Opinion // 23.03.2017 // Curated by Ed.

Credit Where It’s Due

The problem of recognising learners’ knowledge and their mastery of information and skills outside traditional course assessment has always been a challenge.  It’s a relief to see the Productivity Commission recognise that we must address it with urgency.

When a student transfers from one institution to another part-way through a qualification, they often face a penalty in terms of the credits they need to get from their new provider. This means more time and more money.

When a student enters an institution from the workforce, even with substantial professional experience, they can be required to take courses in their field of expertise just to satisfy credit rules – rather than proving that their knowledge/mastery is at the required level. Again, this means more time and more money.

In a world where it is being forecast that more people are going to have to retrain in new fields as current careers become obsolete, we need a broader understanding of what education is and a more flexible approach to accrediting learners for what they know and what they can do.

The Productivity Commission have released the final report for their inquiry into new models of tertiary education. They have made some recommendations that support giving credit where it’s due:

1. Make it easier for students to move institutions

The Commission makes a case for a more seamless, navigable credit transfer approach to make it easier for students to complete their studies across multiple institutions.

They have gone as far as recommending the establishment of an authority to resolve disputes between learners and institutions about credit transfers.

This is a significant move in putting the learner at the centre of their learning, rather than the institution.

2. Encourage recognition of prior learning

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is the practice of recognising someone’s level of knowledge and expertise gained in the workplace. For example, a student has worked as the Marketing Director for a company and decides to go and complete a qualification. Rather than take some marketing and management papers as part of their programme, RPL processes would assess them for their knowledge and skills in those areas which they have gained in the workplace and then provide them with credit towards their qualification.

Aside from making great sense generally and reducing the time-cost of studying material unnecessarily, if the future plays out as predicted, more people currently in work will need to retrain. This way, they can focus only on the new stuff they need to learn, rather than bloating their study programme with unnecessary courses.

As part of informing our submission to the Commission, we asked learners the following questions:

a. Do you think students should be able to move institutions without academic penalty?

From 1371 responses, 71% answered ‘Yes’, 12% responded ‘No’ and the remaining 17% were ‘Not sure’.

b. How interested would you be in completing your studies in different parts of the country?

From 745 responses, 56% were ‘Somewhat interested’ or ‘Very interested’, 13% answered ‘Don’t know’, and 31% said they were ‘Not at all interested’.

c. If you could learn and be accredited for your skills through working in your chosen industry, would you?

From 743 responses, 83% said ‘Yes’, just 4% said ‘No’ and 13% responded ‘Not sure’.

d. Do you think more work or volunteer experience should be able to be assessed for learning credit?

From 743 responses, 73% said ‘Yes’, 10% said ‘No’ and 17% responded ‘Not sure’.

We told the Commission what the results of our surveys were and we are delighted to see recommendations come back that line up with what learners told us.