| (Adapted from myarticle “Technology for Online Portfolio Assessment Programs” published in the Journal of Continuing Higher Education) |
Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) programs across the country will continue to grow in the coming years. There’s plenty of data that supports that prediction, along with the harsh reality that the amount of technology used in existing PLA programs haven’t caught up to the advancements in the field. Institutions establishing new PLA programs will be forced to identify ways to make their PLA programs more accessible to a diverse group of adult learners and more scalable to serve these learners. This is where technology steps in to play a large part in the improvement of many existing PLA programs and the development of new ones.
We all know that there are several methods for measuring prior learning, especially at the college level. I want to focus on portfolio assessment as a tool for assessing learning that is acquired from experience because there is great potential for technology here. While there are many commercial products that can be considered for portfolio assessment, most lack the required functionality an experiential portfolio demands, such as the backend operational processes to administer the program and to provide student support throughout the development, submission, and evaluation processes. Components which are unique yet necessary to have when serving large numbers of adult learners experiencing demands that are more likely to affect their persistence and at times even delay graduation.
KNEXT developed a software solution for an online portfolio development and assessment process that was piloted in early 2009 with Kaplan University Online students. Based on the success of this Learning Recognition Program, KNEXT has since focused on helping higher education institutions build or enhance their PLA offerings and online portfolio management. The streamlined, technology-dependent approach boasts a platform that is user-friendly and can easily integrate into the institutions’ existing systems. Qualities which are much appreciated when implementing a PLA program.
Here are some things to consider before implementing a technology-based portfolio assessment program:
At KNEXT, we’ve learned that the needs of institutions vary, which is why we don’t believe in a one-size fits all approach. Using online technology, we strive to seamlessly integrate our Learning Recognition Program with the institution’s student or learning management platform while working to customize the process, and our resources to best meet their current and future needs. In the end, our mission is to continue improving our processes and systems to provide the best experience for institutions and their audience of adult learners.
- Set Standards
According to *Fiddler, Marienau, and Whitaker (2006), the Ten Standards for Assessing Learning established by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) are paramount to a solid PLA program. The standards provide guidance for academic and administrative processes and afford institutions the opportunity to provide high quality PLA offerings. In addition, institutions should strive to hold all students to the same academic standards regardless of how the learning was acquired. A great way to do this is to require all students to meet the same learning outcomes regardless of the method of acquisition.
- Organize A Plan
It is critical to develop a detailed plan that encompasses all aspects of the portfolio development and assessment process. The plan should include information about key stakeholders, the assessment process from all perspectives (student, evaluator, administration, etc.), student needs, requirements of the process, and a realistic timeline for development and implementation. The timeline will depend on the resources available and should include major milestones for system and process development and implementation.
- Establish Institutional Commitment
Never underestimate the power and need for institutional commitment. One department cannot develop a software solution for the process in isolation. It is critical to obtain or create acceptance of the process and the software solution among the institution’s leadership and other key decision makers. It is also critical to obtain a commitment from the institution’s faculty. Commitment is conveyed by the establishment and approval of a solid, transparent PLA policy.