Not all trainers have the luxury of turning up at 8.55am to be handed everything they need to run that morning's lesson. In fact this scenario is becoming rarer due to the rapidly changing nature of industries. VET Trainers more than ever are required to be involved in the development and preparation of their course materials, and rightly so given it is the trainers who should be the industry experts.

 The TAE40110 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment course surprisingly has only one unit that deals with developing course materials and even then, it covers it briefly and really only refers to trainers using and contextualising course materials that are already developed, rather than making it from scratch.

The Diploma of Training Design and Development does have one unit dedicated solely to developing course materials, TAEDES503A Design and develop e-learning resources.

In VET, there are no rules about how course materials for national Units of Competency from Training Packages should be developed. The units set the benchmark for what the students need to achieve by the end of the course. You as the course designer decide how they achieve that and in what order.

Written course content does not often align directly to the unit's element and performance criteria structure. A lot of professional course content developers do this though in their purchasable course manuals.

In our experience, there are three general approaches that one can take to developing course material in VET:

Start with the Unit of Competency

Start with the unit of competency and develop from there. This is a very common way to develop course materials and in our next post we will outline a fool-proof approach to this. In the past when I did consulting work I was sometimes employed by RTOs to develop courses and prepare them for audit and accreditation. When I knew little about the courses, I did it this way. I could consult subject matter experts and the unit kept my writing aligned to the outcomes of the course.

Start with the Job

This way provides the best outcomes for students we believe. The results are interesting, 'real', and aligned to industry. With this method, you start with what the students will likely end up doing in the workplace when employed, writing the materials based on this, then mapping back to unit.

This is incredibly difficult if you're not an industry expert yourself. Then again, if you're not an industry expert you probably shouldn't be designing course materials for that industry! (Unless you're purely advising from an Instructional Design standpoint).


This is from an older ANTA resource. It's about 13 years old but mostly still very relevant. Just ignore any references to "the key competencies".

Start with the Assessments

This is kind of a combination of the two above. If you're going to map anything closely to the units of competency then basing the actual assessment tasks on them is a good idea. So things like your observation checklists, written assessments, tests, project tasks, etc. should all be carefully mapped back to the unit. Once you have a plan for exactly how you're going to assess the students, and you know what they're in for, you can design the course materials to reflect what they'll be assessed on. Working backwards from the end result!

In our next post we will explore the first item, "Start with the Unit of Competency"