At APUS, we recognize our students come to us with a vast array of experience and prior learning. We also realize that not all of that learning has resulted from traditional classroom attendance. We value all learning! The Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) portfolio program provides students an opportunity to earn credit for learning outside the confines of a traditional classroom.
If you have developed college level knowledge, skills, and abilities as a result of:
Formal corporate or military training
Operating your own business
Working with volunteer or community organization
Pursuing a hobby
You may be able to earn credit for what you already know!
Please Note: Academic credit is awarded for college-level learning which can be documented, not merely for experience.
Students who believe they have acquired college-level learning that has not been evaluated or recognized by other means may document their experiential learning in a portfolio and submit it for evaluation by our faculty evaluators. To do so, participation in our PLA program is required. This program is open to undergraduate students who meet all of the following requirements:
Are active students with a grade point average of 2.0 or higher
Have completed or received a waiver for COLL100 - Foundations of Online Learning
Have completed or received credit for ENGL101 - Proficiency in Writing
Have a completed Transfer Credit Evaluation and Transfer Credit Evaluation Update
Have not applied for graduation
Have not registered for the senior seminar course
What is a prior learning portfolio?
A prior learning portfolio is a collection of materials compiled to demonstrate previous college-level learning relevant to a student’s degree plan. A portfolio consists of multiple components. Each component plays a role in demonstrating mastery of learning objectives. A separate portfolio needs to be submitted for each course a student seeks to earn credit, however, certain components of an original portfolio may be used in multiple submissions.
The components which make up a portfolio are as follows.
The Educational Goal Statement – In developing the educational goal statement, students have the opportunity to examine their personal motivation in the context of learning and application of knowledge. This document also provides prior learning evaluators with insight and will help them provide appropriate feedback to facilitate life-long learning.
The Autobiography – The autobiography focuses on the students professional and personal learning endeavors since high school. In writing the autobiography, students begin to analyze their 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 students to highlight more detail about responsibilities and accomplishments which have supported learning. The resume provides an evaluator with a time line and demonstrates the progression of learning.
The Narrative – When writing the narrative, students focus on the learning objectives for a specific course. This is one of the components that would differ with each portfolio. The narrative may be lengthy depending on the course. Each learning objective is addressed. Students must be able to demonstrate they have mastered the course objectives to the same extent as students who have completed the course. Students receive considerable coaching from their PLA advisor during the writing process.
Documentation– Documentation is supplied 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.
Prior Learning Assessment Course
Students who are accepted into the PLA program will be enrolled in an eight-week course designed to help them think and write about their prior experience in terms of the learning that resulted and guide them through the portfolio development process. Upon completion of the course, students will have developed a completed portfolio for review by an appropriate faculty evaluator.
Each portfolio submitted by a student is designed to seek credit for a specific course. Students must demonstrate mastery of all the learning objectives of the specified course for credit to be awarded. The first portfolio, developed during the course, will be evaluated by a trained faculty evaluator at no additional cost beyond the tuition for the PLA course (COLL 200). Therefore, students have an opportunity to earn credit for two courses while only paying tuition for the PLA course. There will be a $250 fee for the submission of each additional portfolio. This fee is non-refundable even if the official faculty review does not result in the award of academic credit.
** Please note that independent study courses and the senior seminar are not eligible for prior learning assessment.
Interested students should take this quick PLA self-assessment quiz to assist in determining if the PLA program is right for them.
Students who have mastered college level knowledge, skills, and abilities that are not easily validated via testing or ACE recommendations have the option of participating in the PLA program.
If you are a student that has nontraditional learning that meets the necessary criteria, you may be eligible to seek academic credit through the portfolio process. Credit is granted for learning, not experience. You must be able to demonstrate that you have mastered the same learning objectives as you would if you completed the course.
