The issue involves one institution awarding PLAR credits, and when a student then transfers to a similar program at another institution or applies to a higher level program after graduating, the second institution may not recognize the PLAR credits. The concern exists predominantly in the gap between program levels, for example a diploma graduate applying to a baccalaureate program, a baccalaureate graduate applying to a master's program. It is thought that if this is left unaddressed, increasing PLAR practices may well lower a barrier at one educational level, while raising a barrier at the next (Advancing PLAR in Alberta -- an Action Plan, 2009).
Another problem that has been associated with PLAR is institutional funding for both human resources and operations. There is a concern among institutions about being required to implement or increase their PLAR practices without additional government funding to support it. Most institutions currently do not have a dedicated manager to coordinate PLAR assessments. Human resources are also required to advise candidates about the PLAR process, and to develop and evaluate the PLAR assessments (Advancing PLAR in Alberta -- an Action Plan, 2009).
Some institutions have noted that workload issues can be a problem for the faculty tasked with developing and evaluating PLAR assessments, as well as for the manager responsible for coordinating PLAR programs. It has been noted that PLAR is resource intensive and requires different types of assessments created for different types of programs, which can be expensive and complicated. Other institutions have noted that the time required moving through the PLAR process from initial advising and application to awarding credit is work intensive for PLAR candidates and institutions. Candidates often expect immediate results, but depending on the course being challenged and whether or not PLAR assessment tools already exist for it, the process may require considerable development (Advancing PLAR in Alberta -- an Action Plan, 2009).
Marketing has also been identified as being an issue. It is thought that marketing directed to students, faculty, and institution staff needs to be increased. It is thought that some students may not be aware that PLAR exists while others may think PLAR is an easy way to get credits and don't understand the rigor, cost, and expectations that are involved. In addition, faculty and other institution staff members may also be unclear about what PLAR really is and how to implement it. It has been suggested that without effective and accurate information about PLAR, faculty buy-in will be difficult (Advancing PLAR in Alberta -- an Action Plan, 2009).
There have also been issues with quality assurance. There is concern that quality assurance practices need to be in place for PLAR to assure confidence in the outcomes of PLAR assessments. In order to make sure that there is quality training of staff and faculty is essential. Managers require training on the PLAR coordination process; advisors need training on how to adequately assist candidates, and faculty need training on how to develop and evaluate PLAR assessments efficiently and effectively (Advancing PLAR in Alberta -- an Action Plan, 2009).
It is thought that adults learn in many different ways throughout the course of their lives. Social skills are developed over years and technical skills are increased at work and at home as needs arise. Many adults have had to learn computer skills in recent years due to the technological explosion that has occurred. Their labors in the volunteer sector and in their leisure time all add to adult learning. Unfortunately, many people have no way of documenting or verifying their knowledge and skills. PLAR is a practice that helps adults to display and obtain recognition for their learning acquired outside of formal education settings. PLAR focuses on what adults know and can do (Information on Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition in Canada, 2010).
PLAR is used to look at a person's knowledge and skills in relation to specific standards. The association of clear, measurable criteria is the key to a high-quality PLAR process. An assortment of techniques is often used to assess prior learning. Some organizations offer portfolio development courses. A portfolio is a controlled collection of documents and other items that show what an individual knows and can do (Information on Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition in Canada, 2010).
PLAR has several benefits. It helps to move forward access to education when formal credentials are not well understood. It helps place learners at appropriate levels within educational programs. It gets rid of the need for students to study things that they already know. It helps learners develop clear educational goals and plans. Research has indicated that PLAR also progresses learner confidence, self-esteem, and motivation. If an institution's course offerings are flexible, PLAR can reduce students' program workloads and costs. PLAR can also help to figure out if people need additional training, and it can reduce costs by determining training needs more accurately (Information on Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition in Canada, 2010).
Advancing PLAR in Alberta -- an Action Plan. (2009). Retrieved July 22, 2010, from Web site: