Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) - not as confusing as that


Passion4Performance (P4P) is the market leading platform for providing an ePortfolio Of Evidence (ePOE). For many, the offering of an ePOE is, well, too good to be true, as it decreases: unnecessary training costs, unnecessary time out of the workplace for training, postage and time to competence certification, whilst increases: continued access to #Assessors, #Moderators and #Verifiers, immediate #feedback on learning gained and accuracy of assessment. (Click here to download the ROI calculator)


We enable the #Employee to use their performance at work, as evidence to build a P.O.E., upload it, get assessed and then gain credits should they meet the criteria. In this write up I am going to cover the following topics:

  1. What is Recognition of Prior learning (RPL)?

  2. What can RPL be used for?

  3. What is required for RPL?

  4. What does RPL “cost” me?

  5. How P4P Enables this.

If you are a leader in a business, wanting to decrease training hours because it hurts productivity, then consider reading on.

I received so many responses from my first article, The Electronic Portfolio of Evidence, to write about Recognition of Prior Learning, and how it is enabling an epic disruption of the #Education system - in lure of learning and validation of learning. So here it is - and the role we are playing to make this work.


What is Recognition of Prior learning (RPL)?

RPL is not a “quick fix” for not attending formal training. 80% of what we learn is learned through Informal and Non formal learning ways. This happens in the workplace, in our communities and when we are having fun, using workplace buddies, trial and error, touching what we should not touch, and by experiencing workplace/life activities.

#RPL enables people to take their historic learning and demonstrate their competence to gain Credits, Certificates and Qualifications - without attending a training class. (And until P4P, it has been virtually impossible for this process to be achieved, and so mostly ignored.)

#RPL enables the people to take their learning and demonstrate their competence to gain Credits, Certificates and Qualifications

#RPL is a process, that enables people to "short cut" validation of their experience, and they can literally be #QualifiedByExperience. In the world of bus-i-ness, limited resources and pressure, the future to remain ahead of the competition is based on engagement and closing the distance between performance, assessment and feedback.


What can RPL be used for?

  1. RPL for Qualification / Credits: this is the current successes being experienced with P4P in business. In this scenario, a person can demonstrate, through a P.O.E., that they can perform against a set of assessment criteria set by a training provider, education institute or governing body. Following the same assessment protocol, as if they attended training, get assessed, moderated and if successful achieve either a full qualification or part of the qualification (credits) and provided with an accurate skills or learning gap.

  2. RPL for ACCESS: This is predominantly what RPL has been up until now and used mostly by the Universities. This is where e.g. a person wants to begin a "Masters" programme, but does not have an "Honours" Qualification to apply. The Institution then awards the person entry into the Masters if they have the correct competence (or if they can write a good test). At this point the University will NOT award the person the actual Honours certification, they will only give them access to the Masters (and bypass the honours). So, kinda, sorry for you - you won't get the evidence of the Honours.

  3. RPL for DESIGNATION: "A professional designation is a 'stamp of approval' that a person can earn from an organization, demonstrating to employers and their clients that the person has achieved a particular standard of excellence in their field of work." [1] there are currently so many different organisations that you can belong to, you pay your annual subs and then are awarded Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points, by keeping your skills sharp through the year. (That's assuming that attending a conference is keeping your skills sharp). Now, if you pay enough and submit a qualification/certificate to the organisation, you get awarded that specific "Designation". But the missing element here is those who have the skills and the right to be awarded that "Designation", but have not had the privilege to attend formal study. Yet, given a good set of assessment criteria they could be RPL'ed into a "Designation", and they can keep up their CPD points based on applied competence.

  4. RPL for PROMOTION: So you have been acting in a position for two years now, performing the tasks well, (according to your performance reviews), and every time you approach HR they say: "sorry, but you don't have the correct Qualification to be promoted." Well, if your organisation is progressive enough, then you should be able to get hold of the Job description / profile of the position that you want to be promoted into, build your P.O.E. proving that you can do that Job, through skills application, not a written test. Submit that P.O.E. to a recognised #Assessor, who reviews your P.O.E., and recommends either:

1. You get the job - or -

2. Provides you with a skills gap to close in order to get the job. (not linked to a missing qualification.)


What is required for RPL?

