Literacy and numeracy testing

Prashil Singh is the manager of Partnership and Stakeholders Relations at VETASSESS where he works with a team of assessors and online platform developers. His role involves connecting customers to a range of assessment services and solutions, and he is a firm believer of the value that assessment can play in quality performance monitoring and improvement.

As VETASSESS rolls out our latest assessment service, we would like to take the opportunity to talk about the importance of literacy and numeracy testing.

Literacy and numeracy are vital skills that can determine whether an individual succeeds in a particular area of training or industry.  Literacy and numeracy testing offers an effective and efficient way to assess these skills in applicants to determine whether they are sufficient to meet the demands of studying or working.

The VETASSESS Test

The VETASSESS Test is an online assessment tool aligned to the Australian Core Skills Framework, covering levels 1-4, as the registered standard for adult literacy and numeracy in Australia.  The test is already in use as the pre-entry test for the Diploma of Nursing by a number of course providers.

With reforms to the VET Student Loans 2017 scheme effective from 1 January 2017, literacy and numeracy testing has become compulsory for applicants seeking loan assistance for VET Diploma level courses and above.  The VETASSESS Test has been approved by the Australian Government as an external and independently verified assessment tool for RTOs, including providers needing to fulfil the entry requirement for the VET Student Loan 2017 scheme.

Can your Organisation Benefit from Literacy and Numeracy Testing?

While the VETASSESS Test was developed to support education providers, it can be beneficial for other VET courses, as well as business organisations for the purposes of recruitment and internal training.  Ensuring literacy and numeracy competency of your members whether they are from an English speaking background or a non-English speaking background can help maintain quality performance within your organisation and industry overall.

The VETASSESS Test provides the user with a report identifying areas requiring improvement as part of the assessment. It also provides reporting on group statistics across the particular cohort.  This information can help guide applicants on how to seek further training, and provide valuable insight for RTOs and employers on whether additional support systems may be needed for their new or existing members.

If you’re using an existing tool, before renewing talk to us about our quality and cost-effective solution. VETASSESS is currently conducting onsite demonstrations and can tailor test requirements for pre-course entry and selection.  For further information and consultation, contact Matthew Miller on +61 3 9655 4754 or email testenquiries@vetassess.com.au

Building learner foundation skills is your responsibility

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison Miller is a member of eWorks’ team of accredited consultants, and a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Allison is passionate about providing learners with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work. Today she discusses the importance of foundation skills in general, as well as how they are linked VET FEE-HELP loans.

LLN and VET Fee-Help (VFH reforms)

One of the recent VET Fee-Help (VFH) reforms is the requirement that a learner who does not have a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education must complete Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) assessment to be eligible for a VET FEE-HELP loan. This type of assessment has been around for a while for State-based government funded training, and highlights the ongoing agenda to improve the language, literacy and numeracy of Australian adults (also see Allison’s Language, literacy and numeracy skills – how technology can help blog post).

This move to improve our learners’ core skills includes a foundation skill section in all new and updated units of competency. This section outlines the LLN and employment skills which a learner needs to demonstrate in order to be deemed competent for the unit. This means all VET practitioners using units with foundation skills explicitly included in them need to be assessing their learners’ required foundation skills.  

Ideally, more and more VET practitioners will do the TAELLN411 unit to help them understand how to address adult LLN skills gaps. However, competency in this unit is only the beginning of a VET practitioner’s journey, as each learner cohort will present different LLN needs, so it is important to know how to support that journey past the starting point.

What foundation skills might need to be addressed?

Even though learners may successfully pass the pre-enrolment LLN assessment as part of the requirements to access Government funded training, they may still present with some foundation skill gaps for one or more units within the qualification they are undertaking.

The explicit foundation skills being mapped in each unit come from either:

How will I know if my learners have foundation skill gaps?

The foundation skills section in each qualification unit describes each foundation skill and maps it to a unit’s performance criteria. Further analysis is required by a VET practitioner, however, to determine which of the five levels of performance in the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) their learners should be performing to in order to deem them as competent for each unit. There are three steps to this process:

  1. Determine the foundation skill level or stage for a unit by identifying the embedded trigger or action words within the unit’s performance criteria (PC).  

