CHAPTER 13

NON-TRADITIONAL LEARNING

RECOMMENDATION

Evaluate non-traditional learning on the basis of learning outcomes

It is important to establish a clear and transparent set of criteria specifically for recognising non-traditional learning with learning outcomes as the key consideration. Qualifications obtained through non-traditional learning may appear substantially different to those acquired through formal learning, with the former perhaps identified in terms of hours, weeks, theory and practice time (if indeed definable), and the latter often expressed in terms of credits. Such learning can thus prove difficult to evaluate since criteria used for evaluating formal qualifications can not necessarily be applied in the same way and it is important to focus on the achieved learning outcomes evident from the differing learning paths. Having a searchable record of previous credit/recognition outcomes for non-traditional learning will ensure transparency and consistency in the application of evaluation criteria and assist new staff.

Information tools for evaluating non-traditional learning

Useful tools for the evaluation of non-traditional learning may include letters of recommendation/references and mobility documents such as the Europass Mobility Supplement, for instance, which details learning outcomes acquired through a period of training abroad.

The European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning may also be considered as a tool to evaluate non-traditional learning. The EQF-LLL applies to all types of education, and promotes the validation of non-formal and informal learning. The outcomes of non-traditional learning may be compared to the learning outcomes of the eight reference levels of the EQF-LLL.

FLEXIBLE LEARNING PATHS

RECOMMENDATION

How to evaluate flexible learning paths

Qualifications based on a flexible learning pathway should be evaluated in the same way as a similar qualification awarded by that institution which was obtained in the non-flexible traditional way.

The competent recognition authority should accept that the higher education institution awarding a qualification which is based on a flexible learning pathway has assessed that the learning outcomes of the qualification have been achieved by the graduate.

The relevant quality assurance agency, if there is one, guarantees that the predefined (minimum) quality of the programme and/or institution meets these quality standards, whatever flexible learning path the student took. For more information about this, please turn to chapter ‎3: “Accreditation and Quality Assurance (status of the institution)”.

Information tools for evaluating flexible learning paths

Useful information tools include the Diploma Supplement (see chapter ‎6: “Diploma Supplement (and other information tools) for more information) which may provide information regarding the flexible learning paths in the relevant higher education, and the Self-Certification reports of the countries participating in the Bologna Process which detail information regarding the flexible learning paths and learning outcomes in the higher education systems. The self-certification reports are published on this website: http://www.enic-naric.net/index.aspx?s=n&r=ena&d=qf

RECOGNITION OF PRIOR LEARNING (RPL)

RECOMMENDATION

How to evaluate qualifications based on RPL

Foreign qualifications which have partly or fully been awarded by an institution through recognition of prior learning should be evaluated in the same way as similar qualifications awarded by that institution obtained in the traditional way.

The following should be taken into consideration:

  • the competent recognition authority should accept that the higher education institution awarding a qualification which is based on a flexible learning pathway has assessed that the learning outcomes of the qualification have been achieved by the graduate;
  • there are many cases in which RPL is not part of the quality assurance procedure;
  • competent RPL authorities might not appear on the usual lists of recognised higher education institutions. If this is the case you are recommended to find out whether the institution is authorised according to national legislation to issue a RPL qualification. If you cannot find this information, please contact the ENIC/NARIC or national recognition information centre in the country where the institution is established;
  • the qualification and transcript – even when in compliance with the institutional norms - might look different, for example workload and number of credits (if the RPL is given value in credits) or the list of subjects.

Example 1: Evaluation of an RPL-based qualification

OPEN/DISTANCE LEARNING

RECOMMENDATION

How to evaluate qualifications based on open/distance learning

Credential evaluators should verify the status of the institution providing distance learning and/or distance learning programme through which the qualification was awarded.

Where the distance learning providers and/or a distance learning programme are recognised and/or accredited, credential evaluators should assess qualifications awarded by distance learning programmes in accordance with the provisions of the Lisbon Recognition Convention and Recommendation on Criteria and procedures for the Assessment of Foreign Qualifications.

Qualifications based on an open/distance learning pathway should be evaluated in the same way as similar qualifications obtained in the traditional way.

Check-list for evaluating open/distance learning

When assessing qualifications obtained through open/distance learning (ODL), it is recommended to check:

  • which authorities are responsible for recognition and/or accreditation of distance learning programmes in the home country of the provider of the distance learning programme; Recognition/accreditation of distance learning may be done by specialised distance learning accreditors, or by general institution or programmatic accreditors, or both. The important thing is that they must be properly recognised accrediting agencies;
  • if the distance education programme was properly recognised and/or accredited in the home country of the provider;
  • what the legal provisions are regarding distance learning in the home country of the provider of the distance learning programme;
  • whether the provider of the ODL–programme was authorised to provide ODL-programmes (taking into account that even a legitimate higher education institutions may have to fulfil additional requirements and/or be granted a special permit to provide distance learning programmes);
  • whether the distance learning programme was delivered in accordance with the relevant legal provisions of the home country of the provider;
  • in case the programme requires physical on-site presence of the students for such reasons as taking examinations or defending a thesis and these were organised in a country different from the home country of the programme provider (e.g. in the home country of a student), make sure it was done in accordance with the legal regulations of this country;
  • if any evidence of fraud exists.

In the case of a positive outcome of the verification, credential evaluators should assess the qualification using the same criteria and procedures as in case of any other foreign national qualification.

Example 2: Accredited online bachelor programme

Example 3: Non-accredited distance learning bachelor programme