When does a learning material developer cross the line?

Home Forums Learning Material Development When does a learning material developer cross the line?

This topic contains 1 reply, has 12 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Jan Beeton Jan Beeton 3 weeks, 1 day ago.

  • Author
  • #37038
    Profile photo of Manus Moll
    Manus Moll

    It is no secret that the influence learning material developers has on the industry is vital but to what extend can we as roleplayers tolerate personal views instead of sticking to plain definitions and SAQA guidelines.

    The alarming fact is that it slips through SETA processes and learners accept the course outlay and content as absolute truth.

    We can however blaim the SETA’s but there must be a way of influencing the developer directly by highlighting the fact that SAQA guidelines and definitions is sufficient and important and any other “agenda” whether it is political, personal or social is irrelevant.

    If there is no sollution to this problem then I guess the line is drawn.


  • #37061
    Profile photo of Marie Smith
    Marie Smith

    Manus, a client’s selection criteria for designers/developers of learning material and assessments based on SAQA-aligned qualifications and unit standards should include an evaluation of the designer/developer’s views on such development – appropriate questions  asked during negotiation about development should reveal the designer’s views and approach.

  • #37060

    Marie, that is not always possible since many material are being bought of the shelf and you only realise that views has been written in when you read through the learner guides. It is easy to analyse the writers political views and even those regarding the economy … the parts that has not been cut and paste. You will only select things you agree with.


    I am pro-government but the policies and procedures and I do and learning material are not written in my views or dressed up in “red” however I have notice that material reflects views that are not necessary true. Hence the question of Manus, when does a developer cross the line. It should be written in an objective manner, pro-developmental of nature.


    Cartoons deflicting government or ex-government officials is also crossing the line. I always say: you don’t add anything of a political, religion or explicit value. You write totally “A”. Articles of a political nature is also crossing the line. We must remember to respect the views of others, even when we don’t agree. To produce work that does not further our interest but the interst of education and training.



  • #37059
    Profile photo of Marie Smith
    Marie Smith

    One of the many possible perils of buying material ‘off-the-shelf’, along with – as you mention – ‘the parts that have not been cut and paste. I have come across many providers who have burnt their fingers. And providers comment ‘but they market themselves so well..’ I understand that it might seem worthwhile to buy materials at bargain prices.. but shouldn’t that wave a red flag for’ buyers’? It takes days and up to two weeks to develop a programme based on one unit standard if the topic is properly researched, the content formulated in the developer’s own words and meaningful formative and summative assessment activities developed. I have found that providers who are proud to present meaningful programmes are keen to have material that belongs to them and is not bought ‘off a shelf’.

  • #37058
    Profile photo of Tass Schwab
    Tass Schwab

    Marie, thank you for this reply. Yes – for me its the amount of work that I put into the material I develop that does lead to a “woolies”price instead of “pep stores”price. The thing is that many training companies/departments are not on top of the reality behind development and therefore are daft enough to go for cheapies. It does make me dissonant, but I do so love doing what I am doing and will still continue teaming up with others who hold quality dear!

  • #37057
    Profile photo of Manus Moll
    Manus Moll

    I once heard that education and training was a calling and not a career – I couldn’t understand it then.

    SAQA Guidelines and applicable definitions = “Pep Stores”

    SAQA Guidelines and applicable definitions + Customisation = “Woolies”


    No traces of SAQA Guidelines and applicable definitions + No intention of Customisation = Trash

  • #37056
    Profile photo of Tass Schwab
    Tass Schwab

    You do make me smile!

  • #37055

    I have a much simpler approach: Irrespective of the monetary value, you deliver quality material, whether you do it for R156 000 or you only do it for R35 000 or R15 000 – you deliver quality material that have been properly research on the correct principles, have been developed by yourself and not “cut and paste” [I hate that function of Microsoft Office] and you deliver it to improve the standard of education, irrespective of your own believes or feelings.


