Teaching Essentials


What is Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) at Red River College Polytechnic?

At Red River College Polytechnic, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process that identifies, documents, assesses and recognizes formal study (transfer credit), and informal and non-formal learning gained through work and life experience. RRC Polytech evaluates and grants credit for qualifying previous learning that is equivalent to learning outcomes in College courses and programs.

Relevant learning is evaluated through valid, rigorous assessment methods such as skill demonstrations, assignments, evidence collections/portfolios, interview(s), exams, product assessments, etc. These assessments follow RRC Polytech RPL Policies and Procedures. If the learning demonstrated is equivalent to the learning outcomes required in a College course(s) then credit is granted. College faculty are the subject matter experts/assessors who assess the learning and award course credits. The College RPL Advisor and/or Program RPL advisors assist individuals throughout the RPL process.

RRC Polytech’s RPL Services manages the College’s RPL system which includes the Manager Academic Quality and RPL, Educational Developer RPL, RPL Advisor(s), RPL assessors (i.e. program faculty), the RPL Committee of cross-College representatives, academic program contacts, student support and administrative services, and College management. The RPL system and implementation is described in the RRC Polytech RPL Strategic and Operational Plan (2012-2017).

Does RPL give credit for experience?

No, college credit is not awarded for experience. RPL credit is awarded for the learning (i.e. what a student knows and can do in relation to course/program outcomes) gained from work and life experiences or formal study. Prior learning is any learning that a student has acquired from formal education, work and/or volunteer experience, personal study and any other life activities (i.e. hobbies, travel, training programs, community life, etc.) that resulted in knowledge and skills. Students may have acquired learning which may be equivalent to the knowledge, skills and abilities expected from College courses/programs. Experience by itself is not evidence of learning or of learning that is equivalent to that required in College courses. RPL processes provide students with the opportunity to prove prior learning for the course/program outcomes.

Who should apply for RPL?

RPL is for students who have significant learning from work and life experience that may be equivalent to College courses/programs. Students should be able to apply learning acquired in different situations and places of work. The learning should be current, relevant to the course/program and of sufficient breadth and depth to ensure learning equivalent to the College’s course learning outcomes.

What are the benefits of RPL?

Learning takes place outside of educational institutions and may be acquired in workplaces, communities, noncredit courses, volunteer activities, travel, through self-study etc. Individuals continue to develop new skills through participation in lifelong learning opportunities. Recognition of relevant learning, equivalent to that required in College courses and programs ensures that students do not have to relearn what they already know and can do.

RPL benefits for the student . . . 

  • encourages pursuit of formal education
  • eliminates duplication of learning
  • increases access
  • may reduce the cost of a College education
  • may shorten the time to complete a College program
  • increases self-esteem and self-confidence
  • validates learning gained through work and life experience
  • identifies program areas requiring further study
  • assists with career development and educational planning
  • supports student mobility

RPL benefits for the College . . . 

  • increases institutional efficiency by eliminating the need for unnecessary training
  • increases student recruitment and retention
  • helps to ensure the College is responsive to diverse learning pathways
  • increases accessibility for a wider range of students
  • allows for more appropriate placement of students in programs
  • meets the needs of a wider range of students
  • helps to build relationships with business, community and industry

RPL benefits for the workplace and society. . . 

  • recognizes and supports lifelong learning
  • encourages workplace partnerships with institutions

How is prior learning assessed at RRC Polytech?

RRC Polytech uses four approaches for the assessment of prior learning:

Assessment of Educational Documents for Transfer Credit

Formal courses completed through recognized post-secondary institutions may be assessed to determine whether they are equivalent to courses in the student’s program of study at RRC Polytech. The student must be enrolled or accepted in a course or program, complete a “Transfer Credit Request Form,” pay a fee (if any), and submit original and detailed course outlines. The College’s International Credential and Transfer Credit Officer provides assistance with this process. Transfer credit decisions are made by the Chair/Manager or designated program faculty and are documented on the form.

If previous formal education does not meet currency guidelines a combination of a review of educational documents combined with another RPL method(s) may be required to ensure currency of learning.

