TRU partners with world's largest university
Thompson Rivers University is a pioneer among Canadian post-secondary schools in recognizing and crediting, for a fee, the previous non-academic experience of incoming students — and now a delegation from the world's largest university is in Kamloops trying to start a similar program.
Officials from TRU and the Open University of China (OUC) met in Kamloops on Friday, Sept. 21, cutting the ribbon on the TRU-OUC Research Centre.
One of the main goals of the partnership is to discuss Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) — something TRU is doing and OUC is studying.
"In essence, that's a model that OUC wants to explore," said Gord Tarzwell, TRU's vice-provost of open learning.
PLAR works like this: Students enrolling in TRU's open-learning (distance-education) programs can pay to receive university credit for their previous work and life experience, as long as it relates to the accreditation they're pursuing.
A PLAR candidate would go through a six-step process involving a resume, knowledge assessment and portfolio development before receiving credit.
Alternatively, students looking for PLAR credit have the option of writing a challenge exam.
PLAR fees are comparable to tuition fees in TRU's open-learning division.
For example, a second-year business administration course through TRU-OL, running online for 30 weeks, would cost just over $400 for a B.C. resident.
For PLAR competency credit, the student pays a $750 flat fee for evaluation of their portfolio. The number of courses for which they receive credit is up to administrators.
Challenge exams, meanwhile, cost $100 per credit. Most TRU-OL courses are worth three credits.
If a PLAR candidate can demonstrate that they already have the knowledge that would be in the syllabus of a specific class, then they pay a $520 flat fee plus $108 per course.
For assessment of an individual course, TRU's policy dictates the candidate will not pay more than the cost of that course's tuition.
The costs of TRU-OL courses vary. Some are $1,000.
"Many traditional universities require students to start all over," said Alan Shaver, TRU's president.
"This modern approach [PLAR] is far more efficient and reduces the cost of a university education."
Shaver said the benefit to students is that they get through their studies faster and without having to complete courses in areas with which they are already familiar.
TRU's website states PLAR credits might not be accepted by graduate schools.
The six-person OUC delegation won't be the only representation of international institutions on TRU's campus this fall.
This weekend, TRU is hosting representatives from the Universidad la Sabana in Colombia, followed by visits next week from China's Jiaxing University and Mexico's Tec de Monterrey.