Online VET courses show mixed outcomes

Media release

21 October 2019

Vocational education and training (VET) courses delivered entirely online have higher non-completion levels than other modes of training, but for students who do complete, employment outcomes can be comparable to those delivered via other modes, according to a new report released today by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

“Little is known about the online delivery of entire VET qualifications,” said Simon Walker, Managing Director, NCVER.

“We estimate that around 8.6% of all VET program commencements in 2017 were in courses delivered fully online, which is not an insignificant figure.

“Since the VET sector is underpinned by a competency-based training system, it can experience some unique challenges in the use of online learning. This study shows us that a high-quality online course can result in good outcomes for those students that complete the course.”

“Online VET however is characterised by higher subject withdrawal rates and lower course completion rates. Consultations with training providers revealed that online learning, like any form of learning, does not suit every individual or situation.”

The report uses data from NCVER collections and surveys along with information gathered from interviews with RTOs delivering qualifications fully online to examine trends across all qualifications, and in more detail for 17 individual qualifications.

It identifies five key factors that contribute to good practice in online course delivery: positive, supportive training providers, students with realistic expectations, well-structured and up-to-date resources catering to a range of learning preferences, effective student support systems, and skilled, empathetic trainers with good problem-solving skills.

“What’s important to note is that many of these good practice attributes are not unique to the online delivery context; however, how they are implemented may be,” Mr Walker said.

“The lower course completion rates can be due to many factors. This report cannot further differentiate between poor course delivery and delivery that is incompatible with a student or a situation as reasons for higher subject withdrawal and course non-completion.

“However, these findings suggest that clearer guidelines of when a qualification is unsuited to delivery in a fully-online environment, and consistency in qualification specifications of delivery aspects such as work placements and teaching when courses are delivered fully online, may be warranted.”

The report Online delivery of VET qualifications: current use and outcomes is now available at

Media enquiries: Helen Wildash M: 0448 043 148 E:

About NCVER: we are the principal provider of research, statistics and data on Australia’s VET sector. Our services help promote better understanding of VET and assist policy-makers, practitioners, industry, training providers, and students to make informed decisions.

This work has been produced by NCVER on behalf of the Australian Government and state and territory governments, with funding provided through the Australian Government Department for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.