NOTE: Transfer credit decisions will be in accordance with RRC Polytech Policy A14 – Recognition of Prior Learning.

Information about transfer credit and the Transfer Credit Request form are available on the RRC Polytech website or by contacting transfercredit@rrc.ca.

RPL Challenge Process Assessments
  • What is a “challenge process?”
    A challenge process is a method of assessment other than portfolio, developed and evaluated by the Program faculty to measure a student’s prior learning as it relates to the learning outcomes for a particular course/ program. It measures learning through a variety of written and non-written evaluation methods.
  • What are some examples of challenge process assessments and what are the fees associated with these? Challenge examinations (i.e. oral/written tests, projects, assignments, interviews, product assessments) 
    Assessments are designed by Program faculty to assess the learning outcomes for a specific course(s). Students possessing prior learning related to a specific course(s) are provided with course learning outcomes, and access course resources to prepare for the challenge process assessments. RPL Resource Guides are available for selected courses and guide students in preparing a demonstration of learning. RPL Resource Guides include course learning outcomes, a self-assessment based on the course learning outcomes, recommended resources, detailed information on challenge process assessments (i.e. what the student will be required to do to demonstrate learning) and assessment criteria (i.e. how the learning will be assessed). Through the challenge process, students demonstrate that they have equivalent or comparable learning. The Program faculty (usually the instructor who teaches the course) assesses the learning and, if the course challenge processes is successful, then credit is granted. 

    Assessment fees for course challenge examinations, projects, assignments, etc. range from $50.00 per hour of assessment up to a maximum of $350.00 per course (including cost of consumables). RRC Polytech’s RPL Fee Range Guidelines are available at www.rrc.ca/advising/rpl/. RPL assessments may involve a single assessment or a combination of assessments which may include project, interview, skill demonstration, examination etc. The fees will vary depending on the particular course(s) assessments. The student must be enrolled in a College program/course, complete the “Challenge Process and/or Portfolio Assessment” form and pay the assessment fee before the assessment takes place. Program faculty assess the learning and record the assessment results on the “Results of Challenge Process and/or Portfolio Assessment” form. 
  • Skill Demonstrations (i.e. practical examination, skill demonstrations, simulations)
    Skill demonstrations, simulations and practical examinations involve the actual demonstration of a student’s prior learning as it relates to the learning outcomes of a course(s). Program faculty designate and design specific requirements. The students are provided with course learning outcomes and may access performance checklists, texts and other resources. Program faculty assess the learning and if the skill demonstration is successful, credit is awarded. Program faculty record assessment results on the “Results of Challenge Process and/or Portfolio Assessment” form.

    Fees for skill demonstrations, practical examinations or simulations will vary depending on the length of the assessment and the cost of any consumable materials. As per the RRC Polytech RPL Fee Range Guidelines, fees are assessed at $50.00 per hour of assessment (up to a maximum of $500.00 per course) plus cost of consumables. There could be more than one assessment required in a course. Students may contact the RPL Advisor, or the program area for specific fees for skill demonstrations. 

    Note: For additional information see RRC Polytech Policy A14 – Recognition of Prior Learning.
Portfolio or Evidence Collection Assessment
  • What is a portfolio?
    portfolio is a detailed document developed by the student which identifies the learning acquired, through work and life experience, which may be equivalent to the learning outcomes in a College course(s). The portfolio describes the learning achieved from prior experience, relates the learning toward specific course/program requirements and verifies the learning through documentation or proof of learning. The student may be required to provide additional proof of learning and/or participate in an interview as part of the portfolio assessment process.

