Developing Quality Guidelines for e-Learning and Distance Education for the QCTO

Saide recently undertook the development of quality guidelines for the QCTO Occupational Qualifications Assessment Unit

Ephraim Mhlanga


The Quality Council on Trades and Occupations (QCTO) is committed to support the implementation of the White Paper on Post-School Education and Training. In particular in terms of expanding access, improving quality and increasing diversity of provision by accommodating diverse ways of both delivery and assessment, and at the same time aiming to strengthen the quality of these processes. To this end, the Occupational Qualifications Assessment (OQA) Unit of the QCTO is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring credibility of qualifications in the Occupation and Trades Sub-Sector in South Africa, irrespective of the mode of delivery used by providers. This is a wide range of qualifications for trades and occupations that fall into Levels 1 to 8 on the National Qualifications Framework. In order to achieve its mandate, the OQA Unit has started to quality assure assessment instruments, the conduct of assessments, and the processing of results. At the same time, the OQA Unit has also realised that increasingly, some occupational qualifications are now being delivered through e-learning and distance education. In response to this new trend, the QCTO appointed Saide to develop policy guidelines and criteria for e-learning and distance education in order to provide guidance to providers who choose to use these modes of delivery in the relevant sub-framework.  In addition, the QCTO also requested Saide to facilitate workshops on e-learning and distance education in order to support its stakeholders with a better understanding of these modes of provision.  With support from Alan Amory, Ephraim Mhlanga undertook the project on behalf of Saide.

Scope of the task

As per the terms of reference, Saide was to:

  • Work with the OQA Unit appointed staff and the Task Team to interrogate implementation of e-learning and distance education in the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF);
  • Work with the OQA Unit to develop policy guidelines and criteria for e-learning and distance education; and
  • Support the QCTO in facilitating a workshop for stakeholders on e-learning and distance education. 

Project activities

The project involved conducting extensive literature research on international best practice in using technology to support learning generally, and distance education in particular. It also involved visiting some of the providers in the OQSF in order to gain better understanding of how they deliver programmes through technology supported distance education, and the quality challenges they face. In order to minimise travel costs, all the four providers visited are located in Gauteng. A telephonic interview was also conducted with one provider in Cape Town. Out of these visits, short case studies illustrating how e-learning and distance education are used to support delivery of trades and occupational programmes were compiled. These case studies were shared with relevant providers as a way of validating the accuracy of the write-ups. In addition to the site visits, the Saide consultant held two meetings with the OQA Unit where he presented the draft guidelines. He also participated at the Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority (INSETA) stakeholder workshop that was held in February 2018 in order to understand the concerns and needs of providers regarding distance and technology-supported learning. This workshop was important as INSETA also shared quality guidelines it had prepared for its stakeholders. After a complete draft of the guidelines was ready, a day-long workshop with QCTO stakeholders was facilitated in order to give stakeholders an opportunity to make their input before finalisation of the guidelines.


Subsequent to the final stakeholder workshop, the guidelines were refined and recast into the QCTO template before submission to the Director: Occupational Qualifications Assessment. Hopefully, the set of eleven quality guidelines that were compiled will be used by providers in the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework to enhance the quality of provision. It is also anticipated that the QCTO will use the same guidelines to quality assure provision in the OQSF. Due to the wide range of providers and programmes in this sector, and the changing nature of technology, the guidelines will need to be interpreted carefully for different forms of training and updated on a regular basis.

In addition to the quality guidelines, a supplementary resource consisting of generic background literature on good practice in the use of technology in teaching and learning was also submitted to the QCTO. This supplementary resource contains the five case studies referred to above.