Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Experience at CAPLA 2014 Recognizing Learning Conference

I recently participated and presented in the '2014 Recognizing Learning Conference' organized by CAPLA (The Canadian Association for Prior  Learning Assessment) in Ottawa, Canada, November 2 – 4, 2014This was my first time attending a CAPLA conference and I can say that I was impressed with all the intellectual capital that gathered inside the beautiful Fairmont Chateau Laurier. The conference gave participants a chance to reflect about and discuss various elements of PLAR and how it is relevant for all stakeholders including learners, institutions and countries. 

PLAR/RPL stands for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition of Prior Learning. PLAR provides an opportunity for learners to identify and gain recognition for existing learning - what they already know and can do. This learning may be formal, informal or experiential. The recognition may be in the form of credits in a course or program or educational or experiential equivalency. Prior learning can be assessed in many ways including portfolio of evidence, tests and challenge exams, competency discussions and interviews and hands-on demonstrations. More recently, the concepts of using e-portfolios and open badges to recognize prior learning is a hot-topic.

It was a fantastic conference with a great line-up of speakers. All the sessions were extremely engaging and insightful. But some sessions especially stood out for me including:

 - Keynote by Ellis Edgars from from Haida Gwaii who participated in the Aboriginal University Bridging Program at Vancouver Island University and created a portfolio based on his prior learning, and returned home to Haida Gwaii with a renewed desire to connect with his culture and community.
 - Roundtable on Removing the Canadian Experience Barrier – Recognizing Experience, Facilitating Learning by Hon. Jean Augustine, PC, CM, Fairness Commissioner, Office of the Fairness Commissioner; Gillian Pichler, Director, Registration, Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia;Sam DiGiandomenico, Registrar, Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists; Priya Bhatia, Manager, Licensing and Accreditation, Law Society of Upper Canada
 - Open Badges and the Recognition of Learning by Don Presant, Learning Agents (you can see some of his work on open badges here)
 - Where did I learn that?” Exploring and Recognizing Random Learning: the 4th learning type by Frank Vandenburg

I co-presented a session on "Assessing the Employability of Immigrants in Skilled Trades" with Nigel Lloyd, CamProf Inc and Eva Schausberger, CamProf Inc  with inputs from Jim Tallman, North Pacific Training & Performance Inc. 

My top 5 take-aways from the CAPLA conference were:

  1. For all employable workforce, PLAR/RPL can help provide alternate career paths and new ways of utilizing existing skills and competencies. 
  2. For immigrants to Canada, using PLAR/RPL principles can help remove some of the  barriers associated with existing requirements of Canadian experience. 
  3. PLAR/RPL practitioners need to embrace digital tools and technology and encourage the use of e-portfolios and open badges as a way of recognizing learning and motivating learners to quickly move along pre-defined career pathways.
  4. PLAR/RPL principles are as good as the systems and processes that support it. The roles and responsibilities of advisor, assessor and administrator/facilitator are key to the delivery of quality RPL services.
  5. Design and development of competency-based training curricula/learning systems is critical to the success of PLAR/RPL initiatives. What really matters for PLAR is that learning is demonstrable; that the learner can do what they know. 
As an instructional designer, I have a role to play in the success of PLAR/RPL initiatives. I strive to design and develop learning systems that focus on performance and help learners demonstrate a specific set of competencies. With that I am hoping that learners, institutions and countries can focus on competencies and not course titles.