Friday, June 12, 2009

Course Entry Requirements - Recognising Learning from Experience

If you are thinking about taking a course, for example any of the NCI courses in the prospectus, you may see in the entry requirements that it is necessary for students to have a specific level of degree (e.g. honours degree) or a certificate or diploma to gain entry.

These conditions are necessary so that all students are able to participate effectively and teaching staff can make certain assumptions about the level of prior knowledge people will have.

However, there is a down side to this in that sometimes very good potential students miss out because on paper they are not deemed to meet the entry level requirements.
We've all come across examples in our work where people with significant experience and competence in a particular field are not necessarily the most qualified in the formal academic sense.

Not many people know this but there is a mechanism whereby anyone can obtain a formal academic credit (yes I mean a degree, diploma or certificate) by means of providing evidence that they have achieved the learning outcomes equivalent to a recognised qualification.No this is not some e-mail scam to give people cheap meaningless degrees from a little known US private college - this is the policy of our own Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) and it is enshrined in the legislation used to establish this national awarding authority.

Here is where you apply to HETAC for this process.

It is now accepted that there are three contexts in which learning occurs:
formal learning - this is when you undertake a course of study usually with a view to obtaining a formal award or qualification;
non-formal learning that takes place sometimes in the workplace (e.g. training courses) or community or voluntary sectors - although often assessed it does not normally lead to formal certification
and informal learning - sometimes referred to as experiential learning and takes place through life and is often not recognised a s learning by the individual concerned. Experience is the key driver for new knowledge and the development of competence.

Educators now recognise that all three of these contexts are important sites for learning. The challenge is that accreditation bodies need formal systems to measure learning outcomes and understandably they require that potential candidates produce a portfolio of evidence which is accessed and verified by an academic panel.

To go back to the entry requirements for courses - did you know that it is possible to make a case that your extensive experience should be taken into account when apply for a course where, on paper you do not appear to meet the entry requirements.

All colleges operate such a scheme - this is especially the case in NCI where wider access to learning is our core mission.

The process requires that the applicant undergo some form of appraisal to demonstrate that they have achieved the equivalent learning outcomes as those with formal qualifications.

This may involve preparing a portfolio of experience or writing an essay or assignment to demonstrate your competence - in all events it will be evidence based.

If you really want to do the course and feel that you know more about the area through experience - you can prove your case through accreditation by prior experiential learning (APEL) - its more straightforward than you think.

So go on! What are you waiting for.
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