    NOTE: For some courses, students may be required to prove prior learning through an Evidence Collection. This is a compilation of specific documentation identified by faculty as required to prove prior learning for the course(s learning outcomes.
  • Where can a student get assistance to develop a portfolio?
    1. The RPL Advisor assists with the portfolio development process and can provide the Portfolio Development Resource Guide.
    2. Program faculty in specific College programs may provide advice and or clarification.
    3. Students may complete a specific Portfolio Development workshop/course.
      Students should contact the RPL Advisor for assistance with the portfolio development process and to use the Portfolio Development Resource Guide.
  • What fees are associated with portfolios? 
    A fee is charged for each course portfolio submitted for assessment. A student must be enrolled in a RRC Polytech program/course, complete the “Challenge Process and/or Portfolio Assessment” form and pay the applicable fee. Please see the College website for the RPL Fee Range Guidelines.
  • Who assesses the portfolio(s) and/or evidence collection(s)?
    Portfolios or evidence collections are assessed by Program faculty. This is usually an instructor who has subject matter expertise and has recent experience teaching the course. All faculty who assess portfolios have access to RPL information, advice, and guidance in portfolio assessment through the RPL Services office. Faculty assessors complete the “Results of Challenge Process and/or Portfolio Assessment” form and share results of the assessment with the student. The form is signed by the Chair/Manager and sent to the Student Records Officer. Results are recorded in the student information system.

External Course/Program Assessment

RRC Polytech has a process to evaluate courses/programs offered through business, industry, community and other organizations (i.e. non-post secondary institutions) to determine if the courses are equivalent to the learning required in College courses. Significant learning may occur through these work based training courses and when employees become College students, they bring the skills and knowledge acquired from these courses. RRC Polytech compares learning gained in employer based courses, to learning required in specific College course(s) and where equivalent, employees are eligible to receive course credit.

RRC Polytech Policy A14 – Recognition of Prior Learning includes the Assessment of External Courses from Non-Post Secondary Institutions for College Credit and identifies a corresponding procedural manual. Employers/ organizations interested in this process may contact the College RPL Facilitator to begin the process. The course(s)/programs are evaluated by subject area specialist(s) from the College. The employer/organization pays an assessment fee and the College completes the assessment. If the course(s)/ program is determined to be equivalent to a College course(s), then credit can be granted to all students who complete the course through the employer/organization and then enrol in the College program. To request credit for the applicable course students complete a “Transfer Credit Request Form.”

NOTE: For additional information, see RRC Polytech Policy A14 – Recognition of Prior Learning.

What are the responsibilities for College faculty and staff in relation to RPL?

The College’s RPL services and system are coordinated and provided by the Manager Academic Quality & RPL, Educational Developer RPL, RPL Advisor(s), RPL Assessors, the RPL Committee of cross-College representatives, Enrolment Services, academic program designates/ contacts, and College management. The RPL system development and implementation is described in the Red River College Polytechnic RPL Strategic and Operational Plan (2012-2017) and is integrated with the College’s Strategic Plan. RPL Policy A14 outlines the following responsibilities:

  • The Manager Academic Quality & RPL and Director of Enrolment Services and Registrar are responsible for the implementation, co-ordination, promotion, and monitoring of RPL activities and procedures. The Educational Developer – RPL will liaise with College staff to ensure consistent application and delivery across the range of College courses/programs. The RPL Services Department will facilitate the system, including the provision of RPL training and professional development and will provide assistance with the development of resource materials and evaluation tools. The Manager Academic Quality & RPL will develop and update the Manual, assessment procedures and such other procedures and manuals as they deem necessary in their sole discretion.
  • The International Credential and Transfer Credit Officer and the RPL Advisor will work with the Academic and RPL Services Departments to provide current and potential students with information and advice on RPL processes and practices. The Director of Enrolment Services and Registrar will be responsible for maintaining the master list of “External Courses from Non Post-Secondary Institutions Approved for College Credit” in the College’s Transfer Credit database. This database will include approved courses for programs in all Schools, including the School of Continuing Education.
  • The College RPL Committee, constituted in accordance with its Terms of Reference, will act in an advisory capacity to the Manager Academic Quality and RPL and Academic Departments regarding recognition of prior learning processes, resources and issues. The RPL Committee will regularly monitor, review, evaluate and revise RPL Policy to reflect changing needs and improvements in the assessment process and changes in the College’s mission and goals. At a minimum, this review will be completed every five years. 
  • Deans are responsible to ensure quality RPL practice and may grant requests for RPL credit which exceed 75% course credit in a program. Deans are responsible for ensuring quality RPL practice and for ensuring Programs are aware of the RPL Policies including the review of appropriate external courses from non-post secondary institutions. Upon recommendation of an approved Organization’s course(s) by the Chair, the Dean will review the Organization’s course(s) and grant approval as appropriate.
  • Chairs and academic departments, in consultation with the Manager Academic Quality and RPL will determine their system for implementing recognition of prior learning in accordance with College Policy and available resources. The system may include: assessment of formal learning (i.e. educational documents) assessment of informal learning (i.e. evidence or portfolios, assessment of challenge processes) and assessment of non-formal learning (i.e. external courses/programs for College credit) Final approval for credit will be the responsibility of the program Chair. 
  • Academic Department Staff, with assistance from the Educational Developer – RPL the International Credential and Transfer Credit Officer and the RPL Advisor, will be responsible for the implementation of their RPL system to ensure accessible, consistent, valid, credible and transparent RPL processes and practices. Each academic program/department will identify on the College program websites which courses have RPL processes available. 
  • Instructional Staff, to whom responsibility is given to develop and conduct assessments of prior learning, will be identified by their Chair. Instructional staff will participate in RPL training and for the development and implementation of quality RPL practices. In compliance with College policy, instructors will identify opportunities for RPL when they create their course outlines. 
  • Students, enrolled in or accepted to a RRC Polytech program will complete and submit relevant RPL forms (Transfer Credit or Challenge Process and/or Portfolio Assessment), pay any RPL fees, participate in the RPL process and will continue to attend classes until notified of a successful RPL result.

