Wednesday, February 9, 2011

HECB would convene workgroup to promote prior learning goals

A workgroup convened by the HECB would focus on increasing the number of students who receive academic credit for prior learning obtained through work, military, or other experience under a bill approved by the House Higher Education Committee on Monday.
Under SHB 1522, the workgroup would strive to ensure that academic credit for prior learning that counts toward college degrees or certificates would only be awarded when the prior learning demonstrates “high quality, course-level competencies.”
In addition to the HECB, other workgroup participants would include the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, the Council of Presidents, and representatives of higher education institutions, faculty, private career schools, and business and labor.
Convening a workgroup to implement prior learning goals was one of the recommendations in a report submitted to the Legislature by the SBCTC in December.  Last year, the Legislature directed the SBCTC to consult with stakeholder groups and develop policies for awarding academic credit for experience gained outside the traditional academic arena.
According to the SBCTC report, “People gain a wealth of experience through both formal and informal learning experiences. There is no reason to re-learn skills and knowledge in the college classroom—and pay for the opportunity to do so—if there is a process in place to assess and award credit for this prior learning, as it applies to the course or programs for which the person would receive credit. 
At a public hearing on SHB 1522, a representative of The Evergreen State College said about 30 students per year take advantage current prior learning programs at the institution.  Other institutions are believed to offer some credit for prior learning as well.
Supporters say awarding prior learning credit frees classroom space for students who don’t have the experience, and it benefits the economy by delivering more credentialed workers sooner. The HECB supports the bill.
“We think recognition of prior learning in terms of credit is a way to accelerate the path to completion for students and is an efficiency measure for the system as a whole,” said Chris Thompson, the HECB’s Director of Government, College & University Relations.

Under SHB 1522, other goals of the workgroup would include:
  • Increasing the number and type of academic credits accepted for prior learning by institutions;
  • Developing transparent policies and practices in awarding prior learning credit;
  • Creating tools to develop faculty and staff knowledge and expertise about prior learning;
  • Developing articulation agreements when patterns of credit for prior learning are identified for particular programs and pathways; and
  • Developing outcome measures to track progress on achieving the goals of the legislation. 

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