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Prior Learning Assessment for Academic Credit


You may be able to earn credit for what you already know and have accomplished.

Our students come to us with a vast array of work experience and training, and we recognize that not all learning has resulted from traditional classroom attendance. Our Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program provides students with the opportunity to earn credit for learning outside the confines of a traditional classroom.

The PLA portfolio might be right for you if you have developed college level knowledge, skills, and abilities as a result of your: 

  • Work experience
  • Formal corporate or military training
  • Business ownership
  • Volunteer work
  • Civic leadership
  • Hobbies
  • Independent study

Benefits of Prior Learning Assessment

A study by the Lumina Foundation revealed that students who participate in PLA programs are more likely to persist and graduate. PLA provides many benefits to students because it:

  • Helps control tuition expenses by helping you to earn college credits
  • Lessens time required to complete a degree
  • Helps eliminate redundancies associated with reviewing material you have already mastered
  • Allows you to demonstrate learning for which there is no standardized exam
  • Is ideal if you perform better on written assignments than tests

Program Requirements

You should take our PLA self-assessment quiz to see if you qualify for the PLA program, but in general, you are eligible if you meet these requirements.

Undergraduate Students

  • Completed the university application and orientation process.
  • Completed or received a waiver for COLL100 - Foundations of Online Learning and for basic English Composition (ENGL101).
  • Completed the Transfer Credit Evaluation (TCE) process if you have credits to transfer.
  • Earned a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 for courses taken to date and are not on academic probation.
  • Not yet applied for graduation or registered for a senior seminar course.

Graduate Students

  • Completed the university application and orientation process.
  • Completed the Transfer Credit Evaluation (TCE) process if you have credits to transfer.
  • Have a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 for courses taken to date and are not on academic probation.
  • Not yet applied for graduation or registered for a capstone or other end-of-program option.

The PLA Portfolio

A prior learning portfolio is a collection of materials or artifacts compiled to demonstrate previous college-level learning relevant to your academic degree plan. A portfolio consists of multiple components. Each component plays a role in demonstrating mastery of course objectives. The components that make up a portfolio include:

  • The Educational Goal Statement – This gives you the opportunity to examine your personal motivation in the context of learning and application of knowledge. This document provides prior learning evaluators with insight and helps them provide appropriate feedback to facilitate life-long learning.
  • The Autobiography – The autobiography focuses on your professional and personal learning endeavors since high school. In writing the autobiography, you will analyze your past experiences in terms of critical incidents that led to learning. This part of the portfolio helps the evaluator understand when, how, and why the learning has occurred.
  • The Resume – A resume allows you to highlight more detail about your responsibilities and accomplishments that have supported learning. The resume provides the evaluator with a timeline and demonstrates the progression of learning.
  • The Narrative – This component is unique for every portfolio because the focus is on the learning objectives for a specific course. You must address each course objective found on the course syllabus, and demonstrate that you have mastered the objectives to the same extent as students who have completed the course. The narrative may be lengthy depending on the course.
  • Documentation – You will need to supply documentation to support the narrative. Documentation is as individual as the learner. It may include items such as sample work products, training certificates, workplace evaluations, letters of recommendation, and/or photographs.

You can submit a separate portfolio for each course for which you seek to earn credit, and certain components of your original portfolio may be used in multiple submissions. Please note that independent study courses and the senior seminar are not eligible for prior learning assessment.

PLA Undergraduate Course - COLL 200

If you are accepted into the undergraduate PLA program, you will enroll in COLL200, which is a mandatory 8-week, 3-credit-hour elective course designed to help you think and write about your prior experience in terms of the learning that resulted.

The PLA course provides specific exercises to assist you in the identification of individual prior learning that may be credit-worthy. Upon completion of the course, you will have developed one PLA portfolio.

You are only required to take COLL200 once, but can submit more than one portfolio for evaluation. The review of the first portfolio is done as part of the course tuition. However, there will be a $250 fee for the submission of each additional portfolio. This fee is non-refundable even if the review does not result in the award of academic credit.

PLA Workshop for Graduate Students

Graduate students are required to participate in a no-cost/no-credit workshop that will assist you in the identification of individual prior learning that may be credit-worthy. You will work through a variety of exercises to analyze your experiences in terms of learning and to develop the various portfolio components.

This self-paced workshop can be completed independently in about 4 weeks. Throughout the workshop, a PLA team member provides feedback on assignments and portfolio components. You will complete the portfolio by the end of the workshop, though final editing of it might take a bit longer.

Credits Awarded

Credit petitioned via PLA must be for a specific university course within your academic program, but cannot be applied toward seminar, capstone, and/or independent study courses. The university awards credit for college-level learning that can be assessed and documented. Credit is awarded for learning, not just experience. Your prior learning must be:

  • Related to the your current educational goals and objectives.
  • College-level and be relevant to a specific course for which the university grants academic credit.
  • Transferable to situations other than that in which it was gained.
  • Accompanied by the application of appropriate theories.

PLA credits are considered "non-traditional" credits. Accrediting guidelines limit the amount of non-traditional credit applied toward degree completion as follows:

  • Certificates - no more than 3 semester hours
  • Associate - no more than 15 semester hours
  • Bachelor’s - no more than 30 semester hours
  • Master’s - no more than 9 semester hours

Credit for the Prior Learning course - COLL200 will be applied to elective credits with a letter grade. Credit received for prior learning will be posted to the academic transcript in fulfillment for the course petitioned as PLA credit and counted toward transfer credit limits. There is no letter grade assigned and it is not factored into the GPA. Note: PLA credit awarded cannot duplicate previously awarded credit.

Interested in PLA?

Download the PLA FAQ'sIf you are an undergraduate student, please take this quick PLA self-assessment quiz to determine if the PLA program is right for you. The PLA office will review the self-assessment and the your academic plan. If it is determined that you are qualified to participate in PLA, you will be asked to provide supplemental information and receive feedback.

Graduate students must be approved to participate in the program by the PLA team.

For more information, please contact the staff of the Prior Learning Assessment office at or visit our student Help Center.


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