An example would be TAELLN411 PC 1.2 Identify and analyse the LLN skill requirements essential to the workplace performance. Here the action words ‘identify’ and ‘analyse’ are Reading foundation skills, and the knowledge/related word = ‘LLN skill requirements’.

  1. Analyse the Australian Core Skills Framework performance levels based on the action word(s) (Leske and Francis, ND).

This is done by determining how these action words best match those in the five levels of ACSF Performance Variables Grid (ACSF, pg 14). For TAELLN411: the Foundation Skill Reading refers to interpreting and analysing information, indicating a level 3-4 of task complexity, text complexity, context and support performance indicators for this unit, which refer to such terms as ‘requires minimal support’, ‘includes specialised vocabulary’ etc.

You continue to do this for each foundation skills for the whole unit, to get the overall level for each foundation skill. For example, Reading – Level 3-4, Oral Communication – Level 3 etc.

  1. Identify whether each learner cohort has any foundation skill gaps through diagnostic and formative activities at the beginning of, and during, their training program.  

This is best done through activities which improve learners’ unit knowledge.   For the TAELLN411 this can be done through questioning or brainstorming each learner’s LLN workplace requirements for their industry requirements, either as a group or as individuals.

You will often find that only an individual or small number of learners will present with one or two foundation skills gaps. This is important, however, because even one skill gap needs to be addressed for the learner(s) to be deemed competent.

What strategies and tools can address each foundation skill gap?

Once you have established your learners’ foundation skills gaps, consider some of the following strategies and tools to help your learners build these skills:

Foundation Skill

Strategies and tools to address the gap

Learning

  • Incorporating reflective or self-assessment journals using blog/micro-blogs such as Mahara e-portfolio, WordPress or Twitter.
  • Encouraging conversations (ie reflective dialogue) around topics using online groups in Facebook, LinkedIn, Edmodo or Yammer.
  • Getting learners to teach each other using Skype, Google Hangout or Zoom.
  • Helping learners establish action plans using Mahara eportfolio, Evernote or Google Calendars.

Reading

  • Encouraging learners to read and comment on each other’s blog / journal, social media posts.
  • Providing audio versions of text so learners can read this information while listening to someone else reading it aloud.
  • Getting learners to record themselves reading the content using their mobile phone voice recorder and then listening to them self.
  • Incorporating images, diagrams, flowcharts etc which help learners to visualise text / content.

Writing

  • Using Moodle discussion forums or chat rooms for group debates, sharing researched information, problem solving or scenario-based learning.
  • Incorporating collaborative / group writing activities using Moodle wiki or Google Docs.
  • Encouraging peer reviews of learner work / ideas via social media groups.

Oral Communication

  • Incorporating learner presentations using webinar tools such as the Big Blue Button.
  • Getting learners to create screencasts, podcasts or videos of workplace scenarios using Screenr, Podbean and YouTube (respectively).
  • Encouraging learners to create animations of information that they have researched using Powtoon.

Numeracy

  • Using the Numbers (14.01) Toolbox to practice calculations, measurements and other mathematical formulas.
  • Encouraging learners to use Google Calendars for time management and assignment deadlines.
  • Using online calculations and converters such as ATO tax tables, time/currency converter sites, and insurance quoting etc.

Overwhelmed? Here is a quick summary

Building upon all learners’ foundation skills is important in order to meet the growing skill needs in Australian businesses.  A range of strategies are being implemented to support this, including explicitly outlining the foundation skill requirements of all new units of competency.  This change means that it is the responsibility of all VET practitioners to:

  • identify the foundation skills levels within each unit of competency, and
  • use a range of training and assessment strategies to ensure their learners are performing at the required foundation skill levels to pass a unit

Where else can you get help with addressing foundation skill gaps?

  • It is a good idea to seek Foundation Skills / LLN specialists support when you have individual learners who present with larger foundation skill gaps, or larger cohorts of learners who need help building their foundation skills. These specialists may be people within your RTO or staff in your local adult and community education sector.  
  • LLN & VET Meeting Place write regular blog posts, offer links to resources and run webinar events on this topic.  
  • eWorks provide excellent foundation skills educational design and content development services.

