Taking every step possible to capture new enrolments and increase your business revenue should always be at the forefront of your planning. When doing this, understanding and utilising course contextualising is one tool you could consider to ultimately boost student motivation, involvement and learners’ understanding of content.


So, that begs the question… What is ‘contextualising’?

Simply put, contextualising is the means of studying in ‘context’ or to create content through language or concepts, that provides a further understanding.

For example – when an RTO teaches functional language, the context can be created through role playing a customer service phone call, contextualising the functional language that would be used.

Contextualising involves modifying the current assessment tools and resources to meet the learners and employers needs and demands, in creating the content more useful for them. Additionally, contextualising course content to suit learner needs ensures compliance when it comes time for your next audit.

An example

So that we can better understand how contextualising works in the world of training organisations, we will contextualise this scenario from the perspective of an RTO.

Imagine you have to teach a unit of competency in coordinating business resources (BSBOPS401) to a group of mechanics who work in a workshop. You would need your resources to suit the environment of a workshop and not one for office workers, otherwise the content is not relevant to the mechanics.

The following four steps will unravel how to apply contextualisation to your learning materials.

1. Do your research

One of the most important things to be completed, and preferably first, is research. Finding out more about your learners’ needs help base course contextualisation and make staff overly more prepared.

Who are the learners?

Through understanding who your learners are before commencing classes, it can remove the awkwardness of teaching content that isn’t suited. Some questions to ask about the learners can be:

  • Do the learners have any learning difficulties?
  • How experienced are the learners and/or what areas do they lack knowledge?
  • Do they know anything about the subject matter?

What motivates the learner?

There’s no better way to increase participation than providing course content that aligns with the student’s motivation. Motivation can be in the form of class environment, content or certain skills.

What would be their skill/knowledge gap?

Determining the industry knowledge gaps is very important as this can help in contextualising industry-specific information, increasing the overall relevancy to the learner. RTOs want to make sure the content they are delivering is meaningful and actually teaching learners something they don’t know – otherwise learners might become disengaged because they feel like they already know the subject matter.

Do they have a learning style preference?

If you are teaching materials to mechanics, they might prefer a more hands on approach compared to a business student, who may prefer in a classroom setting. This information can also be determined through direct conversation with the learner.

Consider which type of learning environment – or combination of – will be the most suitable, too. Would it be online, face-to-face, group learning, in the workplace, or blended learning?

When contextualising, be sure to talk to the learner to find out about them and determine that you can link the Unit of Competency to the participant’s actual work. Using a software such as Weworkbook provides the opportunity to capture leads, enrolments, and student notes about a learner.

2. Know what is required of the industry and work role

Now that we know more about the learner and what is required for them, we need to ensure we have knowledge about their industry. Having a clear understanding of the industry is imperative in providing good contextualisation and something employers are looking for.

What does the industry component entail?

A specific part of contextualisation is applying industry knowledge to the learners (this is what employers are looking for). The type of questions you should be asking yourself about the learners’ industry:

  • What are the typical tasks performed in the industry?
  • Are there any health and safety considerations?
  • What is the legislation that has to be followed or codes of practices within the industry role?
  • What does the industry workplace environment look like?
  • What are the typical tasks undertaken in the context of the relevant industry?

A common way to find out more information about industry specific details and to ensure course relevancy, is to contact a professional in the field. This person may also be relevant as a guest speaker for the learners, gaining insightful knowledge from someone in the field.

What is required by the unit?

Ensure you always follow the qualification packaging rules. You should consider what evidence is required for the units to be completed and ensure you do not remove the number of elements or criteria stated. Have you reviewed which aspects can be contextualised and which cannot? What information, if any, does the training package companion volume contain on contextualisation?

Of course, you may add detail to assessments to expand on a student’s competencies, but we do not want to diminish the value of the course.

3. Review your learning resources

Once you know your students and the type of learning they are after, going over your course content is the next step in assuring it aligns with these students. Wherever something doesn’t align, we can use contextualisation to better suit the learners.

Having said this, however, it is important to always complement the unit of competence when making changes, so referring to training materials is a must in order to stay audit compliant.

Knowing the context of your current training material is imperative to creating an opportunity to change it.

Some questions you can ask yourself while reviewing the training material is:

  • Is this content appropriate to the learners’ skills, knowledge and training levels?
  • Does the context of the learning align with the desired industry?
  • Is the learning material in-depth enough to teach a learner that has no previous experience, including industry-relevant practical?
  • Is the learning material too broad?
  • Is there specific jargon used in the respected industry that can replace material?

4. Contextualise Training Materials

Here are some tips for changing course material:

  • Refer to the guidelines in the relevant training package.
  • Look for generic terms and general descriptions of items, equipment, processes or procedures that can apply to a specific example with the respected industry.  
  • Review any general statements about the work required and job tasks specified in the unit and align to particular jobs and levels of performance.
  • Prepare evidence plans for the candidates, showing how they might collect the identified kinds of evidence.

Some specific examples might be:

  • If the Competency mentions Machinery, then we could use the exact name of the machine used.
  • If the Competency mentions Equipment, then we could use the names of each item of equipment.
  • If the Competency mentions Location, then we could use the exact location in the workplace.
  • If the Competency mentions Relevant Procedures, then we could use the exact title of the procedure manual.
  • If the Competency mentions Relevant Personnel, then we could use the names of the people and their positions.

Final Tips and Rules

The excellent thing about contextualisation is that it provides the opportunities for RTOs to become creative in many different ways.

However, it is important to remember that the standards required from RTOs are not changed. Any and all modifications must maintain the integrity of industry skill and requirements, including all legislative, licensing and regulatory requirements.

If you would like to find out more about how Weworkbook can assist you with the management and delivery of your training and courses, book a free demo today