Recognizing the Value of All Learning

Your learning journey, extending from structured programs offered by institutions of higher education to the myriad of everyday learning experiences, holds untapped potential to transform your career and economic future. This article explores the importance of capturing and recognizing the full spectrum of your educational endeavors, including those non-traditional paths often overlooked by conventional processes. It explores the challenges of aligning diverse learning experiences with formal educational standards and introduces innovative solutions, such as self-sovereign learning records, facilitated by advancements in Educational Technology (EdTech). By validating and leveraging your unique blend of skills and knowledge, you can unlock new opportunities for career advancement and economic growth, ensuring your learning journey propels you towards your goals.

Integrating Structured and Flexible Education

Learning extends beyond the borders of classrooms and formal workplace training to our daily experiences, practical challenges, and personal explorations. This organic approach to learning encompasses a variety of methods, from self-directed online courses on platforms like Coursera or LinkedIn Learning to practical, hands-on experiences, advice from trusted sources, and mentorship. Traditional learning offers structured curriculum and standardized qualifications, which provides a solid foundation of knowledge and skill acquisition. However, traditional learning can be inflexible, often failing to accommodate non-traditional learners who lack equitable means, access, or ability to engage, and may not always reflect or relate to the skills needed in real-world scenarios.

In contrast, non-traditional learning is grounded in flexibility, diversity, and direct relevance to practical applications. This type of organic and self-directed learning often includes instructional videos for step-by-step learning, forums for community-driven knowledge exchange, direct mentorship for personalized guidance, and on-the-job learning for real-world problem-solving. This approach is often more affordable and focused on specific interests or needs, fostering adaptability, critical thinking, and the practical application of knowledge. However, it may lack the structured progression of formal education and can be harder to validate and align to traditional credentials.

Embracing both traditional and non-traditional learning has become essential. Recognizing the value of all forms of learning—from the formal to the informal—supports a comprehensive view of education that prepares individuals for the complexities of modern life and work. This holistic approach to learning acknowledges the importance of a solid knowledge base while also valuing the adaptability and practical skills gained through non-traditional means. Together, they equip individuals for continuous growth and development, ensuring they are ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.

The Importance of Capturing Non-Traditional Learning

Capturing learning from non-traditional sources is crucial for several reasons. It acknowledges the effort and time invested by learners in their personal growth, providing a comprehensive view of their capabilities. This process not only validates the diverse ways in which people acquire skills but also challenges the traditional metrics of achievement, recognizing that learning and expertise can be developed outside formal educational settings. Moreover, it enables individuals to leverage their acquired knowledge for career advancement, aligning their skills with job requirements or further educational opportunities. By documenting and recognizing non-traditional learning, individuals can more effectively communicate their competencies to employers or educational institutions, bridging the gap between informal learning and formal recognition. This alignment is essential in a rapidly changing job market, where the ability to adapt and acquire new skills quickly is highly valued.

Recognizing All Forms of Learning

The scope of learning that can be captured extends to prior learning from courses, previously acquired certifications (including degrees, diplomas, and microcredentials), and projects showcased through documents, videos, and images. This range of learning sources reflects the multifaceted nature of skill acquisition outside traditional educational pathways. Additionally, informal learning experiences such as participation in workshops, attendance at industry conferences, and even self-taught skills through online platforms or personal projects can significantly contribute to an individual's professional profile. These experiences, often overlooked, can provide tangible evidence of practical skills and problem-solving abilities. Capturing this broad spectrum of learning enriches an individual’s skill set and highlights their capacity for continuous learning and adaptability, traits increasingly sought after in the modern workforce.

Challenges in Aligning Non-Traditional Learning

Translating non-traditional learning into a format that aligns with structured educational frameworks presents some significant challenges. The informal nature of many learning experiences makes it difficult to quantify and validate them against standardized criteria. This difficulty is compounded by the time-consuming nature of the evaluation process and the lack of a universal standard for measuring and recognizing such learning. Moreover, organizations often lack the technological infrastructure required to make this process scalable, equitable, and fair across individuals. Without the means to efficiently document, assess, and accredit non-traditional learning, valuable skills and knowledge may remain unrecognized. Overcoming these hurdles is crucial for integrating these diverse learning experiences into formal educational and professional development pathways, ensuring that all forms of learning are valued and rewarded in the pursuit of career advancement and lifelong education.

Maing Skills Data Visible

Skills data plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between non-traditional learning and formal institutional recognition. By capturing and analyzing skills acquired through various means, it is possible to map these skills to specific job roles or certification requirements. This process validates informal learning and highlights the practical competencies of individuals, making them more visible to potential employers or educational institutions. This visibility is crucial in a competitive job market, where demonstrating a wide range of applicable skills can significantly enhance an individual's employability. It allows for a more nuanced and comprehensive representation of a candidate's abilities, beyond what traditional credentials can convey. Furthermore, in sectors where specific skills are in high demand, the ability to effectively showcase these competencies can reveal new career opportunities and pathways for advancement, underscoring the importance of recognizing and valuing all forms of learning.

The Role of EdTech and Self-Sovereign Records

For learners to effectively demonstrate their prior learning, they need the tools to document and align their knowledge and skills with the requirements of new roles or certifications. This is where the concept of self-sovereign learning records comes into play. Such records empower individuals to own and share their learning journeys, enabling them to fast-track their education or career paths by filling any gaps without redundant learning. Some technological platforms, particularly within the EdTech and HRTech sectors, offer robust tools that support the documentation of prior learning and its alignment with specific skills. These platforms facilitate the creation of high quality credentials that contain relevant metadata and align with specific, trusted, and verifiable credentials, which can then be awarded to an individual.

The final credential represents a confluence of learning from both traditional means—such as classroom learning at higher education institutions or formal structured training sessions in the workplace—and non-traditional means, including projects, on-the-job learning, and practical experiences. Once learners have obtained a credential, they should have the autonomy to own, share, and even retract this credential as they see fit, independent of the issuing organization or institution. This self-sovereignty over their credentials allows individuals to curate and present a comprehensive narrative of their learning and achievements, tailored to specific opportunities or requirements. Self-sovereign learner records enhance the visibility and applicability of their skills but also places the power of educational and professional representation firmly in the hands of the learner (or “learner/earner”), fostering a more dynamic and responsive workforce ecosystem.


Considering a comprehensive view of your learning journey, from formal education to the diverse experiences encountered daily, reveals a powerful opportunity for career transformation and economic advancement. There is now a critical need to recognize and document the entirety of your educational pursuits, especially those non-traditional paths less frequently captured by standard measures. This article addresses the hurdles in aligning varied learning experiences with established educational processes and showcases the role of self-sovereign learning records and EdTech innovations in validating and capitalizing on your unique skill set. Through this lens, we see how embracing the full spectrum of learning—formal and informal alike—prepares you for the complexities of today's world, offering a roadmap to navigate your future with confidence.

Kyle Erickson, M.Ed., D.C.

Kyle Erickson, M.Ed., D.C.

Kyle is a seasoned product expert at Shift iQ. With a rich background spanning education, healthcare, and technology, Kyle utilizes his unique blend of experience to deliver powerful and innovative learning solutions. Prior to joining Shift iQ, he served as a teacher, college instructor, and curriculum developer (SME). For several years, he was also in clinical practice as a chiropractor, adding a unique dimension to his career and skill set. Kyle holds a Master of Education degree specializing in Educational Technology, Master's certificates in E-Learning and Instructional Design, a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, and a Bachelor of Education degree. His multifaceted expertise and passion for learning and product development make him a driving force in EdTech.

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