It has been announced that as part of their response to the Rapid Review, ASQA is undergoing a branding change with an aim to clarify and modernise their role and regulatory culture. This change will play an important part in supporting ASQA’s communication and engagement strategies.
As part of further Rapid Review findings that sought further education and consultation with the sector, there are several continuing notable consultation projects underway. Some highlights are:
- Consulting with the sector in August on the Self-assurance paper, with detailed feedback being published last month.
- The release of the consultation paper on ASQA’s Compliance Policy, which details the changes being made to monitoring, assessment and compliance activities starting April 2021. ASQA is accepting feedback on this draft Compliance Policy until 10 January 2021.
- The strategic review of online learning in VET commences this month and continues into 2021. This review will play an important part in helping ASQA understand the opportunities and risks of online learning in VET so they can maintain the high quality of Australia’s VET sector, and make sure their regulatory approaches are effective.
In an effort to support providers during the holiday season, ASQA have temporarily extended the timeframes to respond to regulatory decisions issued now until mid-January. This will assist those who have finished up for the year or may be running on reduced staff hours.
In another noteworthy announcement, the Federal Government appointed Ms Saxon Rice as National Vocational Education and Training (VET) Regulator. She will serve as the CEO of ASQA for a five year term, starting 1 January 2021.
“In her role as Chief Commissioner of ASQA since December 2019, Ms Rice has been focused on the implementation of internal reforms, making significant progress to improve engagement with training providers to help improve the quality of VET,” Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Michaelia Cash said.
ASQA recently published their updated Regulatory Strategy 2020-2022 that outlines the influence that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the VET sector, and the subsequent adjustments that need to be made to their regulatory priorities.
We have taken a look at what this means to two of the focus areas, “Online learning in the VET sector” and “VET in schools”.
It should be noted that as circumstances continue to change, so will the initiatives in the regulatory strategy. Revisions will be made when necessary. Please check back here as this blog will be updated as required.
Focus Area 1: Online learning in the VET sector
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major disruption to Australia’s VET and international education sectors. The closing of our international borders coupled with social distancing guidelines has caused businesses to close, resulting in lost work placements and delayed completion for many students. Initially for some, this meant an end to training.
In response, many providers pivoted their models to include online delivery in an attempt to continue training. While online training isn’t new, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have caused a surge in uptake. This year over 1000 providers advised that they will now be offering some or all of their courses online.
ASQA has been supportive of this approach, and published a new website section outlining compliance guidelines for these arrangements.
However, there was concern that not all RTOs had the required skills and capabilities to deliver quality training online. This was valid. In the rush to ‘go digital’, some organisations turned to inappropriate technology and had insufficient preparation. This has left holes in their training and assessment that will make them susceptible come audit time.
This isn’t surprising. Online learning has experienced its share of challenges, including:
- lower course completion
- lower student satisfaction
- difficulty engaging and supporting students
- work placement issues
- inadequate assessment
Despite this, student outcomes from online learning are, by and large, equivalent to the traditional delivery modes. In addition, graduates who studied online had similar, or slightly better, employment outcomes over a range of qualifications.
The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced how important skills and training are to our society and the VET sector is expected to play a large part in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery. With the rapid need for continuous re-skilling and up-skilling, plus the need for continuous training in the face of another disruption, online learning is likely to continue to grow in demand.
Focus area 2: VET in schools
VET in schools was created to allow secondary students to undertake nationally accredited VET courses while completing their secondary school education. VET delivered this way is credited for its role in:
- catering to the diverse interests of students
- promoting school retention
- providing opportunities for students to develop industry-specific technical skills as well as more generic skills that prepare them for work
While research shows that students who undertake VET studies enjoy a range of benefits, concerns remain around the quality of delivery and outcomes, industry relevance and employer engagement.
he COVID-19 related closure of providers of VET in schools has underscored key risks, including:
- Ensuring students receive accurate information required to make an informed decision before enrolling in a VET program
- Making sure all teachers, trainers and assessors that deliver the program are appropriately qualified
- Aligning the training and assessing delivery with requirements of the relevant training package
- Ensuring the availability of sufficient learning and assessment resources required to support students
- Timely certification of students on completion of training
- Adequate partnering arrangements
If you work in this sector, be on the front foot and address these concerns! An internal audit may be required. You can also brush up on the marketing and recruitment section of the RTO Standards Guide, read the Joyce Review, and the more recent Looking to the Future review for reference.
Standards of Concern
ASQA has identified the sections of the Guide that are of most concern (ie. where providers are most likely to be at risk of non-compliance):
1.8: Implement effective assessment systems
RTOs implement a system that ensures that assessments (and RPL):
- comply with requirements of the relevant training package or VET accredited course
- conform with the Principles of Assessment and Rules of Evidence
1.1: Implement appropriate training and assessment strategies and practices, including amount of training
1.3: Have the necessary resources to provide quality training and assessment. This includes:
- Sufficient trainers and assessors
- Learning resources
- Support services
- Equipment and facilities
3.1: AQF certification is issued only when the learner has been assessed and meets training product requirements
1.2: Appropriate amount of training is provided, accounting for skills, knowledge and experience of the learner, and the mode of delivery.
ASQA will use this information to assess the risk associated with individual providers, prioritise regulatory activities and share information with providers to support continuous improvement.