Prior Learning Assessment is a method by which students can gain recognition and college credit for what they have learned outside a traditional classroom. In order to grant credit for such learning, all of the following criteria must be met:
It must be college level
It must be applicable in more than one instance or environment
It must be in a content area that is normally taught at a college or university
It must be able to be validated
It must be current (not obsolete)
It must be relevant to the student’s degree program
It must not duplicate credit that has already been earned
There are many different ways to assess learning. APUS has liberal transfer policies that recognize CLEP and DANTES exams, as well as creditrecommendations for military training and experience and civilian training that has been evaluated by ACE.
Is the PLA program available to both undergraduate and graduate students?
The PLA program is available only to undergraduate students. At this time,there are no plans to make the program available to graduate students.
Are there program pre-requisites?
Students seeking credit via portfolioassessment must meet all of the following criteria:
Be a fully matriculated student (completed the APUS applicationand orientationprocess and have a student ID number)
Have completed or received transfer credit for basic English Composition(ENGL101)
Have completed or received a waiver for Foundationsof Online Learning (COLL100)
Have received a completed Transfer Credit Evaluation(TCE) from the APUS Transfer Credit department, if the student has credit to transfer
Have a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 for APUS courses taken to date, and not be on academic probation
Have not applied for graduation(students are too far along in the academic career to receive academic credit via PLA in time for graduation)
What academic credit may I request?
A portfoliois course-specific.Whereas CLEP/ DANTES exams and ACE recommendationsrelate to a discipline at the lower or upper division level, (for example 3 SH in LL Composition)credit requested via a portfoliomust be for a specificAPUS course. Students are directed to the syllabus archive in the Online Library to review the learning outcomes for a course they intend to petition.Please note that no more than 30 credit hours from non-traditional(experiential) learning can be applied towards your degree.
Can I request my senior seminar or an independent study through PLA?
No, senior seminar courses and/or independent study courses are not eligible for prior learning assessment.
Do I have to take a class to develop a portfolio?
Students must take an eight week course designed to help them analyze their prior experience in terms of the learning that resulted. Students must be admitted to the PLA program in order to enroll in the course. Please refer to the website for the student self-assessment form required to begin the admission process.
Why do I need to take a course to write about my past experience?
Students need to be able to focus the portfolio on the learning that was acquired, not simply the experience. Writingabout one’s prior learning is not as easy as it may sound. The PLA course provides a series of structured activitiesdesigned to provide the student with a systematicapproach when petitioningfor credit for non-traditional learning. Students will receive extensive coaching as they develop their portfolio.
How much time should I set aside each week for the workshop and portfolio preparation?
The workload is similar to any other APUS course. There are required forums, writing assignments and quizzes.
What is covered in the course?
This course provides a structured series of activities designed to provide the student with a systematic approach to petition for credit for learning obtained outside a traditional classroom. Students will learn to differentiate between experience, experiential learning, and learning by experience. They will analyze their personal knowledge, skills, and abilities and leverage them to develop and achieve educational goals as they learn about learning styles and theories. Students will identify prior learning and will be introduced to methods by which they can demonstrate that learning. Students will develop and submit at least one portfolio for assessment. The portfolio developed during the course will be evaluated at no additional charge beyond the tuition for the course. Additional portfolios may be submitted after completion of the course. The evaluation fee for any additional portfolio is $250.
Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
Define prior learning assessment and discuss its importance to adult learners
Prepare an inventory of prior learning
Develop an educational plan
Differentiate between experiential learning and life experience and traditional classroom learning
Explain Kolb’s learning theory as it applies to personal learning experiences
Identify opportunities to petition for prior learning credit
Identify and prepare appropriate documentation to support a petition for prior learning credit
Write a cogent, grammatically and structurally corrective narrative discussing his/her experiential learning
Prepare a portfolio in accordance with APUS standards for submission
What is covered in the workshop? (Continued)
The PLA course provides specific exercises to assist students in the identification of individual prior learning that may be credit-worthy. As previously stated, credit is awarded for learning, not just experience. In order for credit to be awarded, learning must fulfill all of the following criteria:
Learning must relate to the students educational goals
Learning outcomes must be current
Credit must not duplicate previously awarded credit
Learning must be verifiable
Learning must be college-level and be relevant to a specific course for which APUS grants academic credit
Learning must be transferable to situations other than that in which it was gained
Knowledge of appropriate theories must accompany application of learning
Is there a limit on credit from Prior Learning?