For RPL to be an option there is are two common requirements for all four scenario's:

Firstly: the candidate must have a significant amount of expertise in the subject that they want to RPL for. (P4P recommend to our clients x 1.5 the number of notional hours of the live training programme.)

Secondly: a GOOD assessment criteria: Just using a #knowledge or written test, by itself, is NOT a good assessment tool. As this ONLY assesses knowledge and not skills application.


Here is an example: If I ask you what to do if your car gets into a slide on a slippery road (oil spill, black ice, heavy snow, wet tar etc...), I am sure you will be able to explain to me what to do. Now, if I sit in the car with you and when you are not expecting it, you get into a slip, what will you do? there are a few scenarios:

1. You will do what you said

2. you will freeze and do nothing,

3. You will react in a careless way. 66% of these scenario's end badly. Yet, as the assessments currently go, because you can write a knowledge test - you have the credits or qualification, without demonstration.

For RPL to be an option a GOOD assessment criteria is required

You see the starting place for learning should be a diagnostic assessment, and these should be the SAME assessment criteria that is offered at the END of a training programme (I.e. Summative Assessment). Where providers confuse the matter is they try and create different criteria for RPL candidates opposed to the assessment criteria of the live training candidates. This is then not measuring Apples with Apples. If a person can actually DO the task/s as defined by your assessment criteria, you can be fairly comfortable that they do have the knowledge required. However, if they can NOT do the tasks, then you should check their knowledge on HOW to do the task. (Test Knowledge Second, Test Skills First).

It is here that most training, education, and workplace assessment fall down, in that they are not well designed. Universities and Learning institutes design them for knowledge reasons, workplaces design them for legislative reasons, and too often the operation and productivity is ignored (daily workplace checklists). In P4P we have deciphered the code for aligning all three reasons into an assessment criteria for your organisation, using the skills you require as the baseline for assessment, and the aligning these to the Qualification / designations on offer / required.



Click here to have an assessment experience for fun

What does RPL “cost” me?

According to the SAQA RPL legislation - the training provider should review the costs of the training course and remove all the costs that will not be incurred by the provider for the RPL candidate. This pretty much reduces the cost by 75%-80% for an RPL candidate who is not going to attend a training course. #RPL simply carries that cost of the #Assessor, the #Moderator, the #Verification, the #Administration, adding 20% for profit and #P4P (the system to reduce your printing, posting, re-posting and then couriering costs). So for a provider that charges R40'000 for a 2 year qualification, the RPL route should be around the R10'000.00. So your business AND your employees win, because you can put 4 people onto a learning pathway for the price of 1.


Yep, imagine using your training spend on NEEDED skills development, not blanket approach for all.

But for the learner, the costs are slightly different because Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is not for the faint hearted! There is a lot of evidence artefacts (documents, videos, audio, etc...) that needs to be gathered for the #RPL assessment. Then there is the #TIME commitment, that a #RPL candidate must commit to. As #P4P we believe that up to NQF level 6 if a RPL candidate can not complete a 360 Credit Qualification within 3 months, they are not an RPL candidate, but a live learning candidate.


How P4P Enables this.

We offer the interface between the RPL candidate, the assessment criteria, the #Assessor the #Moderator and the #Verifyer. Where the learner completes a self assessment (not really an option prior to P4P) - alerting the assessor it is time to conduct an assessment. Upon completion of the assessment the learner is provided with immediate feedback on their performance, with a accurate skills development gap, and a fully completed report by the system. This then can be pushed for immediate Moderation and Verification. We have managed to decrease the current 6-8 month backlog of verification's (through numerous SETA's) to between 14-30 days. Again, we are not an LMS nor an E-learning system, we are the missing piece between those and the qualifications. Here are the questions to ask:

  1. Does your system allow for RPL of any programme for any learner who does not need any training or E-learning requirements?

  2. Have you been able to demonstrate the assessment, Internal Moderation through to external verification using your system and decreasing time to certification with any of the SETA’s.

  3. Does your system allow portability of the learners POE AND ASSESSMENT results at no extra cost after the assessment process is complete?

Contact us for assistance with your RPL strategy and implementation.

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