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Different types of Learning

In CIT there are two main categories within RPL

1. the recognition of learning which has already had formal certification within the higher education system in Ireland or abroad, often referred to as formal learning

2. the recognition of learning which has been gained through experiences in the workplace, in voluntary work or elsewhere, usually referred to as experiential learning. Experiential learning is the term used to describe informal and non formal learning.

Why is it important to understand these when preparing a case for Recognition of Prior Learning ?

When applying for RPL it is important to know the type of learning you will be using to base your application.  The type of learning used will have an impact on the form of the application, the type of evidence required to support a claim and the cost involved.

This following section explains the different forms of learning in more detail.



Formal learning is learning which has taken place in a higher education institution nationally or internationally. Pre-defined outcomes are the basis of learning/assessment where the learner receives academic credits.

Examples: Bachelor of Business achieved with Waterford Institute of Technology or a BEng in Process and Chemical Engineering with University College Cork.



This is learning which has occurred in a planned but adaptable way, however the course is not on the National Framework of Qualifications. These are often training programmes given in the workplace; professional certification programmes or a continuing education programme in a local community school.

Example: Sun certified qualifications with Sun Microsystems for Java programmers.



Informal learning isn’t planned. It occurs through activities generally in the workplace which result in in-depth learning about a particular topic. 

Examples: the ability to run a business; to handle a boat; to run a project; to manage a professional kitchen; to host an event.