have written your units and put them together with any endorsed units you have chosen you should think about the way your course will be delivered and assessed. Note: You don’t need the details of delivery and assessment for your course accreditation application nor will you need details of the learning and assessment resources. But you will need a big picture view of delivery so that you can determine course duration and breakdown the components of Volume of Learning as required under the AQF.

7. Consider whether your jigsaw puzzle is complete

Use your project team and advisory boards or industry panels to check that you are meeting the needs of industry, that you have not duplicated an existing course and to ensure that your course is complete and makes sense to everyone involved.

8. Consult with the ASQA Course Accreditation Unit

The staff in the Course Accreditation unit in ASQA are very helpful. They have vast experience working across many different industry areas and make helpful suggestions. They recently (2016) delivered a series of seminars on Course Accreditation, focussing on the common questions and mistakes that applicants make. We thoroughly recommend that you take a look at the slides on the ASQA website.

Ask The Learning Community for help

If you find that the application processes are confusing make sure you ask for help. As we mentioned earlier, the ASQA team are helpful. But we can help you too.

We have worked with course developers in many different ways to support an application for course accreditation. We can assist by drafting units of competency, critiquing applications, brainstorming the course content and purpose, conducting in depth research of the topic and related units and qualifications and challenging content and delivery details.

If you have an idea for a course and need some guidance why not contact us on

Thanks for joining us

Gillian Heard Polaroid2








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