Call for papers

The Research and Projects track is for emerging academic research as well as ongoing projects and programmes in the field of VPL. Following a Call for Papers, we are pleased to announce the successful abstracts, which complement the policy tracks and further widen our discussions on validation of prior learning.

The successful submissions are organised in four sessions:
1.7 Academic Research
2.7 Tools and Processes
3.7 Assessment and Certification
4.7 Establishing and Improving VPL Systems

1.7 Academic Research

Digital Open Badge-Driven Learning

Dr Sanna Brauer, Senior lecturer/Project manager, OUAS, School of Professional Teacher Education/ University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Finland

Digital open badges are gaining popularity as a means of identification and recognition of competences acquired differently. Meanwhile new ways to motivate, scaffold and assess competence-based learning processes in professional development are emerging. This presentation offers insights and examples of applying the competence-based approach, digital open badges and gamification in professional development to meet individual needs for working life. In addition, it represents the current state of emerging national ecosystems related to open badges in Finland. It is essential that the standards and guidelines are developed on a national and European level; however, to serve the students, trainers need to learn how to apply the competence-based approach in practice and further develop their digital pedagogical competences and practical applications. This presentation offers a brief summary of the first European doctoral dissertation to address digital open badges and digital open badge-driven learning. The thesis represents a novel application of descriptive statistical methodology to the context of educational research. The primary results culminate in defining digital open badge-driven learning process grounded on the badge constellation of competences. The entity of badge-driven learning includes learning materials, badge criteria, instructional badging, scaffolding and peer support.

Digital Open Badge-Driven Learning (pdf) (573 downloads)

Using validation to improve the quality of Portuguese SMEs

Mrs Ana Catarina Mendes Garcia, PhD student, Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences – NOVA University, Portugal

In this period of transition from a knowledge society to a learning society, the concept of learning becomes more comprehensive, extrapolating beyond the restricted field of education. Consequently, lifelong learning is a necessity, aiming at the full development of the individual’s learning potential. The validation of prior learning is, therefore, fundamental for a greater visibility and valuation of this human capital. This academic research focus on the following problem: To what extent can a VPL approach, supported by principles of educational sciences, help to improve the quality of Portuguese Small and Medium Enterprises? Hence, this project has been divided into two distinct, yet complementary, moments of data collection and analysis: Study I and Study II. Study I consisted in analysing official European and Portuguese documentary sources about on-the-job training and in conducting exploratory interviews to key informants. We found that the training processes presented valued learning in the workplace. However, the definition of a training assessment methodology focused on the development of individual competences and the combination of non-formal and informal learning seemed to be lacking. Based on these findings we are now working on the definition of a dynamic intervention strategy – Study II – a training model based on VPL.

Using validation to improve the quality of Portuguese SMEs (595 downloads)

A nationwide development and research project on combining work and higher education

Ms Marjaana Mäkelä, Principal Lecturer, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Finland

A high percentage of Finnish higher education students work in job positions matching their education already during their studies. However, combination of work and studies is not always unproblematic. How could organisations and companies make direct use of their experts‘ HE studies in related fields? How could HEI utilize students’ competence as part of curriculum studies and advance their graduation? How does digitalization enhance ubiquitous learning? Toteemi ( researches and develops practical models to combine work and higher education studies. The two-year project has been initiated in 2017, with dimensions of enhancement of digital learning as well as the demanding combination of work and studies, from the viewpoint of all counterparts. There are sixteen Universities of Applied Sciences involved in the project, with the research dimension carried out by two research universities and the project coordinator, Haaga-Helia UAS. A variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods have been applied, to unfold an up-to-date description and interpretation on lifelong learning and work in Finland. Findings of the project are partly already available, and at the VPL Biennale, these can be presented with the most recent developments.

