Unlocking Potential: The crucial role of prior learning in education

By Dalhousie University - Faculty of Open Learning

In an era that values diverse educational pathways, Dalhousie University, Faculty of Open Learning and Career Development’s (FOLCD) Recognition of Prior Learning program has started making a significant impact of recognizing and embracing prior learning experiences and is gaining unprecedented attention. Prior Learning, often abbreviated as PL or RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning), is becoming a key driver in reshaping education and opening doors to opportunities for learners of all ages and backgrounds.

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A pathway to inclusivity and access

Recognizing Prior Learning acknowledges that learning doesn’t solely occur within the traditional classroom setting. It encompasses the wealth of knowledge acquired through work, life experiences, and self-directed learning. By embracing the varied experiences learners bring, educational institutions are creating more inclusive environments and breaking down barriers to access.

James Martin, Manager of Recognition of Prior Learning at the Faculty of Open Learning and Career Development states that, “At its core, prior learning revolves around recognizing and appreciating the distinctive journeys of individuals, and it aspires to establish educational systems that celebrate and respect diverse perspectives. By doing so, it fosters an inclusive learning environment that acknowledges the unique experiences and backgrounds of each learner.”

Martin stresses that, “this approach not only fosters a sense of belonging but also ensures that education is tailored to the unique needs and strengths of each learner.” Here at FOLCD, along with our collaboration and support with The Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration, we are focused on creating strategic and innovative methods to standardize an RPL process that allow diverse participants to enjoy their academic journeys.

Accelerating academic progress and career advancement

One of the key advantages of recognizing prior learning is the potential to accelerate academic progress. Individuals who have acquired skills and knowledge through work or other experiences may be eligible for credits, exemptions, or advanced placement. As we continue to develop and advance our RPL program, we have strengthened ways to bridge gaps between Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotian workforce ecosystem.            

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This recognition not only saves time and resources but also provides a seamless transition for learners seeking to build on their existing expertise. We here at FOLCD are seeing this in our continued collaborations and pathway partnerships, across the province. 

Moreover, the impact of FOLCD’s Prior Learning extends beyond the classroom. Many professionals find that their wealth of experience can be formally acknowledged, leading to enhanced career opportunities and growth. Employers increasingly value employees with a diverse set of skills and experiences, and Prior Learning provides a structured way to validate and credentialize these capabilities.

Fostering lifelong learning

Prior Learning aligns with the philosophy of lifelong learning and the various courses and programs that we offer at FOLCD, emphasizing that the pursuit of knowledge is not limited to specific phases of life. It encourages individuals to view their experiences as continuous learning opportunities. By acknowledging and building upon prior learning, institutions empower individuals to embark on a journey of constant self-improvement and skill development.

Institutional commitment to prior learning

Educational institutions are recognizing the transformative potential of Prior Learning. Many are investing in streamlined processes, like Destiny, to efficiently assess and credit prior learning experiences. Program Directors and Managers are being equipped with tools and training to better understand and evaluate the unique attributes of each learner’s journey.

The commitment to Prior Learning at FOLCD reflects a broader shift in education, acknowledging that the traditional model is evolving. It’s not just about what happens inside the classroom but also about recognizing and harnessing the wealth of knowledge that learners bring with them.

As we move forward, the emphasis on Prior Learning promises to reshape education into a more flexible, inclusive, and dynamic system that values the individual journey of each learner. We are open to exploring new collaborations. By unlocking the potential of prior experiences, we are not just building better students; we are cultivating a society of lifelong learners prepared for the challenges of the future.

Visit our faculty website today to explore more program options: www.dal.ca/openlearning.

This Content is made possible by our Sponsor; it is not written by and does not reflect the views of the editorial staff.

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