Policy development and implementation procedures for recognition of prior learning: a case study of practice in higher education
Visioning the RPL continuum across framework levels
When the decision was taken to regard RPL as primarily an academic activity, it then became necessary to vision how and where it could be used across all programme design and award-making activity. Figure 3 below represents the first visualisation of an RPL continuum across NQF levels 6 to 10 (Higher Certificate to Doctorate) and which included sub-strands of the framework such as minor and special purpose awards. That vision took into account programme design and pedagogical models such as continuing professional development courses and work-based learning arrangements in addition to traditional taught programmes. It presumes both horizontal and vertical movement across NQF/EHEA levels within the DIT’s own range of awards initially, and indeed interface with the EQF-LLL in the future.
While the continuum may appear coherent and logical as a visual image, in reality the range of RPL practices in a large, diverse organisation such as the DIT is considerably more complex. It is fair to concede that we have not yet achieved the full visualised continuum of RPL which ideally would include facilities for self-assessment of learning in relation to awards. Such a possibility would include procedural challenges such as continual updating of awards and of module learning outcomes, together with descriptions of how each learning outcome could be achieved through RPL. However, a start has been made on this issue as described later in this article.(see Figure 3)
A start has also been made in bringing coherence to the RPL portfolio/dossier by designing a generic RPL application template based on the Europass CV. This model has been tested with large numbers of applicants to programmes funded by the Government as initiatives to re-skill and up-skill recently unemployed workers. The portfolio model combines the recruitment information and academic advanced entry information required to scale-up the RPL process for labour market sectors. This division of information in a single process satisfies both administrative and academic staff, minimising the role tensions that are often a feature of RPL activities.
The RPL continuum has not yet fully articulated how an internal academic model will interface with in-house work-based learning and company training. Attempts have been made to explore the interface between individual learning plans of employees with both DIT framework awards and with customised awards. This research is referred to later in this article in relation to facilitated work-based learning.