How does the RPL process work?

College staff assist students to follow the six RPL steps listed below.

1. Provide detailed information and initial advice about RPL processes and practices.

College staff provide students with introductory RPL information and share website resources.

The first step in the RPL process is often contact with the RRC Polytech RPL Advisor. The RPL Advisor describes and outlines RPL processes at Red River College Polytechnic and invites the student to attend an Orientation session or to participate in an individual interview. Students receive information to help them decide if RPL is relevant and appropriate to their needs.

Approximately once a month during the academic year the RPL Advisor facilitates RPL Orientation Sessions which describe methods of assessment, RRC Polytech Policies and Procedures, registration and fee information. Dates and times are listed on the RRC Polytech RPL website.

A student may also be referred directly to a program area for information about the availability of specific RPL processes and options. Selected College programs (such as Early Childhood Education, Disability & Community Support, and Child & Youth Care) offer program specific RPL Orientations and have Program RPL Advisors to assist students with the process. Additional RPL Orientations may be offered by the RRC Polytech RPL Advisor or program areas for business, industry and other organizations.

2. Provide information on expected course/program learning outcomes and advice on RPL processes.

The RPL Advisor follows up with a student who requires additional information or clarification regarding RPL. The RPL Advisor guides and supports a student in making decisions on educational goals, reflecting and matching learning experiences to course or program learning outcomes. Program faculty also advise students on program specific RPL opportunities and assist students to determine eligibility to proceed with RPL. By the end of this step the student should have determined his/her educational goal (i.e. which College program), self-assessed to the course/program learning outcomes, completed the registration process and met the eligibility requirements for the program.

3. Explain RPL process, methods and criteria to assist the student to prepare for and provide evidence of learning.

The RPL Advisor assists the student to identify sources of learning and relevant evidence to prepare for the assessment of prior learning. The College provides course and resource information or RPL Resource Guides on the challenge process assessment and/or assistance in portfolio development. RPL Resource Guides include a self-assessment checklist that helps the student assess competence in the course/program, evidence/proof of learning requirements and criteria for assessing the prior learning. Program instructors/faculty may provide students with additional information, answer questions and advise on the assessment process. The student prepares for the assessment, completes the appropriate RPL application form and pays the required RPL fees.

4. Conduct assessments.

The student completes the required assessments by providing evidence of learning through a portfolio or by completing the challenge process assessments. Sometimes a combination of both RPL processes is used. Program faculty who instruct the courses are the RPL assessors and review and assess the learning presented/demonstrated. The assessor makes the decision regarding College credit in a timely fashion and completes the required RPL Results form(s).

