Where does AP(E)L fit in Higher Education?
of questionnaire data continued
Academic problems encountered
In many cases, academic resistance to AP(E)L is related to fears
about standards and quality assurance. This leads to over-caution
with documentation. Restrictions on the type of evidence of learning
permitted sometimes results from academic unease about the ‘difference’
of AP(E)L. Some academic arguments centre on acceptance of the proposition
that non-formal and informal learning could be ‘valorised’
as legitimate relative to learning guided by academia. In some cases
there was resistance from the fields of science and engineering,
yet in other cases leadership was from these fields. In some cases
there was unease about the assessment processes involved, especially
in theoretical aspects of learning.
In all cases the lack of resources was a problem for colleges. The
fact that AP(E)L was available for a limited number and type of
modules/courses was a problem for applicants. The system did not
necessarily allow for transfer of approved AP(E)L claims between
courses within a college. The fact that all claims have to be individually
negotiated for exemptions was seen as procedurally difficult for
staff and applicants, in terms of both time and structures.
Origin of AP(E)L
In a number of cases AP(E)L resulted from EU funded, or nationally
initiated, research projects which became mainstreamed into practice
for particular occupational sectors or social groups. The promotion
of recognition of experiential learning by HETAC (formerly NCEA
– National Council of Educational Awards) through its accumulation
of credits scheme during the 1990s led to structures and expertise
being developed in the institutes of technology in particular. In
some cases the drive came from professional bodies with staff-development
needs, particularly from nursing and related social care occupations.
In other cases, models of AP(E)L were brought to Irish colleges
from newly recruited staff who had experienced it in UK universities.
Consequently the models of AP(E)L which developed did not follow
any particular blue-print or philosophy. They were variously influenced
by literature from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning
(CAEL), Learning from Experience Trust (LETS), Making Your Experience
Count, and the existential model developed in the University of
Ulster at Jordanstown. The Waterford Institute of Technology literacy-training
model and the Cork Institute of Technology whole-college model were
noted as influential in some later cases. The DIT OMNA project for
early childhood care and education was also known. No case mentioned
taking examples from FAS, City & Guilds, Cedefop, or the French
and Norwegian models of national statutory provision.
Why some colleges do not use AP(E)L
The universities have not traditionally accepted experiential learning
as a basis for entry or credits, except in cases where it is used
in support of applications for mature student entry or non-standard
entry to postgraduate studies. However, this is changing, with one
university currently processing the necessary policy and procedural
changes required for AP(E)L and seeking resources for its implementation.
Other universities are currently preparing for such changes. At
least three colleges indicated that there was no demand for AP(E)L,
and one provider had ceased to offer it, as it had become too cumbersome
and time-consuming relative to the benefits for learners.
Colleges which have discussed, but not used, AP(E)L, considered
that it raised a number of academic challenges especially around
the forms of assessment used, and their comparability with traditional
modes which lead to grades and awards. The restriction of AP(E)L
portfolios assessment to non-graded status was considered problematic.
Colleges which opted not to introduce AP(E)L had concerns about
the expertise of staff to use it successfully without on-going training.