Sunday, January 31, 2010

RTO as Business, Rorts, Scams and Money Laundering

This weeks' news of another international college in the business of providing education for international students, being placed into the hands of receivers, leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Obviously education and training IS a viable industry, and as in all industries, there are players who just want to take the money and run. For those of us whom have invested lifetime careers in the training industry, and whom believe in the benefit of accessible education for all, the feeling of being besmirched by rogues and once again played as the value-less poor cousins of the Higher Education industry is difficult to avoid. The repercussions of this behaviour on the industry as a whole are many. RTO's have lived for many years with regulation and governance, and the behaviour of the few has led to increased regulation for the many, and to increased costs of business. The annual payment of Student Tuition Assurance Scheme fees would be seen by many other industries as outrageous, and yet for RTO's it is an inescapable cost of doing business. Once it only applied if the RTO were seeking the use of Government funding, now under the recently issued Guidelines for 2010, it has become a condition of registration for all RTO's.
"Where the RTO collects student fees in advance it must ensure it complies with one of the following acceptable options for:
 (Option 1) the RTO is administered by a state, territory or commonwealth government agency
 (Option 2) the RTO holds current membership of an approved Tuition Assurance Scheme, or
 (Option 3) the RTO may accept payment of no more than $1000 from each individual student prior to the commencement of the course. Following course commencement, the RTO may require payment of additional fees in advance from the student but only such that at any given time, the total amount required to be paid which is attributable to costs yet to be incurred on behalf of the student for tuition or other services yet to be delivered to the student does not exceed $1,500, or
 (Option 4) the RTO holds an unconditional financial guarantee from a bank operating in Australia for the full amount of funds held by the RTO which are prepayments from students (or future students) for tuition to be provided by the RTO to those students."

What other business is only allowed to take payments of no more than $1000.00 upfront?
What other business pays tens of thousands of dollars insurance on top of public liability and professional indemnity, for product which is intangible? Yes businesses insure against loss of tangible assets, (stock), but they do not normally insure against their own collapse and inability to supply.
Whilst the regulatory authorities have increased their powers to investigate and negotiate the continuance of the College business, there is still little they can do other than react to circumstance. In this particular instance it seem the money is gone overseas and it will be difficult to bring international owners to book in Australia. In the meantime, the extra costs imposed on small to medium businesses have done little to reassure the clientele or to improve business. As noted by my collegue, Mr. Neil Edwards, CEO of Chifley Business School, in his submission to the Bradley enquiry,
"the concept of a seamless national regulatory regime for higher education is good. Multiple regulatory processes constitute an unreasonable burden on private providers, unnecessarily compounding the competitive disadvantage against the larger resources and self-evident standing of public universities." and in this instance we can add and self-evident standing of the TAFE system.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What is the ideal RTO information system?

19 years in the VET industry has given me a fair idea of what I like to see in an information system. There is a lot of chatter about LMS's and what constitutes an ideal LMS, as in Tony Karrer's recent posting. However as an RTO we have to deal with an overwhelming amount of data, and I like my data to be accessable, searchable, sortable, reportable & reliable. Further, I like to be able to use data collaboratively and to help others to be as interested in data as I am.
So what do I mean by the above specifications list?
Data to me is any form of information I need.
Accessable data means data that anyone in the organisation can find, view and share, preferably held and accessed through one system.
Searchable data means data collection in which any element of the data can be searched for.
Sortable data means data that is able to be reconstructed in a number of user friendly ways.
Reportable data means data that can be extracted and compiled in useful formats.
Reliable data means data that is complete and accurate, not half vacant and repeated in more than one place.
An ideal data system must be simple. The user interface must be intuitive. The pathways to data elements should be built around a `two click' rule, never more than two clicks to get to the area you need.
An ideal data system must `talk' to any other data system it needs to communicate with. The growing requirements for reporting learner statistics to clients, to internal clients for use in evaluation and continuous improvement and for reporting statistics and finance to regulators should not create a major resource crisis in the RTO.
An ideal data system will be supported by a vendor who realises that client end users are their most valuable source of continuous improvement feedback loops, and who employs people who are able to interface between users and system builders to create feedback loops that result in not just solutions, but also systems that become second nature to all of us adminstrating in the increasingly complex business of the regulated training environment.

Can you add to or enlarge on this list? What do we need to tell the developers?

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 - 10 predictions

1. Corporate Learning is back
As the threat of the GFC recedes, corporates will again look to improve staff performance through training and upskilling.
2. Corporate clients will become increasingly aware of the ability to mix government and private funding to obtain training
Private RTO's are now accessing previously restricted funding and offering it to their corporate clients in innovative mixes.
3. elearning is back,
the elearning industry is touting new ways of integrating elearning into business including the mix of `social' learning via web 2.0 tools, however,

4. S - M RTO's will be continue to be slow to take up the benefits of web 2.0 Social Networking in 2010 as they juggle security issues and resource management
5. The shift in the convergence of regulatory tools between VET and Higher Ed will create financial pressure on S - M RTO's as they re-write policy and process to meet new regulatory demands
Regulatory compliance is an effective barrier to new entrants to the market. For micro RTO's and non-accredited training business's, the resources required to maintain currency in complying with evolving standards increase the barricade.
6. The shift in the convergence of regulatory tools between VET and Higher Ed will create a new job market for people with knowledge and skills across both sectors
This job market first emerged as Universities began offering VET accredited programs and TAFE's began offering Bachelor degrees over the last 5 years.
7. The shift in the convergence of regulatory tools between VET and Higher Ed will create new openings for RTO's to consider the delivery of Higher Education product
With the expense and effort require to manage regulatory compliance, organisations will be seeking to maximise the return on their investment.
8. The needs of the international market for students studying in Australia will shift from provision of courses supporting points for residency to the provision of high quality courses able to compete on the international playing field.
The perceived lack of personal security and safety for international students studying in Australia has had a marked effect on enrolment numbers. While there are calls for the Australian Government to supply better safety assurance to students, RTO's may seek to attract a different market.
9. S - M RTO's will increasingly turn to business 2 business networking to leverage the use of industry voice in response to regulatory pressure. As social networking influences the consumer choice, social networking amongst business provides opportunites to strengthen your business within a market niche. Gen X and Gen Y are influencing the way we do business and as they become business owners, they will bring that way of working into with them.
10. Coalitions of complimentary S - M RTO's will emerge to service specific market areas with a range of product.
The use of web 2.0 campaigns such as Get Up and the Obama campaign for presidency are becoming mainstream. Complimentary marketing using web 2.0 is ripe for exploration.