This is a unified approach for establishing a new ACAS college. To be successful and healthy, the new college should use it as a basis for developing its own separate written plan. It is guidance rather than a required procedure.
Disclaimer: This is a general guide only and does not replace other detailed documents on planning and compliance.
The flow might seem a little disjointed at times for two reasons. As in most planning procedures, it cannot be completely linear (step-by-step) because planners must sometimes envisage later steps to make decisions at earlier steps. Consequently, you should read the whole e-book before you start doing anything.
Work through all steps, and make sure you don't pass over any of them. Some might be difficult, wile other might not be relevant to you or very easy. You will find that you need a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment to do some steps.
As some templates are already provided, the procedure should be fairly quick and simple for an experienced educator, but you will probably need to work together and discuss all the ideas.
If the new college has several core staff to begin with, start a series of planning meetings. You will make more progress by discussion and sharing ideas. You might be able to short-cut some of the planning process by have a few people make a draft operational plan based on these guidlines, and then discussing it as a team. However, make sure you allow healthy discussion and do not issue it as a fiat accompli.
Evaluate before you start
You need critical mass; programs normally need to be of a certain size to function well. As a rule of thumb, programs are seldom viable with fewer than ten students. In general, if you can't see ten students, then you shouldn't bother with accreditation. Economies of scale start to kick in at about 20 students.
The possible exceptions to the ten-student minimum are:
programs of half a dozen full-time non-marginal students
programs where the students' productivity as interns is comparatively quite high to the effort put in. (These are obviously not marginal students.)
individually mentored higher-level programs.
Programs with mostly marginal students are seldom viable, even if they are quite big. "Marginal" might mean low commitment to learn, barely meeting admission requirements, higher risk of dropping out, or particular behavioral problems. Besides, a course also might not be viable if there is little assurance that the prospective students will actually apply to the course, or if most prospective students have learning or intellectual disabilities and you cannot provide extra support services.
Approaches and risks
There are easy and difficult approaches to starting a college. The more difficult approaches are not necessarily any better at the first stage, but incur much higher risks. It is generally unlikely that ACAS would accept a new member college unless its was almost all low risk.
For more information, see the risk assessments in the audit approach.
Link (Link opens new window.)
Plan your planning meetings
Give yourself at least three hours for the meeting, and don't expect to get through this in one session unless you're a very small program. It's not just about getting through the business; it's about bringing everybody along and feeling comfortable with the process. Some will want to move faster than others.
In this schema, planning consists of five major sections:
Get people on the same page
Basic business planning
Make program management decisions
Together these points will probably make up most of your business plan. You might be unable to follow this order exactly because later items will make you review what you thought on earlier items.
The team needs to plan a follow-up meeting for later on, preferably in one or two weeks, and at most a month.
The members of the Management Committee would normally be the CEO, the administrator, and coordinators of each area of expertise. There may be other key people you need to invite. Appoint a chairperson and minutes secretary. Keep good notes or minutes, and make sure at least all key staff get a copy.
In a bigger college, it can make sense to have a smaller group do as much as possible because they will make faster progress. Then, let a larger group handle general issues related more to implementation.
Get people on the same page
Explain where you are up to.
Go through minutes of previous meeting (if held).
Make sure you have a minutes secretary for this meeting.
Go over the stated purposes in the member college Constitution.
Explain the line of accountability to your college Board.
Check that you know what is written in the agreement with ACAS.
Send your minutes to your Board.
Your Board has the right to change decisions.
The purposes of this meeting are to:
Define the purpose and vision of the college and what it should do.
Describe (or define) the particular needs you are trying to meet.
Put in place an approach for this semester, and be prepared for next semester.
Define how you will know the program has been successful. These are often called Key Performance Indicators. Put them in a list and make them very specific, measurable and achievable.
Tip 1. Describe what you want to do or achieve. (Some people want to run a program but don't have a clear idea of what they want to do.)
Basic business planning
1. Define the program as clearly as you can
If you're revamping an existing program, you'll have a fairly firm basis on which to plan. For example, you probably already have a good idea of your purpose, stakeholders, personnel, finances, prospective students, student numbers, etc. You'll probably also find that you already have many people and procedures in place, so all you need to do is to "shrink-wrap" accreditation procedures around what you do and fix any discrepancies.