A nationwide development and research project on combining work and higher education (584 downloads)

The role of employers in VPL processes

Ms Franziska Laudenbach, Researcher, University of Bremen, Germany & Dr. Alexsandra Lis, Researcher, Jagiellonien University in Krakow, Poland

We will present project results from an ERASMUS+ project that evaluates the advancement and effectiveness of VPL policies and practice in Denmark, Germany, Poland and Turkey. Partners, using case study method, assessed how companies accept VPL and whether VPL leads to diverse individual results in their work. A study was conducted in each of the four countries in which five companies of various sizes took part: small medium and large enterprises. They represented various industries, jointly established for the needs of the study, that is, the cleaning and maintenance industries, construction, production and care. After visiting and interviewing representatives of 20 entrepreneurs in four counties, partners developed a manual for companies, employment agencies and labour market institutions containing recommendations on recruitment and awareness-raising procedures among employers and other participants in the labour market. We will present a set of issues in the area of human resources management and human resources development faced by entrepreneurs in partner countries of the project, self-assessment for entrepreneurs as far as these challenges are concerned and how much they can benefit from solutions offered by validation and a guide to VPL solutions in domestic (for Denmark, Germany, Poland and Turkey) and European.

2.7 Tools and Processes

VPL guidance and assessment tool

Mr Gavin Clinch, Programme Manager (Online Learning Student Experience), Institute of Technology Sligo, Ireland

A dedicated information website has been created to provide relevant information on the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), through short videos and text. The website defines the different mechanism of RPL assessment, provides details on the process and links to the RPL ePortfolio assessment tool which was created in Moodle as this provides for the assessment of learning As a paperless tool, it provides for electronic submission of evidence and allows the learner to submit their portfolio in a sequence of stages, resulting in the creation of a professional RPL portfolio. The ePortfolio of evidence includes: certified learning; experiential learning; references; work experience outputs and motivational statements. The RPL ePortfolio tool has been piloted in GMIT and IT Sligo with over 200 applicants to date.
In addition, an accredited RPL module for HE staff has been developed. This module provides participants with a deep understanding of the policies and procedures associated with RPL and addresses the complexities associated with the management of RPL. This module, which is practically based and interactive, is aimed at developing mentors and assessors with the knowledge and competencies to enable them to become effective assessors of RPL candidates.

Validation of Prior Learning programme for pilots

Dr Pio Fenton, Head of Department, Marketing & International Business, Cork Institute of Technology, Ireland

The lifestyle and, indeed workstyle, of pilots has long proved an impediment to the attainment of third level qualifications while maintaining active and full participation in the workforce. Equally, the significant investment in pilot training has been poorly reflected in mechanisms of advanced entry to college and university programmes. This poses a quandary for those of us in Higher Education which requires quick resolution for this critical element of the airline industry. Cork Institute of Technology has developed a programme which, by design, reflects the training foundations and career trajectories of qualified pilots in a more holistic way. Through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) the programme recognises the extensive learning involved in becoming a pilot at commercial level. The underpinning technical expertise, the competences developed and tested along the way, and the attendant awareness of the industry are critical pieces of learning comparable to that developed in many degrees. The RPL process accepts the value of this learning and through a rigorous and quality-assured means equates this to years 1 and 2 of a 4-year Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in International Business with Aviation Studies.

Programme facilitating Life-Long-Learning for those who have interrupted their studies

Dr Christian Blanchette, Dean, Faculty of Continuing Studies, University of Montreal, Canada

The Faculté de l’éducation permanente (FEP) (Faculty of Continuous Studies) at the Université de Montréal (Canada) provides short programs, degrees, and services specifically designed to meet the needs of adults who have interrupted their education. Seventy percent of the more than 14000 registered students study part-time, in evening, week-end and online courses. Most have work experience in their field of study. Consequently, the faculty has created a number of services, bridging programs, program combination schemes maximize VPL. Our objective is to ensure that path to graduation is the shortest possible for any and every one of its students. The VPL-FEP ecosystem includes:
• ACCES-FEP (Bridging program for non-qualified students)
• VPL – experiential learning
• Individualized Certificate
• Stacked Bachelor
• Specialized Stacked Bachelor
• Integrated degrees (Microprogram, Graduate certificate, Master)
• Advising Services for Adult Learner
• Open admission criteria
All of our services and programs respect academic regulations of a traditional research-intensive university. The VPL-FEP ecosystem is perfectly suited to serve non-traditional students in a World where life-long-learning is an essential feature of most career trajectories. We will provide an overview of this VPL-FEP ecosystem, discuss its strengths and weaknesses and how it is helping us redefine university-wide academic strategies.