Compliance, video assessment and the e-learning resistance

What did you get up to in 2015? In between helping our customers to get started or stay current in all aspects of online learning, we wrote a bunch of great blog posts. Compliance was a particularly hot topic, especially when it comes to registered training organisations. The use of video to engage learners was also popular, as was the use of video in general. And don’t forget e-learning design tips, course development and – perhaps most importantly – dealing with any resistance to the online approach from within your organisation. If you missed any of this, or simply need a roundup, here are our top ten most popular blogs from 2015.

top-ten

1. Updated Toolboxes you can view on your iPad

Flexible Learning Toolboxes are stand-alone e-learning resources that cover a large range of topics, from aged care to plumbing and horticulture to food safety. Teachers and trainers can use more than 120 Toolboxes to deliver approximately 190 qualifications and support over 2,000 units of competency from a wide range of nationally-endorsed training packages. Three Toolboxes were updated in 2015.
Read more

2. Why do RTOs struggle with compliance?

It is not uncommon for an RTO to be found non-compliant in what was previously Standard 15 of the Standards for NVR RTOs 2012 when experiencing an audit (Standard One now replaces much of what was this standard prior to 2015). In fact, from October 2013 to March 2014, 78% of all existing RTOs were found non-compliant in their initial audit for Standard 15 – the elements that underpin quality in training and assessment.
Read more

3. Video assessment made easy

Are you frustrated by how complicated it can be to manipulate video and use it for assessment? This free smart phone (and tablet) app, that integrates with the assignment activity in Moodle, might be just what you need.
Read more

4. ASQA, industry engagement and RTOs – what you should be doing

What is industry engagement, why should registered training organisations (RTOs) bother with this approach, and what does the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) have to say about it all? Learn why this part of the Standards for RTOs 2015 is so important, and how to tick ASQA’s boxes without making life difficult for your industry contacts.
Read more

5. Top tips for using BigBlueButton

BigBlueButton (BBB) is an open-source online classroom package. It provides the latest classroom features and tools in eWorks’ TVC learning management system. Here we respond to some of the same queries that come through eWorks’ support desk from time to time. Originally published in 2014, this blog post well and truly stood the test of time.
Read more

6. The who and how of online course development

So you have decided to develop your own online course materials. Good for you! But before you commence, it is important to know what you need in order to achieve this successfully. There are a number of decisions your management team needs to make before you start employing people to start work. If you are thinking about developing your own online course materials, this blog post will help you avoid some common issues and pitfalls.
Read more

7. Language, literacy and numeracy skills – how technology can help

Did you know that one in two adult Australians are below the internationally recognised level of literacy and numeracy to effectively function in the workplace and beyond? What are the implications of this shocking statistic for the VET sector, and how technology can help to address the issue?
Read more

8. Six easy design tips for your e-learning projects

Six easy to understand and implement e-learning design tips from an expert designer. Published in late 2015, the fact that this blog made it into our top ten for the year really says it all.
Read more

9. How to beat the e-learning resistance

Some excellent advice about making online courses…wait for it…educational. Written based upon firsthand experience, with an emphasis on good learning design, this blog teaches you how to make e-learning work.
Read more

10. Using Mahara to demonstrate your professional currency

If you’re not sure about revised professional development requirements for VET teachers in the Standards for RTOs 2015 – or even if you think you are – this post will bring you up to speed.
Read more

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ASQA, industry engagement and RTOs: what you should be doing

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantWhat is industry engagement, why should registered training organisations (RTOs) bother with this approach, and what does the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) have to say about it all? Allison Miller explains why this part of the Standards for RTOs 2015 is so important, and how to tick ASQA’s boxes without making life difficult for your industry contacts.

Industry engagement – why bother?

We all want our training, assessment and resources to be relevant to employer and student needs. It is therefore crucial that our trainers and assessors have the current skills and resources to deliver this training. But how do we ensure that our staff are well-trained and informed while being aware of the most recent developments in their specialist areas? Through industry engagement.

But what does this mean?

Clauses 1.5 and 1.6 of the Standards for RTOs 2015 prescribe how an RTO should undertake this practice. However, these clauses do not specify any particular method or approach. They do, however, specify that RTOs need to demonstrate how, on an ongoing basis, they:

  1. Utilise a range of strategies to consult with their industry stakeholders.
  2. Systematically use this information to determine the:
    • mode of the study, training and assessment strategies and resources, and
    • the currency of their trainers and assessors, as well as
  3. How these align with the current methods, technology, products and performance expectations in the workplace.

