Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Developing RPL systems which supports today's flexible and responsive training system

When somebody approaches a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) to enrol in a Qualification, they will often already have some existing experiences/skills related to this Qualification.

Whilst discussing with this potential 'student/client' the type of training they would like to undertake, the conversation will often draw out these experience/skills.

For example: "I have been been the 'Secretary' for my local community organisation, and have been taking the Minutes of Meeting, helping to organise fundraising events, writing letters to local business/councils ... ".
This conversation should automatically prompt the Practitioner to offer an assessment of these existing experiences/skills as part of the 'Recognition of Prior Learning' (RPL) process.
However, this is not always the case.

Traditionally, the process of RPL has been seen as a labourious task, with the responsibility placed onto the student/client, to translate the 'VET jargon' of 'elements' and 'performance criteria' of each 'unit', to gather often hard to get, historical evidence, with the guidance of only a long checklist.

This process has been 'supported' through the need of RTO to provide appropriate evidence for auditing purposes of this form of assessment. Often the RPL process was so ownerous, that the Practitioner and student considered it easier to enrol and do the unit than go through the RPL process.

In February 2006, however, COAG made a strong contribution to addressing the Skills Shortages, by announcing that "Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is an essential feature of a flexible and responsive training system. The commitment of additional resources by COAG to increase the recognition of skills in times of skill shortages is an important initial step. All workers should have access to RPL prior to commencing training."

This was a big 'wake up call' for RTOs
But this was not going to be an easy task, and there was the need to identify 'best practice' examples of "RPL Well done".
Each State and Territory was then given COAG RPL funding, 'matched' by the State/Territory Government, "to build the capacity and capability of RTO’s working with industry to value existing skills of workers and enterprises", and develop RPL processes which would:

- develop easy to access and understand (ie non-VET jargon) RPL information processes which supported and guided students/clients through the RPL process, with the lead of a Practitioner/Assessor
- create conversations, through a system of 'training needs analysis', which would help Practitioners/Assessors identify students'/clients' existing experience/skills, as potential RPL, before any training was started
- allow Practitioners/Assessors to use their 'Professional Judgement' to determine whether a student/client was 'competent' and what evidence was required to verify this, and how the Practitionery/Assessor might access this information
The COAG funding has been used slightly differently in each State/Territory, however, the main outcomes have been to:
- upskill existing Practitioners/Assessors/RTOs to develop suitable RPL systems which cater for the needs of their industry
- challenge current Practitioner/Assessor/RTO mindsets and cultures surrounding the RPL process
- enable Practitioners/Assessors and RTO Auditors to develop their understanding of 'Professional Judgement' in the RPL process
- incorporate Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)/e-tools and resources, which support the RPL process - particularly in the areas of information provision and tracking of evidence
- encourage Practitioners/Assessors to share their RPL process through Communities of Practice (RPL Network online RON; My Connected Community MC2)
A range of ICT/e-tools and resources have been identified to support the RPL process:

- pod/vodcasts, e-Portfolios, digital stories, DVD/CDs, Learning Management Systems, blogs/wikis etc
These 'tools/resources' will, however, NOT replace the role of the Practitioner as the RPL Assessor, but could provide guidance and support to aid the RPL process, provided they have a presented in a 'humanistic/user-friendly' model.
What ways are you/your organisation doing to develop systems of RPL which support today's flexible and responsive training system?

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