You might want to come back and revise this later on when some of the details are clearer.
2. Who are the stakeholders in the program?
They might be churches, denominational departments, schools, government bodies, and funding organizations.
3. Who will be your students, and how many of them?
A good number of interns for a totally new program is 10 - 15. The group needs to be small enough to be easy to manage. You need to be able to identify and resolve problems easily. And even with the best of planning in a new program, you'll sometimes need to improvise, which is easier if the group is not too big.
The group needs to be big enough to be viable (i.e. worth the effort) and to give you sufficiently wide experience for the future. If your staff get some experience during the first year, you are well-placed to increase student numbers next year. But if you have too few students, you only think of individuals and can't make generalizations about how the program works.
Be realistic about student numbers. The potential number of prospective students might appear large, but not all will be interested and not all interested students will apply. Then some applicants might drop out before the course actually starts or in the first couple of weeks. A few will probably drop out during the course, sometimes through no fault of their own.
4. Determine which qualifications you want to offer
Decide which particular qualification you will deliver in the frst semester. (It is strongly advised that you start with only one qualification, if at all possible.) It can be tricky, as there are often more than one possible qualification for a particular situation. Try to aim for the minimum number of qualifications, which you will find difficult enough. You probably won't start with everything that you will offer in the mid-term future, but you should start with what you can.
Check whether they are currently in ACAS's scope and whether ACAS already has training and asessment materials. (If ACAS already has materials, you are required to use them, but may work on adaptations and improvements. You should also get a copy of the relevant training package if you need it.
Appoint a leader
Appoint a Principal or nominate a key person to be coordinator and link person. Qualifications include:
Willing to call meetings
Contact point for staff, Board, ACAS, Committee members
Checking that things get done as planned
Giving help if people get stuck
Getting help when they get stuck
If they are to be Principal rather than interim key person, they need to be able to provide overall leadership and vision.
Nominate administrative staff
You will need them. People who are good at giving overall leadership are seldom equally good at the details of routine administration.
Nominate teaching staff
As a rule of thumb, you need at least two staff qualified with the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment for each area of expertise. Remember too, that some people you invite onto staff might not accept.
Too many or too few staff is a risk. If staff are too few, your program could fail if only one person drops out, which is more likely for volunteers.
Trying to start too big is also difficult; it can be hard to manage lots of people who aren't really sure how everything will work. If you are a larger college, you might want to start by appointing a core of staff and leave others until a later stage.
Teaching staff are often also admission officers, which is a role that has a separate procedure and job escription. Willyour teaching staff also be admission officers?
What do you need to do to explain the program to nominated staff and get them on-side?
People with training and assessment qualifications should have a good idea of their role, but you should still check. Some have fixed ideas about how compliance systems work and might find it difficult to adjust to ACAS systems. Check whether they have the right training skills; for example, some are accustomed to classroom delivery, and have difficulty adjusting to an internship, or vice versa.
Clarify purposes of their involvement
Clarify the qualifications that you plan to offer
Clarify their qualifications and skills
What kind of commitment are you asking of people (esp. time?)
Do the nominees need to meet together and "digest" planning so far?
What kind of support will they need?
Document the expertise of teaching staff
Appraise their qualifications and expertise. It is now mandatory that they have one of a range of qualifications in training and assessment. It is recommended (although not mandatory) that all staff have formal qualifications for their teaching area. Who might want or need qualifications? Who might not want qualifications, but still need to have their skills formally documented?
Some already have qualifications. If they have higher education qualifications, check whether they will be appropriate. (Professional qualifications might be quite adequate, but usually not qualifications that represent only theoretical studies.)
Some might have good skills but no qualifications. They can be assessed by RPL. Some might not want qualifications, but need to demonstrate skills perhapas by a verified CV that addresses what they have done.
Some might have gaps, such as partially relevant qualifications, or old qualifications without current skills.
Then identify persons who could assess unqualified, competent staff by Recognition of Prior learning (RPL).
In some qualifications, ACAS might offer electives in training and assessment (called "skillsets") that are adequate for some teaching and assessemnt purposes. See also this link for a way to pay for qualifications for incoming staff.(Link opens new window)
Review your human resources.
You can't work without people.
Do you have enough of them? A program that depends too much on one person is quite risky.
What expertise do people have? What limitations do they have?
Which will be staff who provide instruction, and which will be mentors and workplace supervisors who oversee students?
Consider staff workloads.
What support staff will you need?
What do they need to know about the programs?
What literature will they need?
What training will they need?
Mentor/monitor staff teaching for first time.
Mentor/monitor administration for first time.
What equipment will they need?
Wil you need support staff for students, such as literacy and numeracy, disabled students?
Give orientation to your instructors, mentors, and administrators. It is imperative that they all understand exactly what is expected of them. Some things will naturally be unclear, simply because you haven't started. Consequently, it will be important to get people together fairly often and resolve any problems before they become serious. This list of tools will indicate some of the things that you might need to cover:
In an accredited program, instructors should go through full induction. See the ACAS documentation. The readings include a job description. As part of the process, they should provide the ACAS Centre with a certified CV and certified copies of qualifications.
Meet with staff and mentors to ensure that they understand the program and answer their questions.
Make sure your administrators also do ACAS orientation (Certified CV, certified qualifications), and know what's in their Job descriptions. Check the financial procedures are in place (including Austudy, and the reporting arrangements).
Plan for extra instructors to get Training and Assessment qualifications
You might want to have extra instructors and assessors to do a full qualification. This may include gathering of basic documentation for delivery and teaching in first semester's activities.
At this stage, you need to clarify exactly what you will teach and how you will teach it. The following questions should be helpful. A person with the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment should have been trained with specific skills in planning delivery.
What qualification and units?
In other words, what do you want your students to be able to do when they've graduated?
Here's a short cut. Choose the job role that you want students to be trained to do. Then write out the job description for that role. (This is what you want students to be able to do when they have finished the course.) Half a page is good, and try again if it goes over a page.
The next step is to choose the qualification that matches the role. The final step is to decide on a selection of units that suits the job description.
In principle, choosing a qualification works like this:
One job description
One selection of units
Qualifications typically consist of two main categories of units:
Core (compulsory) units, over which you have no choice.
Electives from which you choose a certain number.
It is strongly recommended that you choose the electives and don't provide more than the minimum. (Don't give students a choice.) This will simplify delivery and minimize the resources you provide. In some qualifications, you can use the electives to give the whole qualification a unique focus or specialization; they might even be more important to you than the core (compulsory) units. Then decide how you will cluster units, that is, select units that significantly overlap and combine them for teaching purposes.
How will you teach it?
First, check for any specific factors in your context that will require you to adapt you program in certain ways. For example, students' learning difficulties, remote communities, transient populations, etc.
How will you teach your students? You probably already have people learning on the job, and these will naturally be your first students, whom you'll continue to teach on the job.
What weekly meetings will you hold?
What seminars and conferences will you incorporate?
What reading will you require (if any)?
How will you monitor the work requirement?
Will you require any written work? (Journals, essays, teaching/leading notes, etc.)
The purpose of consulting industry is to ensure that your program suits what happens out there in the workplace. It is taught in the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
You do not need to consult industry if ACAS centre has already done it as a centralised procedure.
You should to consult industry if you are also the employer of students doing the program on-job.
Otherwise, you will need to consult industry.
Ask the ACAS office about materials. It might as simple as getting an address for an ACAS course website. These materials are usually designed to support on-job learning and assessment. If your course is completely new, you might be asked to work with the ACAS office to write new materials.
Plan admission procedure
The ACAS website has policies and procedures, including pre-enrolment information. Some of the current procedure is simply to direct people to particular documents on the ACAS website, such as specific course information and the student handbook. You can also put other information in a handbook.
However, you still need to consider your particular circumstances for appraising their suitability and needs. Consider these:
Some employees show up as a group sent by an employer. You could meet with the employer.