Accreditingguidelines limit the amount of experientiallearning credit that may be applied toward degree completion. Limitationsby degree program are listed below:
Certificates- no more than 3 semester hours
Associate - no more than 15 semester hours
Bachelor’s - no more than 30 semester hours
Master’s - the APUS PLA program is presently not available for graduate programs
How long do I have to complete my portfolio?
Students complete the first portfolio during the eight week course. In some cases, additional edits may be required prior to submission for evaluation which may add to the time required to finalize the portfolio. Additional portfolios may be created once the workshop has ended. Students continue to work with their PLA Advisor independently as they work on subsequent portfolios. To the extent possible, students are encouraged to follow the degree completion plan they develop in the course.
How soon will I find out if my portfolio meets the requirements for a recommendation of credit?
Faculty evaluators may take up to four weeks to complete their evaluations.In some cases the evaluator may request additionalinformationfrom the student. Requests for additionalinformationmay add up to four additionalweeks to the review process. Once completed, the evaluator will provide feedback to the student and forward the evaluation form authorizing the postingof credit (if awarded) to the Transfer Credit department. The entireprocess from the timethe portfolioleaves the students hands should take six weeks or less, unless additionalinformationis required. Students wishing to apply for PLA credit for prior learning should consider this timeline when planning for graduation. Students considering participationin the PLA program should begin planning as soon as their transfer credit evaluationis completed, to allow for the timerequired to submit an application for the program, enrollment and participationin the four-week workshop, completionof the portfolio,and evaluationof the portfolio.
How are my PLA credits applied?
Credit for the Prior Learning course 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 lettergrade assigned and it is not factored into the GPA.
How will I be notified?
You will be notifiedvia email of the decision.
What are the costs associated with portfolio submissions and evaluation?
The first portfolio, which is developed in the course, will be evaluated at no additional cost. An evaluation fee of $250 will be charged for additional portfolios completed beyond the course requirement. If the evaluationresults in the award of academic credit, the credit will be posted to the student’s transcript at no charge.
If the evaluator does not recommend credit, the student will be informed of the reason(s) for the decision. If the student decides to revise the portfolioand resubmit it for consideration,there will be no charge for the firstresubmission. Subsequent resubmissions will each incur a fee of $250. In some rare cases, the evaluator may determine that the credit being sought by the student is simply not appropriate, and will communicate to the student that a resubmission is not worthwhile.
The evaluation fee is non-refundable, regardless of the credit recommendation.
Am I able to pay for this program with my financial aid/tuition assistance?
It depends on the type of aid you are receiving. Generally, students can use financial aid/tuition assistance to cover the tuition for COLL200. Students receiving financial support from government-sponsored programs may need to use personal funds to pay portfolio evaluation fees. Some employer-sponsored programs may cover fees associated with earning a degree. Please check with the financial aid office to discuss your particular situation.
I would like to submit more than one portfolio. How do I do that?
Students may submit additional portfolios once they have completed the course and had the first required portfolio evaluated.
What happens if my portfolio is not awarded credit? May I appeal that decision? How?
Students who submit portfolios for which credit is not recommended who feel their portfoliowas unfairly evaluated may appeal the decision. They may do so only afterthey have submittedtheir portfoliofor reconsiderationaftermaking appropriate revisions. The PLA Advisor will work with students to help them revise their portfoliosbased on the comments of the evaluator. If, after a second evaluation,credit is not recommended and a student wishes to appeal the decision, he or she may submit a formal appeal through the PLA office.In such cases, the Dean (or the Dean’s designated representative)of the appropriate school will be engaged to review the decision of the evaluator and render a decision as to whether the evaluationwill stand, or that credit is appropriate. The decision of the Dean is final,and once a portfoliohas been appealed it may not be revised and resubmittedfor further evaluation.
How do I contact the PLA office?
The staff of the Prior Learning Assessment office may be reached via email@example.com.