Prior Learning Assessment Defined
According to author Janet Colvin (Earn College Credit for What You Know. 2006), Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a term used by colleges to describe the process of earning college credit from learning acquired through a student’s work, training, volunteer experiences, and personal life. Credit is not granted on the basis of the student’s experience; instead, it is granted for college-level learning which can be demonstrated and documented. At Lewis University, PLA has existed for many years and includes proficiency exams, departmental challenge exams, special licensure and credentials in a profession, and the development and submission of a Prior Learning Portfolio. PLA is designed to give adult undergraduate students the opportunity to earn college credit for in-depth learning experiences they have obtained outside the traditional college/university setting.
Prior Learning Assessment at Lewis University provides a system for working with adult students if they are enrolled in an undergraduate degree program offered by the four Colleges or in an accelerated undergraduate program delivered through the School for Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE).
Key Features, Policies, and Processes:
The Challenge Exam
A Challenge Exam is a comprehensive test developed by faculty to evaluate the student’s proficiency in a particular college course. The Challenge Exam will cover information as outlined in the course module, course outline or syllabus, and the required textbook(s). A student wishing to take a Challenge Exam is advised to obtain these course materials to prepare for the exam. The exam must be completed before the student’s final semester at Lewis. The student may make arrangements for an exam date by contacting the PLA Coordinator in the School for Professional and Continuing Education. A Challenge Exam may be taken only once by a student. The student is notified of the exam results by the PLA Coordinator as soon as the information is available. The student is charged the fee to take the exam at the time of application. College Departments provide Challenge Exams to the SPCE and alter or update them as necessary.
The Prior Learning Portfolio
A Prior Learning Portfolio is a formal, multi-part document which is prepared and presented by the student to document and demonstrate the student’s college equivalent learning resulting from a previous non-collegiate experience. In the PLA Orientation Session, a template is provided to the student for organizing the portfolio so it is comprehensive, focused, and succinct in all sections including the essay and supporting documentation. Examples of Portfolio content include a career and achievement resume, an essay which describes the knowledge and skills gained through prior learning experiences and how they directly relate to a college-level course, and letters, certificates, work samples and other documentation which are appropriate evidence of college-level learning. While the PLA Coordinator provides direction on format, it is the role of the assigned faculty member to work directly with the student on portfolio content and demonstrated learning competencies that are required in order to earn college credit equivalent to a course found in the Lewis University curriculum. The student is charged the fee to develop a Prior Learning Portfolio by the Business Office upon receipt of the application. Once a student registers to develop a PLA Portfolio, the timeline for completing the individual portfolio (by subject area) is one calendar year. Similar to all other PLA methods, the portfolio must be completed by the student and evaluated by the faculty member prior to the student’s last semester at the University. The portfolio is a measure of previous learning and is not to be equated with an Independent Study.
Professional Certifications and Licenses
College credits may be awarded for professional certifications and licensure earned by the student if the organization providing the training program is recognized by the American Council on Education and the appropriate Lewis University academic department determines that the certification/license is college equivalent learning.
Student Fees for PLA
|Challenge Exam Attempted||$100 (one exam per college course)|
|Prior Learning Portfolio|| $150
(an additional $50 is charged for each additional academic subject beyond the initial portfolio)
|Review of licenses and certificates||$ 30|
|Posting Fee for PLA Credits Earned||$30/credit hour recorded on Lewis University transcript|