    Deliver a product you will feel comfortable to give to your child to be taught on and heavenly sake…let us just write according to the set principles of the topic…


    Quality Material for a quality education and training system irrespective of what you are paid to do it.


    Yes, Mari, it takes about 8 – 10 days to deliver a good product, you can write 5 days with 5 nights = 10 good days…

  • #37054
    Profile photo of Zerelde Uys
    Zerelde Uys

    I think that this debate is long overdue. It is almost as if those never having been involved in the process of developing the learning experience has very little understanding of the expertise required and the extent of the input to ensure efficiency and usefulness. Hence the thinking that one could just purchase something off the shelve and shove it into the arms of a willing facilitator. 

    Unfortunately the lack of proper expertise in evaluating such material for approval often is absent in the SETA stuctures, and therefore the market is flooded with lots of offerings at very enticing prices.

    The principles of a free marker system applies – so I have little sympathy with those having paid for stuff that they did not bother to inspect or to have internally moderated at so-called bargain prices. My goodness, you don’t purchase clothes and shoes without trying it on first, why would you think that all learning material will meet the same standard and automatically suit your purpose and customisation needs? Surely the willingness of the developer to present and explain the material as well as allowing time to inspect a sample should be a clue towards whom you should be doing business with?

    But it’s not an ideal world out there…..

  • #37053

    Marie, that is impressive that you are able to produce good material in 5 days and 5 nights!! 

    I am with Tass on this one! That shoddy work is getting through the SETA’s (and sometimes good work being prevented for whatever reason – including that submissions are lost or that the author is not known to the ETQA representative) is most unfortunate and very frustrating!! 

    Manus, the onus however, rests with the provider to provide quality training AND materials.  As such, the provider should take the neccessary time to  evaluate the material before taking possession of it.  I too have learnt my lesson the hard way, having bought material because of a time constraint, only to rewrite it anyway.  This does not mean that there is not good material out there!!  Some material is great!  If great material is what one wants, one must be prepared to pay for it.   

  • #37052
    Profile photo of Cas Olivier
    Cas Olivier

    This is an extraction from my new book: The DNA of Great Teachers.

    It is a bit out of the context of Manus’s initial question, but it addresses the principle of design.

    ‘Average teachers and learning material design consultants see the curriculum as synonymous with a ‘race course’ to be run by all learners in the same way within a specific timeframe.  They translate the curriculum outcomes into lessons, using one or more textbooks and if possible other references to amplify the curriculum’s purpose and intentions.

    Great teachers and learning material design consultants see the curriculum as the prime guiding document indicating what learners must learn, but not how they should learn. They know all learners don’t have the same background and abilities and cannot run the course in the same way; they elevate learning activities from the curriculum which works for their specific learners.”

  • #37051
    Profile photo of Des Squire
    Des Squire

    What standards are aplicable to course developers?

    What are the rules and regulations pertaining to course development?

    Who establishe such rules if they exist and where can they be found?

    If you can define the “line” it will be easier to say when a developer has crossed it. Problem is that many course developers establish their own lines or boundaries and that makes it difficult to define when the lne has been crossed. 

    For that reason Manus I find it difficult to comment on your specific question.  

  • #37050
    Profile photo of Tass Schwab
    Tass Schwab

    I think that Manus is also touching on ethics in this arena…facts not being checked and other personal view points creeping in… yes it is up to people who purchase off the shelve to check using the principles of authenticity, reliability, validity and is it measurable. The mine field we often deal with is that you have an influx of people who are new at developing either doing it after hours or as a “I dont have a job so will write”type situation. They develop without the skills that some of us have honed for years – and sell it at very very cheap prices and the material is not up to standard or have got it from “somewhere”put it in templates and sold it. They are in this to write and make a sale and quality is lost.

