Clustering units in course helps improve the learning experience for you. It is designed to improve the quality of the learning and assessment experience. It can also speed up your pace of study. Clustering can help you with:
- Making sense of new skills and knowledge;
- Drawing out the most important skills, concepts, information and relationships between ideas;
- Relating new ideas to previous experiences and knowledge;
- Finding links between concepts and real-life applications;
- Examining issues, clarifying problems, critically thinking and producing your own ideas.
But why is clustering required and how does it work? It helps to understand how vocational courses are constructed.
Understanding “Modular” Design of Vocational Training Courses
Vocational qualifications are designed to be modular. This means they are made up of many smaller parts (units). Each unit is designed and created to assess a specific set of skills and knowledge. The same unit can be used in many qualifications if it suits the course outcomes.
Modular design is very common and you will encounter it on a daily basis. Many computers are built using modular design principles. Parts such as the power supply, processor, motherboard and hard drive are usually designed and built by separate companies in different factories. However they use standard connections so they fit together. That means you can take all those separate parts and fit them together to make a working computer. A computer can easily be customised by choosing the best set of parts for the job. If one part dies, a new copy of the part can be dropped in rather than buy a whole new computer.
How does modular design benefit vocational courses?
Modular design makes it easier to create and maintain vocational courses.
Simplicity and Savings
Modular design allows for easy “mixing and matching” to achieve the desired results.
In practical terms, this means the people designing a new vocational qualification can simply drop in existing units that assess the required “competencies” (ie skills and knowledge to complete a particular task). The designers might still need to create some new units to teach unique competencies. Overall they save a lot of time and money when compared to writing a whole new qualification from scratch.
Timeliness and Maintenance
Another advantage becomes obvious when changes are made to laws or “best practices” that affect a unit. With modular design it’s possible to simply update the one unit then ALL qualifications that include the unit are also brought up to date. This is much quicker and cheaper than updating potentially dozens of different qualifications individually. In the end it means courses in the vocational education system is easier to maintain and keep up to date.
Modularity also allows for more adaptability. Many vocational qualifications include elective units. These are often chosen by the RTO or trainers to achieve the best outcomes for unique groups of learners. Modularity means elective units can be swapped in and out of a qualification as required to customise a qualification to suit the needs of specific groups.
What are the disadvantages of modular design in vocational training?
The major downside of modular design is that it’s often not optimised for performance or efficiency. When you study a modular qualification, you might find yourself saying “but we learnt about that in the last unit!” or “I wish those two concepts had been taught together, it would have been much easier to learn them both at the same time”.
Possible Doubling Up
When one unit is used in many qualifications, it needs to be reasonably generic. It won’t always be perfectly designed to give the best possible learning experience or meet the unique needs of learners studying a particular qualification. Frequently it leads to “doubling up” of learning. The same concepts need to be included in many units because units aren’t always taught together in the same qualification.
Potentially Decreased Learning Flow
Modularity also affects the learning experience. Related skills and knowledge can be taught in separate units, but those competencies don’t always flow in the most logical or efficient order.
In a perfect learning situation, you’d learn concept A, followed by B, C, D and E. Each new lesson would build on the previous one and related concepts would be grouped together. Efforts have been made to create a logical learning experience; but there are still situations where you might find yourself learning A, E, C, D then B. You might find yourself flicking back to old workbooks you’ve already completed as you try to mesh the latest concepts into the lessons you learned months ago.
How clustering can improve a modular course
“Clustering” of course units involves taking modular units and customising them to fit together perfectly. Don’t worry; ALL the required learning outcomes are still covered!
What does happen in clustering is “double ups” are cut out. This saves you the time and effort of re-reading the same information and completing the same assessments over and over again in different units.
The learning flow is also improved in clustering. Concepts and lessons are arranged so that A is followed by B, C, D and E. This allows you to engage in the current lesson instead of flicking back and forth between workbooks.
We periodically revise our clustered courses to find new and better ways to deliver the qualification. As a result, you can enjoy the benefits of a course that has been honed over years, based on real experience, to give the best learning experience. Clustering allows you to work at the best possible pace and complete your qualification as soon as possible!
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