Volume of learning and other VET terminology that can be confusing

In a previous article, I have explored the notion of ‘nominal hours’ and explained that nominal hours are not the same thing as the number of hours of contact between a learner and their trainer. Contact hours are usually less than the nominal hours, and often substantially less.

This article is primarily about the AQF volume of learning but it requires an understanding of other terms such as supervised hours and unsupervised hours.

Definition of volume of learning

The volume of learning is defined in the AQF as follows: [1]

“The volume of learning is a dimension of the complexity of a qualification. It is used with the level criteria and qualification type descriptor to determine the depth and breadth of the learning outcomes of a qualification. The volume of learning identifies the notional duration of all activities required for the achievement of the learning outcomes specified for a particular AQF qualification type. It is expressed in equivalent full-time years.”

I am unsure if this definition simplifies or complicates our understanding.

The generally accepted length of a full-time year is 1200 hours. [1] And this would equate to about one training day per week. I wish full-time work was like this!

The AQF volume of learning is not a term exclusive to VET. It is a term that covers all qualifications in Australian education and training: senior secondary certificate of education, VET, and higher education. [2]

ASQA provides information to help people understand the AQF volume of learning within a VET context. The volume of learning describes how long a learner who does not hold any of the competencies would take to develop all the required skills and knowledge. It includes all training, learning and assessment activities that a typical learner must undertake to achieve the learning outcomes. [3]

ASQA expects to see the appropriate volume of learning documented in the Training and Assessment Strategy (TAS) before the RTO has a qualification added to its scope of registration. The following table outlines the expected volume of learning for Certificate I qualification to Diploma qualification.

Extract from Users’ guide to Standards for RTOs

Volume of learning hours, nominal hours, and contact hours

‘Volume of learning hours’ and ‘nominal hours’ are two different things. Before I explain the difference, there is one thing that is the same for both. The hours are from the learner’s perspective or what the learner experiences.

Nominal hours are used to calculate money paid to an RTO under a funding contract. Also, nominal hours are used by the RTO to report AVETMISS data.

The following is an example of nominal hours for a BSB20120 Certificate II in Workplace Skills qualification.

It becomes obvious that ‘volume of learning hours’ and ‘nominal hours’ are not the same thing when we compare the hours. Let us use 600 hours as the volume of learning for the BSB20120 Certificate II in Workplace Skills qualification. The nominal hours in the above example are less than half the required volume of learning hours.

The next thing to establish is that ‘volume of learning hours’ and ‘contact hours’ are not the same thing. Contact hours is not an official VET term. However, it is a useful term to explain a concept. The learner may not experience or think that they receive the number of hours specified by the AQF volume of learning. From the learner’s perspective, they may only think the training being received is when there is contact between them and their trainer. In other word, attending a training session.

Supervised hours and unsupervised hours

ASQA says that the volume of learning identifies the notional [estimated] duration of all activities required to achieve the learning outcomes of the course, including:

  • training sessions with guidance from an RTO trainer
  • learning activities without guidance from an RTO trainer
  • self-study and research
  • work placement or work experience
  • learning at work as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship
  • assessment activities.

ASQA says we can calculate the volume of learning using the following equation: [4]

Definitions:

  • Supervised hours represent the supervised structured learning and assessment activity delivered by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).
  • Unsupervised hours represent activities that contribute to achieving the training programs outcomes that are not supervised by an RTO trainer or assessor.

The following is an example of volume of learning hours for a BSB20120 Certificate II in Workplace Skills qualification. For this example, let us say that this qualification is being used as a structured training program targeting unemployed and disengaged youth, and one training day is being delivered each week.

Step 1. Calculate the supervised hours

The 25 supervised [contact] days gives us 200 volume of learning hours. This is far short of the 600 hours required for the Certificate II qualification.

Step 2. Add unsupervised hours

We could expect that some unemployed and disengaged youth enrolled in this program would lack the interest or motivation to complete pre-reading each week or undertake research tasks. In reality, the purpose of adding these unsupervised hours is not to improve the learning experience but to increase the total number of volume of learning hours.

Unfortunately, in this example:

The planned 308 hours of supervised and unsupervised training, learning, and assessment activities is slightly higher than the 295 nationally agreed nominal hours. But the proposed program for the BSB20120 Certificate II in Workplace Skills qualification is still half of the required volume of learning hours. I assume we just keep adding hours until we get to 600 and satisfy the regulator’s requirements. In reality, the training program still has, or only needs, a 25-day duration.

In conclusion

There is a difference between volume of learning hours, nominal hours, and contact hours. The following graph illustrates a numerical difference between these terms.

Planned hours, scheduled hours, actual hours, contact hours, nominal hours, notional hours, supervised hours, unsupervised hours, volume of learning hours, etc.

Sometimes, VET is very confusing.

References

[1] Volume of Learning: An Explanation https://www.aqf.edu.au/sites/aqf/files/volume-of-learning-explanation-v2-2014.pdf accessed 18 November 2020

[2] Australian Qualifications Framework https://www.aqf.edu.au/ accessed 18 November 2020

[3] Users’ guide to Standards for RTOs https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/training-assessment/clauses-1.1-to-1.4-2.2#what-clauses-1-1-to-1-4-and-2-2-mean-for-your-rto accessed 18 November 2020

[4] https://www.asqa.gov.au/course-accreditation/apply/integrating-volume-learning-course accessed 18 November 2020

Australia’s VET system

Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) system is complex and forever changing. People studying for their TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification may find useful information on this website. Tap or click on the following ABC logo to find out more.

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This article supplements the TAE resources that have been developed by On Target Work Skills.

Are you an RTO, and do you want to purchase quality training and assessment resources for delivering the TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification?

Contact now!

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Training trainers since 1986

Author: Alan Maguire

35+ years experience as a trainer, instructional designer, quality manager, project manager, program manager, RTO auditor, RTO manager and VET adviser.

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