A generic template which can simply be signed off by an industry stakeholder won’t cut it to demonstrate compliance of these clauses. But businesses are busier than ever, so how can your RTO ensure that it engages with industry without making it burdensome on your industry contacts?

Here are some ways to make it easy:

1. Take a workforce development approach

We’ve acknowledge that people are busier than ever, so taking the time out of their busy work schedules without it being advantageous to them or their business can be hard to justify. So, approaching your industry contacts using a workforce development approach can provide an effective win-win situation. This approach is where you ask your industry contacts if they will meet with you to answer some questions about their business’s needs, in exchange for some workforce development advice through a training needs analysis.

This process may also lead to additional training opportunities for your RTO, but the workforce development advice shouldn’t only include information about accredited training, as this is only a small component of the training that a business needs in order to upskill its staff. Rather, it should include a range of workforce development strategies, such as work shadowing and coaching/mentoring, which will meet the business’s overall training requirements.

You could use your mobile phone audio app or an MP3 audio recorder to record these discussions as evidence of your industry engagement. To reduce travel time and costs, you could host these discussions in an online meeting room such as Google Hangout or any other online meeting room tool which also allows you to record the discussions.

2. Feedback through existing industry contacts

Every business is looking to work smarter and this is why they have their staff undertake training. This means that you can utilise the industry contacts that send their staff to your RTO for training, by asking them to contribute to a (hidden) course feedback discussion forum. This can be included within the online or blended course set-up in your learning management system (LMS) to help facilitate the training and assessment.

This approach also helps improve the business relationships between your trainers and the employers, as they communicate with one another through regular contact. This will give these employers more buy-in into the delivery of the training, by offering them the opportunity to have input into how their staff are being trained.

And, once all of the feedback is captured in the forum, your trainers can post the actions that will occur as a result of this industry engagement, and then post another response when the action has been completed. All of these posts will be date and time stamped in the forum as to when they were recorded. Trainers can even upload the audio recording of your workforce development discussions to this forum, so that all of the information is stored in one place.

Group discussionCredit: Volunteers by 1295178

3. Monitor trends online

Once you have established what your industry needs in the way of skills and knowledge for a particular qualification, skill set or cluster of units, you need to continue to monitor changes within this industry. A simple way to do this is by participating in industry online groups and forums through webinars, and by subscribing to industry e-newsletters and blogs.

Online professional spaces such as LinkedIn offer numerous industry-led online groups where people share and discuss latest industry news and changes. Industry and professional associations also host a range of online forums through webinars. In both of these spaces you can ‘lurk’ (aka look but not contribute), or you can ask questions or request feedback related to understanding whether your training, assessment, resources and trainers are all meeting your industry’s needs.

In addition to this, subscribing to industry and professional e-newsletters and blogs means that you will have current industry information delivered to your inbox on a regular basis. You then record how you will use this information to verify or improve your training and assessment practices by recording your ideas and actions in a note-taking tool such as Evernote or OneNote. You can even do this on your mobile phone and then upload these needs into the above discussion forum for continuity.

Pulling it all together

If you follow these strategies, you will have recorded you industry engagement through audio/webinar recordings, posts in online groups and forums, and recorded notes and actions. By saving all of these recordings into the one discussion forum within the online course where the training and assessment is taking place, you have now created a one-stop shop for tracking your industry engagement.

Here’s a table to summarise it all:

Engagement strategy Training & assessment Resources Trainers / Assessor currency How
Workforce Development X X X
  • Mobile phone/MP3 audio recorder
  • Online meeting room
Feedback X X  
  • Discussion forum (LMS)
Monitoring trends X   X
  • Online groups
  • Industry webinars
  • eNewsletters / Blogs
  • Note-taking tool

It’s not all about ticking the boxes

The Standards for RTOs 2015 outline the minimum that an RTO should do to engage with industry. This process should not just be about being able tick the boxes for an ASQA audit, however. Rather, we must ensure that our students are receiving the most current and relevant skills and knowledge required to be successful in the workplace and in business. Do you have other approaches to industry engagement that don’t make life difficult for your industry contacts? I would love to hear about them.