Online training: Set and forget is not viable for VET

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison Miller has been involved in online training and assessment for more than 10 years. During this time she has seen the exponential growth in the online training market, as more and more people turn to online study to fit in with their busy lives, or because they live too far away to participate in person. And while online training certainly offers flexibility in general, it is important to remember that this umbrella term refers to a range of different learning scenarios.

There’s online training, and there’s online training

Michael Coghlan (based on Clint Smith’s work) describes nine models of online training, ranging from e-training to blended training to the flipped classroom. Michael explains that:

  • E-training is self-directed training where learners receive no facilitation or human interaction.
  • Blended training is where traditional training is supplemented by web-based content and other e-communication.
  • Flipped classroom involves moving traditional class-based content online and away from face-to-face sessions, and then uses the face-to-face time on practical application of the content.

While a small percentage of the population may find e-training to be exactly what they need, this type of set and forget online training is not a viable business model in the vocational education and training (VET) sector. People may want to go online to access training on their terms, but they still want to feel like individuals rather than part of a vending machine online training model. And being part of a wider learning community is important to many learners, regardless of how isolated their learning environment might be.

How do we know that set and forget doesn’t work?

Here are a couple of examples to explain why set and forget online training is not a viable business model for VET:

  • As Jim Bost, Lecturer at TAFE SA once said: Nobody has ever said to an RTO: Here’s my money to do your online training, but now please, I never want to hear from you again.
  • Brad Beach, Manager of the Professional Educator College at Chisholm Institute, also talks about how a ‘wow’ learning moment never comes from content. It comes through conversations and discussions with others.

I’ve also heard Brad say that the number one reason why learners log into a learning management system (LMS) is to see if someone has responded to them, and he’s not talking about the score from an online quiz.

no money handshakeA no money handshake by Mark Miller

Let’s learn a little more about set and forget online training

Set and forget online training is when a learner is asked to log into an online course and only interact with the content and activities, with no human interaction whatsoever. This type of training is done mainly through the delivery of online content and self-marking quizzes. While it is quite suitable for mandated or compulsory training such as WHS inductions or testing whether people’s knowledge is still current, it does not lend itself to being the only form of training and assessment in VET. In some sectors or for specific types of learning, yes, but entire courses within the VET sector, no.

VET training requires the application of skills and knowledge, much of which is tacit and can only be developed through interaction with others, through modelling and individualised feedback. Set and forget online training also increases the risk of cheating, as there is no buy-in by learners to take ownership of their work.

Now let’s not confuse set and forget or self-directed training with self-paced online training. Self-paced online training still requires interaction between the trainer and their learners through regular communications with their learners as they complete each section of a course. This might include useful feedback about their work and responding to journal entries or discussion forum posts.

What do you need to think about when setting up online training?

Let’s analyse what you need to consider when setting up online training:

1. Firstly, the cost of setting up your online training course, which involves:

  • Undertaking stakeholder consultations to determine when online training is suitable and when it isn’t. No one wants their hair cut by a hairdresser who has been trained solely through online content and a quiz!
  • Creating storyboards as part of the online training design process.
  • Developing content, whether that be text, images, audio or video.
  • Setting up the online course based on the online training design and incorporating the content developed, and then,
  • Testing the online course to make sure it is learner-friendly, and that all of the links and downloads work.

2. Secondly, maintaining your online training course to ensure that:

  • The content stays up to date and relevant. Remember, audio and video content can be very expensive to update if, say, legislative changes put your content out of date.
  • It keeps up with the latest technology with which people are accessing your online training course. At the moment, for example, Articulate Storyline 1 isn’t officially supported with Windows 10, so some Window 10 users might not be able to see your Articulate Storyline 1 content in your online courses. And then there’s a whole other blog post on whether or not your online training course looks good on a mobile device.

Getting it right from the start

So, with all of the investment involved in setting up and maintaining an online course, it makes perfect sense that you take the time to:

  • weigh up whether a course free of human interaction is really going to pay off for your cohort of learners, and,
  • how much extra return on investment you will gain by adding the human element to your online training courses, whether that be a self-paced, fully facilitated online training, blended or flipped classroom model.

Remember, people go to a training organisation to learn from and with others

Otherwise they could get most of what they need from the internet in general, or YouTube, MOOCs or other online courses. Through my experience and observations it seems to me that set and forget online training is not a cash cow, rather it is a short-sighted approach to online training which can potentially be an expensive white elephant. What do you think is the most effective form of online training? I would love to know your thoughts.

RTOs train well but assess poorly

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAt the recent ACPET National Conference, Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) Chief Commissioner, Chris Robinson, said that registered training organisation’s (RTOs) in the vocational education and training (VET) sector train well but assess poorly. Allison Miller, who was in the audience, discusses this candid statement, breaks down the Standards for RTOs according to assessment requirements, and offers advice about good assessment practices for the VET sector.

Non-compliance and assessment go hand in hand

Chris Robinson’s statement was based upon recent analysis by ASQA of RTO compliance rates since the introduction of the new national Standards for RTOs (Standards) earlier in 2015 (ASQA, 2015). The analysis has shown that whenever an RTO has recorded non-compliance, assessment is always an issue. These issues stem from:

  • poor assessment strategies
  • poor assessment tools
  • poor assessment practices, and
  • unqualified trainers and assessors.

