Vol. 33 No. 1 (2018)
Research Articles

The recognition of non-formal education in higher education: Where are we now, and are we learning from experience?

Judy Harris
Thompson Rivers University
Christine Wihak
Thompson Rivers University

Published 2018-05-20


  • Non-Formal Education,
  • Recognition,
  • PLAR,
  • OER,
  • Qualification Frameworks,
  • Accreditation
  • ...More

How to Cite

Harris, J., & Wihak, C. (2018). The recognition of non-formal education in higher education: Where are we now, and are we learning from experience?. International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education Revue Internationale Du E-Learning Et La Formation à Distance, 33(1). Retrieved from https://www.ijede.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/1058


The increasing availability of non-formal education in the form of Open Education Resources (OERs) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) gives rise to the questions of how such education can be formally recognized for credit. Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR), and Qualification Frameworks are fields of practice actively engaged in and associated with the recognition of non-formal education (RNFE) and can provide guidance on RNFE for the recognition of OERs/MOOCs. A scoping exercise reviews the literatures from the three fields and associated practical exemplars. Findings suggest a growing demand for, growth in, and diversification of, the recognition of non-formal education. Synergies or creative combinations of expertise across the three fields that could be further exploited to gain maximum traction for RNFE are identified. These are multi-dimensional: top-down, bottom-up, sector to sector, country to country, qualification framework to qualification framework, system to system, field to field. There is ample evidence that the process of recognition, albeit demanding, does have a positive effect on the quality of the NFE, and by association, it is hoped, on the qualification status of individuals and their access to related social and economic benefits.


L’offre croissante d’éducation non-formelle sous forme de ressources éducatives libres (RELs) et de cours en ligne ouverts et massifs (CLOMs) soulève la question de savoir dans quelle mesure une telle éducation peut être formellement reconnue et accréditée. La validation des acquis de l’expérience (VAE) et les nomenclatures de qualification sont des champs de pratique activement engagé dans et associé avec la reconnaissance de l’éducation non formelle et peuvent servir de guide à la reconnaissance de l’éducation non formelle offerte sous forme de RELs ou de CLOMs. Une revue de littérature s’intéresse aux trois champs et associe des exemples pratiques. Les résultats suggèrent l’existence d’une demande croissante concernant l’ampleur et la diversité de la reconnaissance de l’éducation non-formelle. Les synergies ou les combinaisons créatives d’expertise existant dans les trois champs et qui pourraient par la suite être exploitées pour favoriser au mieux l’éducation non formelle sont identifiées. Ces dernières sont multidimensionnelles : du sommet à la base, de la base au sommet, secteur par secteur, pays par pays, nomenclature de qualification par nomenclature de qualification, système par système, champ par champ. De nombreux éléments prouvent que le processus de reconnaissance, bien qu’exigeant, a un effet positif sur la qualité de l’éducation non-formelle, et devrait, par association, en avoir sur les statuts de qualification des individus et l’accès aux avantages sociaux et économiques qui les accompagnent.


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  39. Authors
  40. Judy Harris, Adjunct Professor, Open Learning Division, Thompson Rivers University. Email : judithanneharris@yahoo.co.uk
  41. Christine Wihak, Director of PLAR, Open Learning Division, Thompson Rivers University. Email: cwihak@tru.ca
  42. --
  43. Notes
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