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By Dr. Peter Smith

The KNEXT (Knowledge Extension) program is an online teacher-led or self-paced diagnostic program. Using a portfolio development approach with an independent third-party evaluation of credit claimed, KNEXT provides a comprehensive assessment of learning gleaned from prior life experience. Enrolled students are actively encouraged to make use of all prior learning – degrees and certificates earned, past college experience, professional seminars, and applicable work and life experience.

KNEXT is a form of pedagogy as well as a powerful diagnostic for the learner. Participants learn how to actively and consciously reflect on their experience defining the learning that has been generated by that experience.

In supporting learners in seeing anew what they know and where and how they learned it, the KNEXT process personalizes the degree planning and educational design process for each learner, transforming aspiration and motivation as a consequence. As a result, learners who complete the course enjoy three significant educational benefits.

First, they save time and money on their way to earning the degree. Data from the recent CAEL report, “Fueling the Race”, indicated that students who received credit through a prior learning portfolio process persisted to graduation within seven years at more than twice the rate of those who did not. Our data for KNEXT participants indicates a similarly favorable success ratio.

Second they perform significantly better than other students in the ensuing courses they take. As we track student performance inside KaplanKNEXT“graduates” consistently better in each course that they take subsequent to their portfolio completion.

And third, they persist to completion at significantly higher rates. In both CAEL report data and our internal data at KNEXT, students with portfolio assessment persist significantly longer than those who do not. Data gathered from over 1000 students who enrolled in the KNEXT assessment course indicate that more than 80% completed the course successfully, while more than 75% of those who enrolled in the course have either graduated fromKaplan or are still enrolled.

Historically, campus-based programs like KNEXT have been hamstrung by the available communication and information processing systems. There has been no way to scale the programs because of the volumes of accumulated information in each portfolio that could only be processed by hand. Put another way, logistics required that such programs be small and of a boutique nature.

Today, thanks to the tools available through technology and social networking, assessment of prior sponsored and non-sponsored learning can be done to scale with rigorous third party quality assurance. Furthermore, the student, with her portfolio, can then “shop” her transcript at any college electronically, dramatically reducing the time involved in finding out which credits will transfer and which will not at each institution. This technologically-enable approach is a major shift towards the student in pedagogy (active reflection), access (knowing college standards), and responsibility (shopping for the best college fit).




  1. Hi Keith,
    Thanks for sharing this essay. I really enjoyed reading – as it the case with most of Peter Smiths insights. I checked out the KNEXT site and it does indeed appear to be a very valuable tool to help students leverage their past to succeed in the future. I think there is also a lot of value in the personalization that is available through such programs, in my own experience this sense of ownership is very valuable.
    Thanks again for sharing,


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