In a school, an administrator could provide infomation about students before they enroll.
In a practicum program, you could interview applicants before they enroll.
Make program management decisions
Identify your infrastructure needs.
What teaching equipment will you need?
Computer and internet
Decide on your timing and scheduling.
When will you start? In Australia, a normal academic year starting in February is usually best for prospective full-time students, who will probably make their decisions in about October of the previous year. That means that everything needs to be in place by that time.
Do a schedule and timetable for the year. (It might help you to think of it as a budget for your time and your students' time.) Timeframes will vary according to particular circumstances, but they need to be written down and monitored. (One of the biggest risks is that key people will simply not have enough time, and the schedule will show that they have enough time to meet their responsibilities.)
Realistically, how much time will you be willing to put into traveling, meeting with mentors, general communication, and admin to make sure all goes well?
Realistically, how much time will you expect mentors to put into:
meeting with students individually for planned interviews
meeting with students individually as a friend
meeting with students as a group
observing students' ministries from time to time
Fees and budget
Identify the items that will cost you money and how much:
Some will be on a per-student basis, and vary according to the number of students you have.
Some will be fixed; you pay the same amount whether you have few or many students.
Calculate your total costs.
Look at your prospective students. Can they pay the full cost of the program? If not, how will you make up the difference?
Write up a draft budget and determine your fees.
Budget for risk and a working surplus because programs almost always cost more than you think. Besides you'll need to have something in the kitty at the end.
Add fees for ACAS.
Budgets for totally new programs are usually no more than an informed best guess, even if you have very good grounds for believing the program will work as planned.
Determine your image
Define your constituency. Who are they? Are they the ones you will mainly be marketing to?
What are the main messages that you want to communicate?
What is the best way to communicate with them?
Determine the image of the college do you want to project:
Do you need to choose a name for the program that will appeal to constituents and send the right message?
Do you want to brand it with a new logo?
What vould go wrong? What risks do we face? What will we do about each one? (E.g. too dependent on key personnel, personalities that don't gel, financial risks, etc.)
Other plans this semester
Prospectus: On-line or hardcopy?
What delegation to others?
What collaboration between areas of specialization?
Provision of any extra resources (e.g. purchasing any required texts). Will you need training packages on CD or put on your server?
Are there other kindred organizations that you need to approach at this stage regarding moderation of assessment or placement of interns?
In the areas we teach, what is the difference between amateurs and professionals?
Check you have insurance cover
Determine any other details of ASQA requirements to be met.
Set a timeline for getting it all done. It should be a commitment, not a wish-list.
Staff recruitment and induction, collecting induction forms
Review the core delivery documents
who will do any problem-solving in the meantime?
How often should the committee meet?
When is next meeting?
When you have done what you've planned, ACAS conducts an internal compliance audit to ensure that your new program meets relevant guidelines. An annual internal compliance check is now built into ACAS procedures, and we might need to conduct an extra compliance check when the government accreditor will perform an external audit, including proposed your website information and promotional materials.
You are not permitted to do anything to advertise or offer the program until you have passed the ACAS audit.
When you have passed audit:
ACAS will provide all core information on the ACAS website If the member college does not yet have a website, administrators provide general program description, staff photos, CVs and written disclosure authorizations.
If the new member college already has a website, ACAS will simply add a link in the ACAS website.
If the new member college already has a website, it may provide some information, as long as it compies with ACS/ASQA rules.
If needed, ACAS obtains any new accreditation or extension of accredited scope.
If needed, Austudy procedures put in place:
ACAS applies to Centrelink for Austudy registration
ACAS details application procedures to member college.
New Member college prepares to run the program by issuing approved promotional materials and recruiting students.
First semester on
Implement the pilot group of students. It should give people an actual run-through so they have experience of how it works. The group needs to be small enough for problems to be easily identified and resolved, but big enough to be viable and to provide sufficiently wide experience for future development.
Give student orientation/induction
Provide mentoring and professional development for inexperienced trainers and assessors
Implement training and assessment
Give encouragement awards
End of Semester: Review the whole semester program and revise as necessary.
Following semester: Implement the full program on full scale.