OK, a bit of an online focus this issue. This article is also the first in a series of two and is authored by NCVER’s Sheila Hume & Tabatha Griffin.

Of the many RTOs surveyed as part of the research, just over 75% of the total respondents (about 1250) said they had transitioned at least some of their training and assessment online in response to COVID-19.

The research!

Sheila and Tabatha’s report is based on analysis of Total VET Activity data for 2019 and 2020 and preliminary findings from an online survey of RTOs administered in collaboration with the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to a total of 3280 VET providers.

They found that:

“The delivery of online training increased by nearly 24% between 2019 and 2020, with the uptake more pronounced for government-funded subject enrolments (up 40.4%) compared with domestic fee-for-service (up 15.7%).”

NCVER’s research also found that “VET training providers responded quickly and emphatically to the COVID-19 pandemic with a large shift towards online training delivery and assessment.” However, not everything is not going online; around one-third (about 34%) transferred certain subjects/units to online delivery rather than full programs.

Moreover, Sheila and Tabatha reported that online training is being offered in areas where it had not previously been and the desire for providers to maintain an increased level of online training and assessment is relatively high. In fact, “more than 61% of RTOs surveyed indicated they would be more likely to use blended learning in the future.”

Interestingly, standalone subjects were the big winner and “increased from 4.7% of all government-funded online-only training in 2019 to 16.0% in 2020.” In addition:

“Declines in total subject enrolments were noted across most training types in 2020, with the exception of training package skill sets, which recorded an increase of 11.2% (roughly 25 800 subject enrolments). In relation to training package skill sets delivered only online, this increase was even greater, at 193.8%.”

Looking at now and the future

The movement back to the more traditional approaches to VET delivery has not been huge, with only about one-quarter of the surveyed RTOs who had transferred some face-to-face training online reverting fully to their pre-COVID-19 approach to training. Moreover,

“The survey findings demonstrate a strong pattern of RTOs continuing to offer online training in areas where it was not available prior to COVID-19. More than one-third (35.5%) of respondents had only partially returned to their pre-COVID-19 approach to training delivery, while 23.3% were expanding online delivery, with a further 11.9% continuing to operate at the same level as their initial shift online.”


“More than 61% of RTOs who transitioned to at least some training online in response to COVID-19 indicated they would be more likely to use blended learning in the future.”

So, online education and training is with us to stay. The third article in this issue is therefore relevant. If it’s with us for the long haul, how do we do it well? Let’s find out!

What’s coming next?

Part 2 of NCVER’s work will “bring together findings from TVA [total VET activity] data, further analyses of the online survey and key outcomes from interviews with RTOs and the National Student Outcomes Survey.” We will report on it when it is eventually published.