The Benefits and Challenges of Prior Learning in Higher Education



In this article, we’ll examine the benefits and challenges of RPL in higher education

, the issues relating to it, and the challenges of using it. You’ll also learn about the importance of assessment of prior learning. Finally, we’ll examine the need for RPL to accommodate a broader range of learners. This article is a good starting point if you’d like to know more about the process. We’ll also cover the potential challenges associated with using RPL, and why there’s a need for a wider range of learners.

Assessment of prior learning

Many of the early proponents of prior learning assessment have been left scratching their heads, wondering what the future holds for this practice. The answer lies in embracing the fact that not every college or university can award credit for previous learning. Many of these reformers point to the success of the competency-based Western Governors University. Other reformers point to the rise of Sophia, a crowdsourced online course platform that is set to launch in the summer. Sophia will allow students to earn Capella University credit.

One of the main sources of prior learning assessment is the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). The CLEP program has 34 exams in subjects like mathematics, science, business, languages, history, and other topics. Currently, more than 2,900 institutions across the U.S. accept this program. There are also fees associated with the program, though many institutions waive these costs for military personnel. In this case, the benefits of CLEP are clearer.

This type of prior learning assessment is one of the more controversial forms of credit awarding. It is a process of evaluating a student’s prior learning and workforce skills. Prior learning assessments may be portfolios, competency examinations, employer training programs, or military experience. Students can earn up to 60 semester hours of PLA credit for a wide variety of learning experiences. They can fulfill general education requirements or receive elective credit. To receive credit for prior learning assessments, students must provide evidence of their previous learning. Such evidence can come in the form of certificates, training program information, or materials developed under guidance.

The policy on prior learning assessment is overseen by the University’s Prior Learning Assessment Advisory Group, which reports regularly to Faculty Council. Faculty members who conduct prior learning assessment may participate in professional development sessions related to prior learning assessment. In addition to faculty, students themselves must identify their prior learning and document it. As long as the prior learning is documented and used, it’s considered legitimate. However, there are still challenges associated with the assessment process.

Impact of RPL on student outcomes

Despite the benefits of RPL, the effectiveness of such programs in enhancing student outcomes has not yet been fully explored. It is important to understand the challenges students face when navigating the RPL process, especially those who are new to higher education. These students may not have the necessary background to navigate the academic bureaucracies, to understand the credit system, and to identify the appropriate form of prior learning assessment.

In Australia, RPL has only recently been widely adopted in the higher education sector. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) has identified RPL as a valid pathway for credit and admission. Additionally, government policy has shifted to promoting lifelong learning and a broadened student population. While these are laudable goals, the impact of RPL on student outcomes will remain unclear until more research is conducted.

Despite the benefits of RPL, it is important to note that implementation requires overcoming several obstacles, including the cultural, organizational, and systemic/structural challenges. Among these, the greatest hurdle is convincing faculty that meaningful learning can occur outside of the traditional academic setting. While this is a daunting task, successful RPL implementation requires that faculty accept the premise that meaningful learning takes place outside of traditional higher education institutions. To do so, faculty must change their focus from being creators of knowledge to learners of knowledge.

The study also examined how students experienced RPL, specifically in work-based learning. Although work-based learning heavily relies on RPL, developmental forms of RPL serve as an alternative means of sustaining lifeworld-derived expertise. By contrast, a critical theory-based framework suggests that RPL undermines oppressive knowledge production. In short, RPL has a positive impact on student outcomes in higher education.

In addition to higher education, RPL has a negative impact on employers. As a consequence, employers must rethink the types of training they offer to their employees. They may also be forced to hire instructional designers who can assess and interpret prior learning. However, this can be challenging, especially for large employers. Further, employers must reconsider how RPL works. And this is why the Association supports the use of RPL to improve educational outcomes.

Challenges of RPL

One of the major challenges of RPL in higher education is the difficulty of navigating the process. Often, students are unfamiliar with the university system and bureaucracies involved. Additionally, it is difficult to determine which prior learning policies apply to them. Further, the lack of standardized procedures for RPL implementation makes this process a challenge for many institutions. Ultimately, however, RPL should be supported by national education and training policy.

Academics are not convinced that RPL can be an alternative path to a degree. Many institutions implement rules and methods that are not appropriate for the needs of adult learners. They also fail to acknowledge student diversity and make inaccurate assumptions about their learning styles. Adult learners face the same challenges, and online learning provides a solution to these problems. There are a number of challenges to RPL in higher education, but overcoming them is key to fostering its growth.

While RPL has a place in higher education, it’s not a panacea for the educational system’s inequities. Because it forces learners to fit into the traditional educational system, RPL programs run the risk of exacerbating existing inequities. But they can provide a gateway to greater opportunity. The main challenge, as with all things in life, is finding the right RPL program that meets the needs of individual learners.

While the concept of RPL is positive and well-supported, it is not yet a reality in all universities. It requires the involvement of corporate and nonprofit partners, and institutional leadership with a strong commitment to RPL. Finally, RPL must be scaled to reach the next level. And if it is to achieve that, it must have the backing of an appropriate funding source. For now, RPL can’t be implemented as a full-time course, but it can be a useful tool for those who want to enhance their skills.

The challenges of RPL in higher education include the nature of the institutions themselves. The RPL project will work with diverse national stakeholders to develop and promote an RPL-compliant curriculum. The partners will include the National Forum for Enhancing Teaching and Learning, QQI, the RPL Practitioners Network, ISME, and Ibec. The chief academic officers of participating institutions will retain overall oversight of the project, while a Project Steering Group will provide strategic direction.

Need for a wider range of learners

A new research agenda will investigate the need for a more inclusive learning environment and a range of learner types in RPL. Current RPL practices are largely complicit with the current discourse about education, which is that it is unproblematic. In this view, knowledge is only valued if it is similar to desirable knowledge and skills, rather than engaging in a critical analysis of power relations and social injustices.

While traditional adult education has been an expansion of existing programs, with pedagogical changes that focus on student-centered learning, recent RPL expansions are primarily driven by economic shifts and the changing nature of the workforce. In the past, earning a baccalaureate degree meant that one had completed college. But today, most people don’t stop there. They continue their education several times throughout their working lives.

In addition, there are several challenges in scaling up RPL. Learning transfer is difficult and must be translated into a credit hour system, and ingestion of prior learning is time consuming. Technology can help by automating the process and making it simpler for learners to transition. Ultimately, RPL is intended to provide a path for greater opportunity and access. But it must be understood that RPL is not a panacea.

Research into the practice of RPL in higher education should not be based on the latest theories or research findings. Instead, the study should focus on how it works in practice. In order for RPL to be effective, it should be inclusive of a broader range of learners. And in order to do this, candidates must be given the pedagogic support they need to recontextualise prior learning.

To scale, RPL must be more inclusive of learners, and institutions, as well as employers, must partner with RPL programs and ensure that they are accessible to a wider variety of people. The RPL model is a great tool to create better economic opportunities, but it also needs a more diverse student population. In addition to inclusive learning environments, RPL can improve the conditions of workers and improve their lives.