Photo caption: From Left to Right: (Prof Alessandro Pagano, UniBa Incoming ARPEL Project Leader; James Scerri, Systems Co-ordinator Advenio eAcademy; Stephen P. D’Alessandro, Executive Director Advenio eAcademy; Prof. Agostino Marengo, UniBa Outgoing ARPEL Project Leader during the Transnational Meeting held at the University of Bari Aldo Moro.)

In September 2020 Advenio eAcademy as the lead partner in the consortium, entered into a grant Agreement with EUPA, the Malta National Agency,  on behalf of Erasmus+ for the EU funding of the project “Integrated RPL & APEL Level 6 Accredited Online Programme for Entrepreneurs“, ARPEL4Entrep. The project partners are:  Advenio eAcademy, Malta (lead partner); University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy; University of Ioannina, Greece; University of Zilina, Slovakia; Vilnius University, Lithuania; EUCEN – European University Continuing Education Network, Spain; and AllSecure Ltd – eBusiness Systems, Malta.

This project is based on providing a framework for recognition of prior learning to enable seasoned entrepreneurs to continue with their studies. It focuses on the development of Accreditation & Recognition of Prior & Experiential Learning (ARPEL) process where credit is given for learning which has not previously been assessed and formally accredited. This programme is based on EQF[1] standards and the use of ECTS[2] credits. The ARPEL process seeks to incorporate learning which has taken place through a range of personal experiences often including unstructured informal and formal learning experiences. In many fields, the skills, knowledge and abilities that are acquired through this type of learning can be just as relevant as those gained by students following formal accredited educational programmes. This is particularly relevant in the field of entrepreneurship.

The scope of the Eramus+ funded project is to leverage the infrastructure and competencies of the partners in e-learning and the collective expertise and resources of the partners to provide three sets of deliverables:-

1.  Research on the best practices in RPL in the field of business studies and in determining SME needs in a post-COVID-19 environment. This was successfully concluded and provided valuable inputs to the development process.

2.  Design, development, production accreditation and implementation of an ARPEL based online Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship. This is in progress as the development has been completed, the ARPEL process conducted in the period October 202 – January 2022, and since January 2022 the course modules are being implemented. Two course modules have been completed and the third module is close to completion. Feedback from students on the programme has been very encouraging.

3.  Post-implementation research to identify the effectiveness of the ARPEL process in the recruitment of students for the programme. This is already underway and one the elements of this area of analysis was the effectiveness of the ARPEL weighting system for Intake 1. This was the main topic of discussion in the Transnational Project Meeting held in Bari on the 11th May 2022 hosted by University of Bari Aldo Moro. On the basis of the experience of 2021 Intake 1, the data showed that there was scope for stronger weighting of the life and work experiences in the ARPEL process.

There was extensive discussion and debate amongst the participants that were primarily concerned with adjusting any imbalances that may have arisen in the first iteration of the ARPEL weighting system and to build in an equitable framework that can stand up to scrutiny and critique. Various scenarios were presented for review and discussion and after extensive discussion a number of refinements to the current ARPEL process were agreed upon. Advenio eAcademy as the awarding body will follow-up on the revisions with the Malta Further & Higher Education Authority to allow future intakes the benefit of such revisions.

The meeting also discussed the sustainability of the ARPEL Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship programme and further developments to extend this for other programmes and EQF levels.

[1] EQF – European Qualifications Framework

[2] ECTS – European Credit Transfer System