    This leaves those of us who do this for a living because we LOVE it, find it being a service to the greater community; being painted/tainted as an industry as a whole… I develop because I want to contribute to the skills in this beloved country, I develop because I want material to be able to be sold again and again because its of such a high standard that people keep coming back to me… but I too am affected by “quick writes”. However this is not going to stop me, in the end people will know who to go to!!

  • #37049
    Profile photo of sylvia hammond
    sylvia hammond

    Hi to all, thank you for an interesting – an very important – discussion.  If I understand the original issue it concerns developers writing material from a particular political point of view. It would be helpful for us non-developers following the discussion to know: what are the guidelines from SAQA on this subject?  You could attach a document or include a SAQA website link – or quote a specific passage.  What does SAQA have to say about explaining political approaches – for example, is balance required?  Or is the material to be neutral?  Or is there a requirement for the developer to state their bias?  

  • #37048

    Recently I read through a Unit Standard on Business Administration NQF 4 and clearly I could see that the developer is anti-government. It is all about corruption and white-collar crimes and topics that we know have been cut and paste but in such a way that the poor learner will have a weak image about government and conditions in South Africa.

    There is where I say that the Developer has crossed the line since clearly the content indicates the developer feelings or maybe it was not read during the “cut and paste” phase.

    Write material in such a way where your own feelings and biasness does not apply since material should be objective and not subjective – hence my belief of believing in a more passive voice, where the objective is on the topic and not on the doer…

    Or material directly attacks the government and current systems and procedures … we suppose to uplift, not depressed.

    Sylvia, I will say that material should be neutral and balanced… that is my view. Only when something is objective and based on the topic, nothing else… it can be seen as the starting point of quality development within education and training.

    Myself I am pro-government, but I don’t write it in all policies and procedures I have to do, I don’t slip it in learning material, I don’t try to influence anyone…I just write it purely according to what it should be. But I will have a more possitive approach. Even with subjects I don’t agree – I just write what I know is the guidelines and the correct approach according to set criteria.

    Then you do get a view jokes in material such as …. to sell sick leave … it was written in that employers should buy sick leave from employees to motivate them not to be absent …. REALLY! I laugh and then realised this is what is going out and it is not funny – it is actually illegal. Or … talking about correct spelling and then the developer write “mis-spelling” – I tend to laugh about it and then just correct it but maybe there is not another Bianca and a learner gets that material. Then no-one will be smiling…:)

  • #37047
    Profile photo of Manus Moll
    Manus Moll

    The point I am trying to make is that learning material that contains “personal opinions” can be classified as outside the scope of the guidelines provided by SAQA.Whether it takes you 1 day or 10 days to develop a learner guide is irrelevant or whether you sell your product for R10 000 or R50 000. Just stay in line within the guidelines.

    I agree the responsibility lies with the accredited provider to make sure the material is of good quality but if you are dealing with an emerging provider surely the responsibility falls back on the developer.

    Flood the market with good quality learning material and focus on the implementation of it and let the best man win in the implementation arena.Let’s focus on quality and all will benefit in the long run.

  • #37046
    Profile photo of Zerelde Uys
    Zerelde Uys

    In response to Sylvia’s question about specific guidelines on political views included in learning material: I do not think that there are specific reference to this aspect anywhere – but I stand to be corrected. I believe that this is rather one of those implied aspects of professional conduct. One could certainly go back and find guidelines in the constitution to justify whatever you would like to prove as a point, but is it not common expectation that a suitably qualified programme developer would understand the ethical conduct required on such topics? After all, the outcomes and purpose of the design brief (or unit standard requirements) will be interpreted and unpacked before material gets sourced and packaged in whatever mode of delivery is chosen. And here again I need to refer to the economics and quality assurance aspects pointed out by other responses. It cannot be ignored in terms of what finally ends up in a training room. If a developer comes up with rubbish, who needs to chuck it out? I fail to see the relevance of pursuing the argument of ‘personal opinion’. Then where do you draw the line in terms of ‘personal experience’ built into the programme? If the programme and it’s content is not suitable – and there are many criteria that should determine that – then the system should not allow it to be used. Where is the Moderator, the person or body who gave the brief for the programme, the feedback from the Facilitator, even the Assessor? I prefer to develop within a team so that we can cross-check each other all the time for balance in all aspects…

    There is enough room in the system to identify such unsuited material and get rid of it. The developer will eventually realise that his opinion is not relevant and makes his offering unsuited.

