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Recognition of Prior Learning grad fosters adult education and literacy in N.W.T.

November 12, 2015

Karen Willy, Recognition of Prior Learning

Karen Willy describes herself as a life-long learner. And she’s helping others do the same.

A Yellowknife resident, Willy is the most recent graduate of Red River College’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Practitioner program, available through the School of Continuing Education.

She serves as Coordinator for Adult Literacy and Basic Education for the Government of the Northwest Territories’ Department of Education, Culture and Employment, where she’s responsible for the Adult Recognition Model, designed for those enrolled in adult basic education.

The program gives participants the opportunity to complete academic credits for core courses, and to receive recognition for the optional credits they need for a senior secondary school diploma.

“You need to understand that adults come with their own experiences, their own knowledge, and their own learning that we need to honour,” Willy says of her clients.

Given the importance of Willy’s portfolio — which helps learners become full participants in the social, economic, cultural and political development of the N.W.T. — she knew she needed to have a strong background in RPL.

That’s where Red River College came in. Willy says she enrolled in the RPL Practitioner program to develop the skills, knowledge and abilities she needs to do her job, adding she felt it was important to have the knowledge to meet quality assurance standards for RPL.

Willy completed a blended program — part online delivery, part face-to-face.

“It really helped me improve what I’m doing here,” she says. “What really stuck out to me was the level of dedication that the instructors have.”

“When you’re an online learner, not only do you have to learn the content of the course, but you also have to learn the technology. So to have that kind of support was great.”

Willy credits Deb Blower, her practicum instructor, with being a huge contributor to her success. She says Blower helped her become better at strategic planning, and eventually at developing an adult-learning plan for the N.W.T.

While at RRC, Willy’s work experience practicum was a two-week placement with three organizations: the College, the University of Winnipeg, and the Government of Manitoba.

Willy says the RPL training she received has enabled her to look creatively at how learners who have taken online courses (that may not be for credit) can potentially receive credit at post-secondary institutions. She also says everything she learned in the program is applicable in her day-to-day job.

“It’s relevant in every single thing I do,” she says.

Willy’s day-to-day responsibilities include not just developing and implementing the Adult Recognition Model, but also training, professional development and special projects.

In addition, she chairs the Adult Recognition Model Steering Committee, the Prior Learning Assessment Recognition (PLAR) Evaluation Committee, the PLAR Portfolio Development Course Curriculum Committee and the Accredited Pathways Steering Committee, which are all committees that inform the RPL process for adult basic education in the N.W.T.

“I’m a learning addict,” she says. “I’m a life-long learner. I always will be.”

In 2015, Willy was accepted into a Masters of Arts, Learning and Technology program at Royal Roads University.

“My plan is to take that knowledge and start to develop online learning programs for adults and adult basic education,” she says.

She said her education and experience applying the skills she learned at RRC have already helped her to be successful in the masters program. She has also been able to look at innovative ways to implement RPL in technology-mediated learning.

“I fell into adult basic education because my teachers in high school coerced me,” she says of her introduction to the field.

“But I fell in love with adult education, [and] with teaching adults.”

Learn more about RRC’s Recognition of Prior Learning Practitioner program.