This paper, authored by NCVER’s Sheila Hume and Tabatha Griffin examines “whether, and how, training delivery has changed during the pandemic.”

It reports that VET delivered through blended delivery “has experienced sustained growth, from almost 23% of subject enrolments in 2019 to just over 29% in 2021.” In addition, “The proportion of online-only VET subjects increased by more than 3% in the year the COVID-19 pandemic was declared” in 2020.

What has happened across the jurisdictions?

Entitled “Delivery of VET: emerging trends in response to the COVID-19 pandemic” it also looks at what has happened across the jurisdictions. It points out that “almost all jurisdictions reported a decrease in subjects with no online delivery (that is, classroom or workplace-based) between 2019 and 2020.” Some jurisdictions: New South Wales, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, saw this initial decline level off and remain relatively steady into 2021. However, for Victoria and Queensland, “the decline of subjects with no online delivery continued into 2021, decreasing by around 5% and 6% respectively.” “For South Australia the proportion of subject enrolments with no online delivery increased in 2021, although not to pre-pandemic levels.”

The paper also notes that:

“Most jurisdictions reported an increase in the proportion of subject enrolments delivered via blended modes over this three-year period. This was most prominent for Victoria and Queensland, increasing by 11% and 8% respectively. For New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania, this increase was less pronounced, at around 4% to 5%. These increases, albeit variable, may confirm that RTOs are carrying out their intentions to increase their use of blended delivery modes, as reported by Hume and Griffin (2022). The ACT remained relatively steady across the three categories of delivery between 2019 and 2021, except for online-only delivery, which increased by just over 2% in 2020 before declining back slightly in 2021.”

What’s the story for different provider types?

In this paper, Hume and Griffin report that “no online delivery was the dominant category of delivery for all types of training providers prior to the pandemic.” They noted that “the proportion of training delivered in this way did … vary between providers, with no online delivery highest among schools (99%); community education (CE) providers (89%); enterprise providers (87%); and universities (83%).” In addition, and in the first year of pandemic, “universities reported a substantial decline, of more than 22%, in subjects with no online delivery. This steep decline was countered by a corresponding increase in subjects delivered via blended delivery. Online-only delivery in universities increased marginally by 1% in 2020, remaining stable into 2021.” In addition,

“other training providers, such as private training providers, TAFE institutes and community education providers, reported similar decreases from 2019 to 2020 in subjects with no online delivery (between approximately 6% and 7%). The proportionate decline of subjects with no online delivery in the second year of the pandemic has been considerably less for almost all the training provider types (noting that this increased in 2021 for enterprise providers). Subjects delivered through blended delivery increased between 2020 and 2021 for private training providers, TAFE institutes and community education providers. TAFE institutes recorded the biggest increase, of almost 6%, while private training providers and community education providers increased by around 3% and 2% respectively.”

It is also interesting to note that:

“only private training providers reported a continued growth in online-only enrolments over the three-year period, from 13% in 2019 to almost 17% in 2021. Most of this increase occurred in the first year of the pandemic. In 2021 other training providers have either reverted to pre-pandemic levels (for example, TAFE institutes), or remained at similar levels to 2020 (for example, community education providers and schools). Enterprise providers reported that, by comparison with pre-pandemic figures, fewer subjects were being delivered online-only in 2021. The modes of delivery for VET subjects in schools have remained relatively stable across the three years, with only marginal changes, of around 1%.”

Delivery modes used across the different program levels

The report found that

“the trend between 2019 and 2020 of subjects with no online delivery declining, and increasing blended delivery, is also apparent when examining the delivery of VET across program levels.” Indeed, “prior to the pandemic, lower-level (certificates I and II) subjects were delivered without any online training at a much higher rate than for certificates III and above. For certificates I and II, this was at around 85% and 87% in 2019, respectively, whereas for the certificate III this was approximately 66%, followed by certificate IV (50%) and diploma or higher (56%). Between 2019 and 2021, certificate I subjects with no online delivery declined by more than 11%, with the majority of this decrease occurring between 2019 and 2020. For certificate II subjects, the drop was relatively consistent, at almost 4% in 2020 and 3% in 2021. For certificate III and above subjects, the most substantial decline occurred directly in response to the pandemic in 2020, with much smaller decreases recorded in 2021 (for example, the certificate IV decreased by 9% and subsequently 4%, and the diploma or higher declined by 9%, and then 5%). Subjects delivered through blended delivery increased across all program levels between 2019 and 2021, and, as before, the most substantial changes were recorded in 2020. Certificate I subjects witnessed an increase of approximately 5% between 2019 and 2020, with similar increases also recorded for certificate III and diploma or higher subjects. Smaller increases of around 3% to 4% were reported for certificate II and IV subjects. Online-only delivery of subjects increased in 2020 and 2021 for certificate I, certificate IV and diploma, and, similar to previous trends, this increase was most pronounced in 2020. In 2021, however, online-only subject enrolments in certificates II and III were relatively similar to those recorded pre-pandemic, with only a slight increase in 2020.”

What is the effect of student ‘remoteness’?

Hume and Griffin report that:

“It appears that the initial decline, in 2020, of subjects with no online delivery corresponds to the regions that were more severely impacted by pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. In major cities, the proportion of subjects with no online delivery declined by almost 9%. This figure gradually decreased as remoteness increased, with inner-regional declining by 6%; outer-regional was at 5%, and 4% for both remote and very remote. This decline continued into 2021 for all regions but was less pronounced.”

In addition, and “across all regions, subjects delivered through blended delivery increased year on year, although most increases in 2021 were less than those recorded in 2020.”

And finally, a look at funding sources

The report found that “the proportion of government-funded and fee-for-service subject enrolments with no online delivery declined by similar proportions between 2019 and 2021 (approximately 10% and 9% respectively).” There was a difference in funding source too:

“Within fee-for-service subject enrolments, online-only delivery increased in 2020 and remained relatively steady into 2021, whereas government-funded subject enrolments declined by almost 2% in 2021 following the initial increase, in response to the pandemic. Subjects delivered through blended delivery in both government-funded and fee-for-service subject enrolments have seen a year-on-year sustained growth in 2020 and 2021.”


“Although both funding sources followed relatively similar trends in 2020 and 2021, the distribution of subject enrolments across the three delivery mode categories is markedly different. Prior to the pandemic, the proportion of fee-for-service subjects delivered online-only was around double that recorded for government-funded (14% and 7% respectively). A sizeable difference was also evident for subjects delivered through blended delivery. By comparison, the proportion of subjects with no online delivery in 2019 was considerably higher for government-funded subject enrolments, at 75%, compared with 59% for fee-for-service.”