An assessment is much more than an assessment tool

The Standards (Clauses 1.8-1.12) are  very explicit about how an RTO should conduct effective assessment by implementing an assessment system that ensures that assessment:

  • complies with the assessment requirements of the relevant training package or VET accredited course; and
  • is conducted in accordance with the principles of assessment

This approach should also be applied to the assessment of recognition of prior learning (RPL). Under the new Standards, trainers/assessors need to be able to:

  • Unpack a unit of competency (UoC) to match skills to their industry. That is, the assessor needs to ensure that a learner has the required skills to work effectively in the relevant industry, according to what is included in the UoC.
  • Design assessment activities and tools which meet all of the UoC requirements, the relevant industry’s needs, and all of the principles of assessment and rules of evidence (Table 18-1 & 18-2).
  • Determine how to best collect, assess, provide feedback and store assessment evidence.
  • Write supporting documentation which outlines the learning and assessment activities students will undertake to demonstrate they are competent.
  • Understand, implement and participate in an assessment validation process.



Credit: Exam by Alberto G.

Other key components of a successful VET assessment system

Although not as explicit in the Standards, there are a number of other key components of a successful VET assessment system, such as having:

  • Several and varied assessment activities such as formative assessments which measure the learning (also known as assessment for learning) and summative assessments which measure the output of the learning (also known as assessment of learning). Summative assessments should not only be included at the end of the course.
  • Assessment activities and tools which are real and applied. That is, the student is doing the actual task in the workplace or simulated workplace environment or producing something that would be produced in the workplace.
  • Effective feedback mechanisms which help students move forward with their learning, also known as feed forward (JISC, 2013)
  • Ways of authenticating that the students are who they say they are, especially online students.
  • A variety of ways to capture assessment evidence such as text, images audio, video, checklists and third party reports.
  • Effective ways to capture and store assessment evidence so that is can be easily found, such as uploading all students’ evidence into a learning management system.

It’s not all about ASQA

Having an effective assessment system is not only about satisfying ASQA auditors and meeting the Standards for RTOs. An effective assessment system should ensure that a student has the skills, knowledge and experience to meet current workplace requirements as outlined in the UoC and according to what is currently being done in industry. This means that a trainer/assessor’s vocational currency is very important (Clauses 1.13-1.16). Trainers/assessors should be supported to continue

to work in industry either through part-time work, through work shadowing opportunities or other industry programs, to ensure they maintain this currency.

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eWorks launches new training schedule

eWorks has recently launched its new training schedule for the first half of 2014. The program consists of a range of events that will both:

  • guide new users through a wide range of introductory topics on best practice e-learning delivery, and
  • help those who have already taken their first steps into digital delivery to go even further.

Here is an overview of the topics on offer, delivered in webinar style from 30min to 1h:

[Free] Introduction to e-learning

This session is for people who are considering adding e-learning options to their delivery mix. It will cover popular technologies and best practices and provide a strategic check list to get you started.

[Free] Live Delivery in Moodle with BigBlueButton

In this session you’ll get an initial introduction to synchronous, digital delivery using an online virtual classroom as a Moodle activity. The session will explore the features and potential of Big Blue Button functionality when your message will require webcam and other inclusive, live interactions. Deliver to attendees across town or in another country with this exciting new tool.

[Free] TrainingVC Update

Covering the latest update of TrainingVC’s popular learning management system, this webinar will provide information on new features and provide some examples of the best practices when using an LMS.

Starting out with Moodle 2

Join this session to find out about the most popular learning management system, Moodle. Beginning with a background and overview, the session will cover basics such as courses, users, how to add content, and basic assessment tools and reports.

Evidence requirements gathering using your LMS

See examples of using the popular Moodle and Totara learning management systems for evidence gathering, and discover what reporting features you need in an LMS in order to satisfy different audit requirements.

Video Basics: Pre-production and Production

This webinar will help attendees avoid some of the common mistakes, and provide a checklist of things to consider when setting up and shooting video. A non-technical session aimed at teachers wanting to create their own videos using any kind of camera.

Video Basics: Post-production and Accessibility

Attendees will learn the steps necessary to take a piece of video from their digital camera (or smartphone) to the web. We’ll cover editing, compression, accessibility requirements and publishing.

Have a burning question about e-learning? We’d love to hear from our readers on topics they’d like to see in our training program for the second half of 2014. Tweet us your ideas @eworkstweets with the #eworkstraining hashtag, or contact us on with the subject Training idea. If you prefer, you can also use our contact form.

For more information and to book sessions, please visit the training page.

New training schedule on its way!

eWorks will shortly be releasing its August to December 2013 training schedule, together with a brand new online registration system. Training will be delivered both online and face to face by experienced facilitators. It will cover a large range of topics, including:

  • Accessibility and WCAG 2.0 compliance
  • Moodle – rubrics, gradebook and more
  • Dos and don’ts in video
  • Flexible Learning Toolbox customisation
  • Using tablets and iPads in the training environment
  • iPads and augmented reality
  • Funding applications and preparation of business cases

Stay tuned to eLink, follow us on Twitter or join us on LinkedIn for regular updates.