Prior Learning Assessment At UWI Open

Dr. Long [Left] Nam [Right]
Dr. Long [Left] Nam [Right]

PRIOR Learning Assessment, or PLA, is an initiative of The UWI Open Campus which allows persons with relevant experiential learning to continue their formal education. At present, PLA is available to persons who meet the requirements for admission to The UWI through qualifications.

PLA offers individuals an opportunity to identify, document, and have their relevant learning outcomes evaluated for academic credit for advanced placement into an undergraduate degree programme. PLA for advancement allows students to:
• earn up to 7 courses of the degree programme of their choice;
• complete their degree in a shorter time;
• save money since they would not need to take courses for which they can demonstrate relevant prior learning;
• continue to work and study towards reaching educational goals;
• grow in self-esteem;
• build self-awareness and confidence;
• receive validation for experiential learning;
• hone writing and organizational skills;
• sharpen analytical and reflective skills; and
• acquire new knowledge and skills from the PLA process.

The Open Campus also plans to make PLA for Matriculation available to students who do not have the required formal qualifications, to gain admission to the programmes of The UWI.

To ensure that PLA is the best option for individuals interested in PLA, prescreening, advisement and mentorship services are provided by the PLA Unit. Students wishing to take PLA for advanced placement enrol in an online Prior Learning and Portfolio Development/Assessment course: PLPD0100. They are instructed by a Course Coordinator and guidedin the preparation of an electronic learning portfolio for assessment by at least two subject content experts. The portfolio is developed according to specific guidelines. It includes the student’s resumé; a narrative of their educational goals; learning statements developed by the students to align their prior learning with a set of criteria that describe the learning outcomes for a particular course; and supporting documentation. The student’s learning claims (i.e. the learning from experience) must be supported. For example, if the student states that they attended an on-the-job training workshop, the employer or organiser would be required to attest that the training took place. The PLA process is both a rigorous, and rewarding one.

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PLA is for persons who, for example, opted to work after graduating secondary school; chose to go the entrepreneurial route established small businesses; decided to work in the family business turned a hobby into a thriving business. It is for persons who have experiential learning in areas such as accounting, banking and finance, early childhood development and family studies, management, and youth development work. Whatever path individuals may have taken, having now accumulated a body of learning from their experiences, they may apply their relevant learning from experience to formal educational pursuits.

What PLA does is to evaluate the accumulated learning of individuals for academic credit.PLA acknowledges the value of an individual’s relevant learning achieved through experience. It recognizes informal and non-formal learning gained from attending short courses, on-the-job training, workshops, community or volunteer work, and other similar activities where knowledge and skills are acquired. Fully aware of its social and economic responsibility, The UWI Open Campus expresses its openness, accessibility and inclusion by offering PLA.

Student, Nicole Nam shares that the Prior Learning Assessment course was a rewarding experience; one that has had a tremendous impact on her life. “The course has helped me to eliminate the need to study the things I have already acquired and allowed me to put into perspective my prior knowledge as it relates to the course. It has given me the confidence to speak openly about myself and motivate me to share with others about the great opportunity to access credit through the appropriate education programme”.

Her advice for those who are considering or have not yet considered Prior Learning Assessment as a course to venture into is “to go for it, don’t be afraid. I was once there wondering to myself if this was the right choice of course for me but making the leap of faith and moving ahead was the right choice. The Course Coordinator was patient and helpful and made the process so much easier”.

Persons wishing to find out more about PLA at The UWI Open Campus may visit http://www.open.uwi.edu/pla, email the PLA Unit at [email protected], or contact The UWI Open Campus PLA Unit at (246) 417-4508. In addition, prospective PLA applicants are required to complete a PLA pre-advisement e-Form available on the PLA Website http://www.open.uwi.edu/pla

By Dr Janetha Long
Programme Officer, Prior Learning
UWI Open Campus

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