Around eCampus – Dr. Dianne Conrad

AU?s People and Places

Dr. Dianne Conrad is the Director of AU’s Centre for Learning Accreditation (CLA), and is ?responsible for all operations of the Centre.? The CLA manages ?AU’s Prior Learning Recognition (PLAR) process in all its entirety,? Dr. Conrad says. ?That includes day-to-day operations, marketing, budget, staffing, design and delivery, research, and representing CLA interests both internally, within AU, and externally, with the greater communities, provincial, national and international.? Dr. Conrad also sits on ?the provincial PLAR stakeholders? committee, as well as representing AU at national conferences concerning PLAR.?

?I should explain what PLAR is, because I’ll bet a lot of your readers don’t know about it,? she notes. ?PLAR stands for prior learning assessment and recognition, and It’s a process that permits learners to use their experiential learning (life learning, on-the-job learning, etc.) into university-level learning for assessment toward their university program of study. Each program sets a maximum number of PLAR-possible credits. CLA mentors help learners through the process.?

Students can learn more by visiting the CLA website.

?PLAR is a great deal for mature, conscientious AU learners who want to turn life experience into university credit! It saves huge amounts of money and time,? she says. ?It’s not a cakewalk, but we help you all along the way. The process is also very self-enlightening, since you have to reflect on your past learning. It’s well worth a try, or at least read our web site.?

Dr. Conrad first came to AU in 2005 to be the Director of CLA. ?I was Acting Director for a bit before that, ?acting? at a distance from where I was living at the time, in the Maritimes,? she explains. Dr. Conrad also serves as the Director of the Bachelor of General Studies program, a position she has held since 2005.

?I have an office at AU Central in Athabasca and an office in my home in Athabasca. I usually put in a five-day week in the office and also work from home as necessary,? she says. ?The job is very busy, with a lot of meetings and commitments both within the university and outside of it, and I also travel a lot for work.?

?One of the best things about my job is that It’s so varied and autonomous,? she says, but when asked about an ?average? day on the job, Dr. Conrad says it could go something ?like this: Arrive at our lovely building in the aspen forest of Athabasca at around 8:30 a.m. and settle in to responding to emails from colleagues and students from around the world. Explain PLAR and how it works to anyone who asks! Help my staff with their questions on how best to advise PLAR learners. Dash out to attend a meeting for one of the many committees I sit on. After lunch, grab a few minutes to work on writing any number of PLAR-related documents?reports, analyses, a piece for publication. Take some phone calls from colleagues at other universities who are wondering how to implement a PLAR system. Respond to output from the provincial PLAR advisory group on how to move forward with an Alberta agenda. Then work on putting together a PowerPoint presentation for an upcoming workshop or conference, either describing what we do at AU or explaining the prior learning process in theory. More emails, more phone calls, more staff consultations, more meetings?and I’m done for the day!?

?I like to ?build? the process?so I enjoy developing tools and procedures to make our system better,? says Dr. Conrad. ?I enjoy research time, but It’s hard to find it in a normal day. (Right now, I am on research leave, working on a federally funded PLAR project.) When I work with students, It’s really satisfying to see them ?get? the PLAR process, and understand more about themselves and their learning. And I really like interacting with CLA staff?we’re a great bunch and I have lots of fun.?

What does she do outside of work? ?Nothing. I work all the time. Just kidding, sort of, but my work does take up a lot of my time. I have other work-related interests, and I also teach an online graduate course for an American university. I research and write for publication. When there is spare time, I work outside in my garden in the season. I like to grow lilies. I dabble in poetry. I also enjoy camping, hiking, and kayaking. I am trying to find the time to become more involved in local community activities, like restoring our historically designated old train station. I also travel a lot for pleasure, and my children live elsewhere, so I have to travel to visit them.?

In future, Dr. Conrad looks forward to ?more work, more travel, more writing. I am trying to arrange to travel the Trans-Mongolian railway, from Moscow to Beijing. I am also trying to write a novel (isn’t everybody?) but I have discovered that I’m not that good at writing fiction!?

?I really appreciate the chance to work at AU and do the work we do, at a distance, with learners from all over the world. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and I hope It’s the last one I have!?