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The gaps between the academia and practitioners have long been a matter of discussion and debate in many sectors for so many years. The Academia provide depth of analysis of conceptual and theoretical frameworks whereas practitioners tend to have more of a focus on the application of the concepts and theories within the prevailing regulatory framework or industry practice. In various sectors, such as entrepreneurship, software development, etc. we have so many examples of successful entrepreneurs who with little formal training have been able to set-up and operate their businesses successfully, or software developers who without formal learning have been able to develop and launch successful software solutions. Yet, these same entrepreneurs and software developers, often struggle to get onto the pathway of formal education. A bridge to reach out to practitioners and encourage them to build on their track record and experience is the process of “Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). This is the process through which students can gain exemption to, or credit within a nationally recognised qualification course/s based on learning outcomes or competencies gained through formal, non-formal and informal learning.

Various educational institutions now have their own process for recognition of prior learning to allow students to capitalise on their experiences and prior learning as a foundation to their continued formal learning. One of the basic documents that applicants would need to prepare as part of an RPL application is what is referred to as a Portfolio. This is really a very detailed curriculum vitae which identifies and demonstrates the relevance of the applicants formal and non-formal learning as well as relevant work and personal experiences. The portfolio seeks to document and demonstrate the applicant’s knowledge and familiarity within the different subject areas it covers. It provides details of what was learned where and how the experiences identified serve to broaden the required knowledge and competence base. In this context details of work experience, projects or assignments undertaken are particularly important to demonstrate the practical experience and competence in the field.

The RPL process in an educational institution

A typical RPL process by an educational institution would include the following elements:

  1. Promotion of the RPL process and the general terms and conditions of its implementation: Details of the RPL process and the terms are usually provided on the institution’s website along with details on the guidance and assistance provided to applicants throughout the process
  2. Application process through Registrar’s Office: Details are provided on the application forms to be completed and the support documentation and activities that would need to be completed as an integral part of the RPL process. Typically, a liaison or support officer is nominated to guide and assist the applicant in the completion of the relevant documentation and processes.
  3. Submission of RPL Application and support documentation and activities: This will include interview/s and or submission of project work to demonstrate competence in the field of study for which recognition of prior experiences and learning is sought.
  4. Evaluation of submissions and assessment: The Evaluation committee will review the applicant’s submissions and performance in the relevant application events such as the interviews and project work requested and on the basis of pre-established evaluation rubrics assess the validity of the submission.
  5. Issue of statement of attainment: If the evaluation is successful, the institution will issue a statement of attainment confirming the details of the recognition of the prior learning and experience process.

RPL Benefits

Adults of all ages are becoming more aware of the importance of life-long learning and that formal education provides recognition of competences and opens opportunities on the job market. To many who may not have had the opportunity to pursue tertiary education, RPL provides a stepping-stone to get back on the track of formal education.

Recognition of Prior Learning processes benefit applicants by allowing them to validate and capitalise on their experiences and prior learning and it also benefits the institution as this tends to attract the more mature and experienced students that are an asset to any programme.

RPL recognises and acknowledges value of learning outside a formal setting, e.g. values and recognises learning in the workplace. In this regard many in-house training and development activities, including courses, internships, apprenticeships etc, have value and are taken into consideration in the RPL process.

RPL is a valuable process as it allows for the validation of learning students have achieved independently over the years in pursuit of their careers.

RPL is based on a basic educational principle to ensure that students should not have to learn what they already know. In this way, RPL eliminates and/or reduces unnecessary repetition and duplication of content material that may be already familiar to the student.

RPL helps to shorten the time necessary to earn a qualification as part/s of a programme may be waived due to the validity of the outcome of the RPL process. This helps to motivate students to complete more demanding graduate programmes that may take years but could be shortened through the RPL process.

RPL enhances students’ pride and self-esteem for what they have accomplished as independent learners and it enhances their perception and understanding of learning as a lifelong process that includes various types of formal and non-formal learning processes.

Employers’ Opportunities for motivation of staff through RPL

Employers should seek to encourage and motivate their staff to pursue their studies. The more competent and qualified their staff are, the greater is the contribution that staff can give to the organisation. Gone are the days of the top-down organisation which depended entirely on top management for its strategy and day-to-day operations. In today’s knowledge economy, modern organisations are flat and require staff at all levels to develop management competencies and capabilities. Modern organisations require collaborative teams, be they on site, or increasingly remote teams working via teleworking or across borders. RPL provides staff the opportunities they may have missed to pursue their studies. Employers need to recognise the importance of developing best practices within their organisations and the on-going pursuit of improved performance calls for on-going investment in training and development. Investing in staff is a long-term investment since it contributes towards the creation of a corporate culture built on meritocracy and sharing of knowledge, both of which are crucial to long term sustainability.

eBusiness Systems provides a range of customisable elearning tools which can be used by employers to provide training and development as well as mentoring support to staff. These development tools could be part of a company wide effort to help staff upskill. In this way, the training and development would serve to increase the knowledge base within the company and also improve the employability of each member of staff. Investments in setting up and maintaining such in-house elearning platforms will be eligible for various funding both though local COVID-19 and EU financed COVID-19 measures.