Dustin’s Article Discussion
I have chosen to respond to Dianne Conrad’s article, “Situating Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) in an Online Learning Environment.” The article outlines the Online PLAR Program at Athabasca University.
I just completed ED 319 Preparing For PLAR in May of this year. PLAR makes up Milestone two and three of the B.Ed (HRD) program. It happed to be the first distance course I have taken and was surprised with how well it worked out for me. The course was taught by Natalie Worthen who is the Coordinator of Professional Development at Holland College. She did a great job setting up the course on SAM. In the past, the course used to follow a blended delivery format. Our class was the first time she has taught the course completely online. Natalie was easily accessible through e-mail or by phone anytime I had a question relating to the course.
The distance learning format was extremely well suited for my busy family, work, and school schedule. It allowed greater flexibility and reduced barriers that would have otherwise not allowed me to take the course. I worked on the it during my free time and often took breaks (sometimes for weeks at a time) to work on other projects. However, I had little difficulty picking up where I left off even after long periods.
PLAR is a unique course that focuses on personal reflection, selection of artifacts and verification of evidence. This is not a fast process, actually quite the opposite. The PLAR process encourages reflective, experiential, and active learning to help students realize the value of their past non-formal learning. PLAR helps to identify areas of strength that creates a type of learning platform. A known place to start formal education. In addition, it is used to acquire credits toward specific academic programs.
In the article Conrad states that students of Athabasca University have the option to build a paper or e-portfolio. For Ed 319 we used the paper based format, but I thought it would be interesting to make up an e-portfolio as well. It would be easy to organize and allow for more customization, however it is easy to over do it with the use of technology. E-portfolios should be kept simple with the focus on student learning.
The most challenging aspect of the online course was staying motivated and engaged. It was nice having open ended assignments, but made it very easy to procrastinate. I also missed out on the classroom chemistry that only a face to face learning environment can provide. I think PLAR is well suited to the distance delivery format, but may not be the best match for all learners.