5. Provide results of assessment.

The Program faculty/assessor provides the student with assessment results and feedback, submits the RPL Results form(s) signed by the Chair/Manager, to Enrolment Services or to the School of Continuing Education as appropriate and credit for successful RPL is recorded on the student’s academic record.

If course credit is not awarded, College faculty will use the RPL Results form(s), to provide reasons for the decision and recommendations for successful completion of the course.

6. Provide advice for next steps.

The student reviews their RPL accomplishments with the Program faculty/advisor. If unsuccessful with RPL, the student follows through on the recommendations for course completion. The student then completes the remaining courses in the program. The student may also explore additional RPL opportunities.

For information about the RPL Process, please visit the RRC Polytech website rrc.ca/advising/rpl

How many course credits can be awarded through RPL processes?

It is possible to achieve a maximum of 75% credit in a program through the RPL processes. In most cases, the remaining (i.e. 25%) must be earned in actual studies through RRC Polytech. The number of credits awarded depends upon the nature and extent of the student’s learning, how well it matches the learning requirements for courses in a RRC Polytech program and if the learning is successfully demonstrated. Please see RRC Polytech Policy A14 – Recognition of Prior Learning.

How will RPL credit appear on a transcript?

Course credits achieved through an RPL assessment are recorded on the student’s academic record and an official College transcript may be requested. The College records successful RPL course assessment in the student information system in the same way in which grades are normally transcribed. Where this is not appropriate, the designation CR (Credit) is used. Unsuccessful RPL will be recorded as No Credit (NC) in the student information system.

Program faculty complete the “Results of Challenge Process and/or Portfolio Assessment” form and notify the student of either successful or unsuccessful RPL.

Where can students find information about RPL?

RPL information and resources for students are available from the RPL Advisor – Student Support Services, Student Service Centres, School of Continuing Education, and on the College website.

Students are encouraged to contact the RPL Advisor in Student Support Services and/or to attend a RPL Orientation to learn how the processes work at RRC Polytech. RPL Orientations are held once a month in the evenings throughout the academic year and are free of charge. RPL Orientation dates are on the RRC Polytech website. Other RPL Orientations are scheduled as requested by program areas, business, industry and other organizations. Students may also set up an individual interview with the RPL Advisor to learn more about RPL at RRC Polytech.

Is there a RPL appeal process?

The appeal process for RPL is the Student Appeal Policy S3.

What standards & policies has the College set for RPL?

Academic and administrative standards for RPL are outlined in RRC Polytech’s Policy A14 – Recognition of Prior Learning.

Where can faculty and staff find additional information and resources about RPL?

Please contact the RPL Services team: Lauren Waples, Manager Academic Quality & RPL, Brenda Mercer Educational Developer RPL or Kristi Dorian, RPL Assistant. Additional information and resources are provided below.

1. Red River College Polytechnic website

RPL is included on RRC Polytech’s Advising Services site and provides information for students and prospective students:

  • What is RPL?
  • How do students access RPL
  • Who should apply for RPL and why?
  • How is RPL assessed
  • RPL Fees
  • RPL Policies
  • RPL Orientation dates and registration
  • Contact information the RPL Advisor

All College programs include a RPL section on the website. Each program identifies courses available for RPL with the RPL flag/icon.

2. Professional Development and Training for Faculty and Staff

RPL Professional Development Workshops are offered during the academic year to highlight current RPL practices and initiatives and provide assistance with RPL implementation in College programs. Please contact RPL Services to request a customized workshop for a specific program or department.

RRC Polytech’s School of Continuing Education offers a 40-hour PLAR-1200 RPL Foundation course. (rrc.ca/plp). The course emphasizes quality practice in the RPL field and focuses on the functions of advising, assessing and facilitating of RPL practices and systems. More than 750 individuals from across Canada and internationally, including 90+ faculty and staff from RRC Polytech, have completed the RPL Foundation course.

3. Other RPL Resources

The following professional associations provide research and resources on RPL systems and practices:

  • MPLAN (Manitoba Prior Learning Assessment Network) – www.mbplar.ca
  • CAPLA (Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment) – capla.ca
  • CAEL (The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) – www.cael.org