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Learning Pathways and our Academic Plan

November 30, 2015

Pathway Pic (free online)

Written by Deb Blower, RPL Facilitator

I recently attended the Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment (CAPLA) 2015 Recognizing Learning conference. Participants representing a variety of sectors such as educational institutions, regulatory bodies, immigrant serving agencies and employers, held a common belief in the importance of all types of learning (i.e. formal, informal and non-formal). As well, the need to create pathways and learning recognition systems for adults to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities.

So how does this fit with the development of our new Academic Plan? Well, it reinforced the importance of learning pathways here at RRC: into programs, during/throughout programs and new learning pathways upon graduation/completion of RRC programs. In developing our new Academic Plan, we need to continue to think about how to embrace, enhance and facilitate these learning pathways.

Learning pathways “into” our programs – This begins by recognizing that many individuals come to RRC with current learning applicable to our courses/programs. They may come with formal learning from other institutions but they may also have learning from work and life experiences (informal and non-formal learning).

Respectful learning pathways into RRC programs means: some new approaches to admission requirements; increased transfer credit recognition including international credentials, more articulation agreements with other post-secondary institutions and dual credits with high schools for advanced standing; plus more assessment and recognition for workplace courses delivered by business and industry, as well as military training. It also means more opportunities to prove informal and non-formal learning applicable to our programs. This learning needs to assessed using quality RPL practices that are accessible, respectful, consistent, fair, transparent, rigorous and flexible (see Canada’s new RPL Guiding Principles for Quality Practice). As a result, more learning pathways will open up and more adults will choose RRC as their learning institution.

Learning pathways “during/throughout” programs – Throughout our programs, students gain the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) to be career ready in their specialty area. Our CWLO are being integrated into program curriculum. Students apply their learning through clinical, practicum and co-op work placements. Could we further enhance student potential with a stronger focus on a “portfolio learning” philosophy and process? We could expand the portfolio approaches currently used by some RRC programs and other institutions, building on assessment practices including self-reflection and self-assessment skills. As a result, our students could articulate skills and abilities acquired during their program (and through life learning) and provide proof/documentation in a career ePortfolio. Upon graduation, they could build on their ePortfolios as a lifelong learning tool.

Learning pathways “upon graduation/completion” of programs – in our new Academic Plan, we will continue to build on new opportunities for mobility for our graduates. Can we step up our discussions with other institutions to build an integrated and collaborative system with learning pathways into more external degree programs? Could we develop advanced diplomas/degrees that “pathway” from our current certificate and diploma programs? What about those adults who are moving into second or third careers? Are there alternate career programs we offer here that could recognize learning already acquired?

Including learning pathways – into programs, during/though out programs and upon graduation/completion of programs is important and will truly benefit adult learners. We cherish learning here – it is one of our RRC values. The new Academic Plan is an opportunity to more fully embrace and enhance these learning pathways.