The first and most difficult question for a person who has decided to investigate new career and learning options is “where do I begin?” And the simple answer is that there is no single path to success in terms of a sequence of events.
The critical element to understand is that the decisions you make are part of your unique learning cycle. Every time we, as educators, arbitrarily assign an answer, we are robbing you, the learner, of the opportunity to understand more fully “why” you are doing what you are doing. This is not an argument for a lack of structure in higher education. It is an argument that educators should act as coaches and guides.
There are four steps in any learning cycle:
- Assess: Take stock of where you are in terms of your current state of knowledge and the objective you want to obtain. Stock-taking gives a sense of focus and purpose to your learning effort.
- Plan: Create a pathway that works for you, based on your assessment.
- Implement: Live your plan, preferably with the advice and support of an informal or formal mentor, coach, or guide, using data to clarify progress and results.
- Evaluate: Create and validate evidence that you have achieved your objective.
This cycle works for small, discrete learning goals as well as for larger-scale goals that could, ultimately, include a degree. The steps provide a structure for the often confusing and ambiguous journey that learning can become, while also allowing enough flexibility for you to approach them in your preferred sequence. When utilized effectively, this structure can become your “anchor to windward;” a stabilizing assurance that you are on track.
Open College at Kaplan University (OC@KU) believes that progressing through this cycle should be a social activity, not generally to be undertaken alone in a solitary space. This is why it has “designed in” interactions with faculty, advisors, and other learners as part of the offerings. At OC@KU, one of the first elements of your stock-taking is coming to understand the workplace and academic value of what you already know and are able to do. This can be done through an evaluation of any transcripts you have, assessment of your prior experiential learning, and the recognition of other validated assessments, such as course assessments and ACE recommendations.
If you are considering assessment of prior experiential learning to help you earn your degree, OC@KU’s Prior Learning Calculator can help you quickly determine if you have sufficient work/life experience to benefit from LRC100: Documenting Your Experiences for College Credit. LRC100 is an online, self-paced course that guides you through the process of developing an electronic prior learning portfolio for evaluation by trained portfolio assessors.
The Prior Learning Calculator and LRC100 are just two tools from OC@KU that give you focus and a refined sense of purpose as you progress through the learning cycle. In my next entry I will discuss how OC@KU can help you plan your pathway and reach your goals.