    It seems to me that the Molls have identified such material and I suggest that they appeal the approval of the material by the SETA that allowed it. Let’s try out the mechanisms that is supposedly meant to quality assure. If you feel strong enough about this, you will bite the bullet and put in an appeal. I am sure that there must be a way where there is a will.

  • #37045
    Profile photo of Manus Moll
    Manus Moll

    Prevention is beter than cure.Other sectors where human life is at stake know this beter than we do. Appeal processes is there if there is no other option.

    Internal moderators, assessors and FACILITATORS plays an important part in the implementation of learning material and are not consulted before – that is why I am challenging learning material developers to focus on quality by following straight forward guidelines contained in the SAQA documents.

    I have heard all the business talk before and unfortunately it creates problems in the system right through the training phase.

    Development of learning material became an exercise that is forced to happen very quickly due to demand but I am still asking the question if we can focus on SAQA guidelines and leave the personal issues out of training. SETA’s focus on assessments and I have rarely seen any SETA reading page for page to quality assure. So the obvious phase to address is the development process.


  • #37044
    Profile photo of Zerelde Uys
    Zerelde Uys

    I am in full agreement with you that the developer is probably one of the key impact areas in eventual results, and I am also in agreement that nowhere near enough focus is on the skills and expertise of the developer as a minimum requirement – one of the downfalls of the system in my opinion. I cannot for the life of me understand how more bureaucratic measures in terms of assessment and moderation will ensure better quality learning, as the logic action would be to spread the effort of control all over the process – starting with the development. But so much for the system currently in place….

    The reality is that learning experience design cannot be regulated and stripped of its own ‘personality’ – which shouldn’t be that of the developer necessarily. But we do strive to bring a competitive edge to the playing field – which determines who picks our product for their particular need. Certainly you are not implying that all learning programmes aligned to the same unit standards must be exactly the same? Methodology, context, budget all influence the end-product. As long as the outcomes can be measured and meets the required standards, it actually doesn’t matter what the programme contains or not. Should we not rather be more focused on the standardisation of the assessment and the integrity of the assessment practitioner then?

    The sad/good news is that the QCTO system is even much less going to look at quality assuring every aspect of training delivery. The crux of a good provider will lie in the results in terms of meeting the final assessment standards. One could only hope that providers will understand that they must employ the best skills across the spectrum of provision to ensure that their end-product meets the national standards. And of course some learners will be collateral damage, but hopefully that will not be too many for too long.

    I still think that it is more a question of re-establishing ethics in the ‘trade’ and less trying to enforce regulations. 

  • #37043

    The main issue is to ensure Quality Learning Material – not only to get it through Accreditation – but the improve the quality of learning for learners.


    All my processes in the Seta’s are successful since I evaluate the material prior to the actual site visit and yes, I correct the material, even the learner Guides that has been cut and paste and totally missed the point. Even though I do this service free of charge for my clients. This is not the topic at hand but the ethics and the responsibility that developers has.


    We are seeing the signs where the developers have developed according to their feeligns and not to the SAQA documents, material that has no academical base whatsoever, that are the collection of Internet aricles – where no proper research has constituted to an academical value. The EEK’s that forms the embedded knowledge is not the embedded knowledge, but embedded feelings with the “correct headings” – telling a learner in a learner guide that should abusive calles continue (when it is aimed at people working with clients querries) to get himself a better job?!!!