Life-Long-Learning for those who have interrupted their studies (568 downloads)


Ms Lorenza Leita, Competence valuing project manager, Fondazione Politecnico di Milano

LEVER UP aims at Valuing informal learning and transversal competences experienced in contexts such as volunteering to increase employability, social responsibility and mobility. LEVER and the still in progress LEVER UP implemented a complete system made of firstly a Competence Model, referenced to EQF, the 8 EU Key Comp, and in due course to the EU mobility tools; secondly, a internationally tested VNFIL evidence-based process; lastly, a rich toolkit at support of candidates, guides and assessors. The multilanguage solution (EN, NL, ES, PL, FR, IT) provides e-L and blended courses for tutors and assessors. OpenBadges are the credentials for the successful achievement in staff training and competence validation. Relations to ECVET mechanisms are also under evaluation. The pilots are now testing the system with VET, Job market and Volunteering. In Italy it is directly working with the Lombardy Region and the national contacts for NQF and EUROPASS to keep it more and more aligned and referenced, also in consideration of the upcoming ESCO. LEVER UP raises great interest ad appreciation from all the external actors involved: it is considered an effective and operative lifelong learning solution to give visibility and potentially transfer the individual transversal competences from a context to another.

Lost in Validation: An International Perspective Regarding Concepts and Applications 

Prof. Dr. Patrick Werquin, Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, France

This presentation propose a short international journey through the different approaches to validation and recognition of non-formal and informal learning outcomes. It goes into proposing definitions for the key concepts (e.g. assessment, validation, recognition), reminds the participants of the multiplicity of approaches and names (e.g. AP(E)L, RPL, VAE, RNFILO, PLAR), and therefore states that validation and recognition of non-formal and informal learning outcomes is more philosophy than a fixed once and for all carved-in-stone method.

This presentation will:

  • Define key terms
  • Show that the issues are the same but the solutions are different
  • Show that societal recognition is the grail and also the real issue
  • Show that each country harbours or harboured several subsystems, with different origin, history and focus
  • Spell out pros and cons of each approach
  • Assess how bridges can be built among stakeholders
  • Assess the value of different procedures and instruments for different target groups

3.7 Assessment & Certification

Innoval – innovative assessment methods for validation

Ms Pauline Boivin, Project and Policy Officer, Lifelong Learning Platform, Belgium

The Innoval project is an EU-funded project on innovative assessment methods for validation. It started in 2016 and finished in September 2018. It gathered six partner organisations operating in diverse sectors (higher education, research, vocational education, adult education, etc.) from 5 EU countries (France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Belgium) and an associate partner (Bertelsmann Stiftung) to work towards the collection and promotion of valid and reliable assessment methods that would allow all learners to have a chance at validation. After a research phase that aimed to identify the barriers and enablers of disadvantaged groups (long-term unemployed, migrants, low-skilled adults and those who had an adverse experience with formal-based assessments) in taking part in the validation process, the partners collected over 50 case studies of innovative and inclusive assessment methods. These methods distinguish themselves from standard or traditional methods in the sense that they very often combine summative and formative approaches, using new tools (e.g. game-based assessments or role-play) and take into account the specific needs of learners, for instance, the emotional dimension.

Innoval – innovative assessment methods for validation (578 downloads)

Testing the efficacy of VPL in a higher education context: vocational teacher training

Professor Grete Haaland, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

The Ministry of Education in Norway agree about validation of prior learning as basis for getting admission and exemption from parts of higher education. The reason for this agreement is based on both empowerment and beneficialty for the society. Universities are, according National regulations, supposed to give credit for competence, developed through formal, non-formal and informal activities, but rutines shows that this does not happen. The purpose of this research is to contribute into a discussion about validation of prior learning and to give examples of the complex validation process.
Methodology: Methods used are semi structured interviews and document analyses. Plans and documents concerning national regulations for vocational teacher educations were analysed to find the equalities between the formal competence needed according the documents and the students prior learning, as basis for VPL. The students who got most exemptions from the formal education achieved the best marks. We found that the validation process worked as intended, and that some of the students probably could have got even more exemptions. The academic institutions dealing with VET also need the skilled people for gaining sufficient perspectives in both research and educations.

A national system of competences certification

Mr Roberto Trainito, Co-founder, Officina delle Competenze, Italy

The Association “Officina delle Competenze” arises from the will of some people who have collaborated in various ways to the construction of the “National System of Competences Certification” at the beginning of the current decade. The Association’s goal is to promote the planned “National System of Competences Certification” wished and expected by the legislator since the first years of the 2000 and that has found a structured definition in the Law 92/2012 and in the successive Legislative Decree 13/2013. Officina organised the first Italian VPL Biennal held in Rome the 23th of November 2018 ( The practice we would like to present is the example of Officina body as a new and original way to promote VPL and the developments of the Italian certification system. Specifically we’d present the so-called “fiches of work practices”. They represent a compelling tool for the description of working cases in terms of products/services and operating contexts that a certain work-activity should reach (hence, the working performance) and that are used within the VPL services. The fiches provide specific evaluation tasks and test items with a full coverage of labour market sectors and they are embedded in the Atlas of work and qualifications (

Validation procedures in Germany

Ms Katrin Gutschow, Researcher, Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, Germany

Validation procedures increase the employability skills of participants and can make a significant contribution to occupational and personal development, experts in Germany agree. However, implementation of validation procedures is still at an initial phase. Determining design requirements for validation methods and instruments in Germany and modeling framework conditions for the implementation of validation procedures therefore were the goals of a research project by the Federal Institute for vocational Training (BIBB). It examined how relevant actors rate the chances of realization, benefit expectations and risks of different scenarios. Six scenarios were modeled in a multi-stage process that describe how competences acquired outside formal education could be taken into account in Germany in 2030. Three scenarios describe validation procedures leading to recognised qualifications, and three further scenarios deal with the identification and documentation of competences. In a two-stage Delphi survey experts evaluated the scenarios. The presentation will give a short overview on the scenarios and focus on experts views on aims, and certification of validation.

Validation procedures in Germany (556 downloads)

The experience of going through the French validation system

Mr Franz Fuchs Weikl, Education expert, Chamber of Labour for Salzburg, Austria

On 19.11.2018 I obtained the university degree “DURIF” (Diplôme d’Université Responsable en Ingénierie de Formation) at the Sorbonne in Paris by validation. It is a French Bachelor’s level qualification in the field of education management. The prerequisites for this are: admission by the university, the preparation of a dossier and its “defence” in front of a jury. The entire process, from the initial consultation to the jury, took about 1 ½ years. I was the first foreigner at the Sorbonne to undergo a VAE (Validation des Acquis de l’Expérience). In France, almost every qualification must be accessible in two ways: regularly through training and alternatively through the recognition of prior learning. A combination of both models is possible and the rule and often the only realistic way for people 35+ to obtain a degree. Competence recognition for university degrees is not yet possible in Austria, Germany and most other European countries. By achieving my degree in France on the basis of validation, I wanted to get to know and how this approach works.  In my presentation I will give an overview of the framework of validation in France and describe steps and methods used during my way through university validation.

The experience of going through the French validation system (581 downloads)

4.7 Establishing and Improving VPL Systems

Creating an observatory for the Validation of Competences and Skills in Honduras (Observal-Honduras)

Prof. Dr. Celeo Emilio Arias, Professor of Master Programm & Project Manager of Quality at Vicerrectory,  Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras (UNAH) & Dr. Luis Carro, Associate Professor, University of Valladolid (UVa), Honduras and Spain

Background: During IV reform process and transformation, UNAH has been developed a series of initiatives that can contribute to sustainable human development in the country, in a process of intra and inter maturity. During this process it has highlighted the importance of design and implementation of components for non-formal and informal learning in the education system and recognition of learning acquired throughout lifespan. Purpose: Implementation of the Observatory for the validation of professional and labor competencies, through the establishment of a common framework of professional families and occupational positions, as well as a training program and a certification process of the acquired competences in both formal and informal ways. Methodology: The strategy to achieve the purpose described involves the training of its employees in priority sectors and the university, who in turn be trainers. It will provide strategies and tools to validate and customize learning throughout life, assuring speed and relevance in the modality and / or remotely. The evaluation of the training process will consist of a presentation of its action plan to be advisors and evaluators of the prior learning, the overcoming of an evaluation on the practical cases and the obtaining of a certificate.

International Labour Organisation’s projects in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & Jordan

Ms Christine Hofmann, Skills and Employability Specialist, Skills for Social Inclusion, ILO, Switzerland

While validation and recognition of prior learning (RPL) can provide access to education and training, it can also improve access to the labour market, to decent jobs commensurate with the person’s skills and competences, or facilitate career progression. The International Labour Organization is supporting countries in the design of RPL systems and in the implementation of RPL pilots. Among others, the ILO:
– Supported SADC in the development of guidelines for RPL
– Supports Tanzania and Malawi in the establishment and implementation of an RPL system, as well as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka with a specific focus on migrant workers
– Evaluated pilot RPL schemes in India
– Implements an RPL pilot in Jordan for Syrian refugees and Jordanians

Key success factors in the implementation of RPL pilots or systems that aim for labour market recognition include a trusted and transparent process with involvement of representatives of employers and workers in the design and oversight of the system, and the tying of additional benefits such as complementary training, access to labour markets, occupational licenses or financing. The ILO published a guide for RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning: Key success factors and the building blocks of an effective system), a learning package on RPL and will soon publish a Policy brief on the subject.

International Labour Organisation’s projects in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & Jordan (558 downloads)

ILO pilot project in Tanzania

Ms Leah Dotto , Zonal Director, Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA), Tanzania

The purpose of this paper is to share experiences and lessons learnt in implementing Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in Tanzania. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) was introduced in the Vocational Education and Training system in 2010. The main purpose was to recognise the skills acquired outside the formal system. The main target is the socially and economically marginalized groups, who normally fail to join the formal VET system and as a result they resort to informal system of acquiring skills. RPL started as a pilot project implemented in collaboration with ILO from April to December 2012. This project explored the following aspects: first the issue of skills development of informal apprentices and second, how RPL could facilitate informal skills assessment, certification and learning progression. After successful implementation of the pilot, the programme was rolled out countrywide in 2016. The major lessons learnt include the following: (a) there are so many people in both the formal and informal sectors who need their skills to be recognised; (c) RPL provides an opportunity for career progression; and (c provides an opportunity for long life learning. The main challenge in adoption and implementation of RPL, apart from limited financial and human resources, there is a confusion around its purpose and scepticism around its value. Through the project RPL guideline was developed. It is now fully implemented in Tanzania and the Government through the Ministry of labour allocates funds for its implementation.

ILO pilot project in Tanzania (530 downloads)

Improving validation in the voluntary sector (ImproVal)

Mr Jo Peeters, Chairman, EDOS foundation, Netherlands

More and more people and organizations are becoming aware of the educational value of volunteering, and of validation opportunities for the voluntary sector. However, their use and impact is largely unknown. Furthermore the risk of reinventing the wheel by setting up new projects is evident, and on the other hand, there are ‘’missing links’’e.g. in connecting the validation methods with the European Guidelines or instruments like the European Qualification Framework for Validation or in forms of volunteering that are not recognised. The Improving Validation in the Voluntary Sector (ImproVal) project sets out to tackle this problem by:
– creating a “volunteering validation compendium” that brings together the results of prior projects and a synthesis to make the pedagogical principles of validation better known
– conducting a study among volunteers and organisations who have participated in validation processes about the impact of validation, combining quantitative data by questionnaires and qualitative data through group interviews
– producing recommendations for policy makers and organizations interested in validation on basis of the synthesis and study
– engaging stakeholders in a dialogue on validation by using webinars and facilitated workshops in five countries, thus raising their awareness and interest in advancing validation

Using VPL to make the skills of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees more visible

Ms Camilla Alfsen, Senior Adviser, Kompetanse Norge, Norway

VISKA is an Erasmus + policy experimentation project, running from 2017 to 2020. By making knowledge, skills and competences of adults more visible through validation of prior learning, VISKA seeks to address the European policy priority of diminishing skills mismatch, fostering employability, economic growth and job creation, and social inclusion. In particular, VISKA addresses the need to make more visible the skills of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and adults with little formal education, in order to shorten their pathway into employment, targeted education and training offers and active engagement in society. These target groups are at a disadvantage in European societies, and would benefit from improved access to validation services and from more holistic validation arrangements. A further objective is to generate knowledge on the challenges of validation for vulnerable groups, and to make the outcomes of the trialling and policy experiments visible to policy makers at local, national and European levels.

Using VPL to make the skills of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees more visible (579 downloads)