    I have seen how poorly written material that has gone through accreditation with flying colours since the evaluator was so focussed on the Assessments or the Quality Management System that the actual content of the learner guides was never really reviewed – content of learner guides is hardly viewed during site visit by the Seta’s. I know the quality has been compromised. I think the topic is more broadly as just accreditation and correcty material.


    Developers focus should be on quality material, not getting the material through accreditation. The clients that paid R20 000, R156 000 or whatever price is not at a position to repay for rectification and most of the time accept the material as it is, when it has been accepted by the Seta.


    The issue Manus raised was the ethical side, as Tass spoke about. About when does a developer cross the line of writing accordingly or writing accordingly with biasness. We are the builders of Education and Training – should it fail the blame should be directed at the builders. Not goverment. 


    When I assist client, I will just change it, will correct the assessments to the set criteria of the SAQA document – I just do it. I have written several learner guides over that has been approved by the Seta – just because it was badly written and it could not be facilitated or implemented.


    But somewhere we need to stop and say what is required from a Developer? Where is the invisible line of morals of ethics. This is not an industry that we can built just on the open market system, on pure and simple capitalism since this is a playfield were we are shaping our leaders of tomorrow. It has a social and cultural backbone. We need to take out money out and view it holistically and forget to use this as a way to promote our own business interest. But to review it in this manner: The material I have written do I feel that it will be suitable for the education and training of my child, my grandchild and am I willing to send my child into the International arena with that…?


    Ethics…ethics….ethics… that is the question.

  • #37042
    Profile photo of Manus Moll
    Manus Moll

    For this discussion we focus on the developer.Training providers are not innocent.They are the ones that actually want the best for less andthey are my clients :).

    Developing can not be regulated by ethics due to the many faces ethics have in the industry.All claim to be ethical. Regulation can not be enforced due to the lack of development expertise and experience.But development can be improved by only taking out personal “opinions” within learning material.

      As long as the outcomes can be measured and meets the required standards, it actually doesn’t matter what the programme contains or not. Should we not rather be more focused on the standardisation of the assessment and the integrity of the assessment practitioner then?

    The SETA evaluation process focus on assessments and the outcomes – that means the area is covered.Because of this reason is the content an open door for “it doesn’t matter what the programme contains or not”Because of this, learning material with poor content slip through the processes.

    There was a debate quite some time ago to name and shame the guilty parties.I didn’t agree on the fact to name and shame then and don’t even now.But if “opinions” and “facts” can be published, I am sure all will be amased what comes out.Maybe then the authors will not find excuses but rectify mistakes willingly and might do it free of charge.

    We all working to better the industry or do we?

  • #37041

    One of the issues that you do not mention is the poor quality or absence of unit standards. As things stand, the SGBs have failed in many instances to identify training needs upon which unit standards, skills programmes and qualifications can be built. Look at the most generic occupation of all – that of the supervisor. Every industry has them but little has been done to identify what knowledge and skills they actually require.

    For example there is no unit standard for how to handle an employee complaint or grievance, no unit standard for how to coach and do one-on-one training, no unit standard for how to interview and select an employee and unit standards that exist in the IR area are all geared towards officials of the CCMA, bargaining councils or the Dept of Labour, not the actual target population that needs the training – line managers and supervisors. It is no wonder that 90% of disputes going before the CCMA are unfair dismissals and unfair labour practices.

    The proprity should be to improve people handling skills in the workplace but nobody seems to give a hoot!

  • #37040

    Des, I fully concur with your view. My sense is that if a course developer develops courses in a field in which he has studied and is knowledgable, he will of necessity develop views that may NOT always follow the ‘meanstream’ or template, but express personal views based on supporting research. The notion that there is somehow a common ‘line’ just seem unrealistic.  

  • #37039
    Profile photo of Jan Beeton
    Jan Beeton

    Well I guess it depends whether you think everything SAQA says and does is gospel – experience and hindsight show this is not the case……. the best results always come from many minds and skills working together in my view

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.