- Louisville Campus
3101 Bardstown Road 40205
Phone: 502.456.6505 / 800.844.1354
- Lexington Campus
2355 Harrodsburg Road 40504
Phone: 859.276.4357 / 800.467.6281
- Fort Knox Campus
63 Quartermaster Street 40121
Phone: 502.942.8500 / 800.562.6713
- Online Division
2100 Gardiner Lane Ste. 220 Louisville, KY 40205
Phone: 502.413.8830 / 866.755.7887
Prior Learning Assessment
What is PLA?
Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a method used by most U.S. colleges and universities to identify and recognize college-level learning typically attained outside of the traditional classroom setting. PLA does not mean credit for life experience or work experience. Credit is awarded based upon documented and demonstrated learning that is deemed to be equivalent to that offered by the university's academic curriculum.
How is PLA beneficial?
Receiving college credit for prior learning allows students to earn their degrees more rapidly, thus saving time and money and providing value for lifelong experiential learning.
What are the types of PLA?
The most common forms of PLA are Credit by Examination, ACE Recommendations and Prior Learning Portfolio.
Credit by Examination: Knowledge required for specific courses or discipline areas may be assessed by successfully passing a comprehensive examination. This can be a bypass exam designated for a specific course or a standardized exam, such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), the Defense Activity for Nontraditional Education Support (DANTES-DSST), the Excelsior College Examinations (ECE) or the College Board Advanced Placement (AP) exams.
ACE Recommendations: College credits may be awarded for corporate and military training, professional certifications and licensure that have been evaluated by American Council on Education (ACE).
Prior Learning Portfolio: A Prior Learning Portfolio is a formal document prepared by the student to demonstrate the student's college level knowledge based on the objectives and outcomes of specific courses or discipline areas. The portfolio is evaluated for possible approval for credit by an expert approved by the institution. Content from a portfolio will include an autobiography of learning activities, a professional resume, an essay relating the student's knowledge and skills to one or more college-level courses or discipline areas, and documentation (e.g. work samples, certificates, letters, reports, articles) that provides evidence of college-level learning.
How is PLA assessed?
The Council on Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) has identified ten standards for assessing prior learning:
- Credit or its equivalent should be awarded only for learning, and not for experience.
- Assessment should be based on standards and criteria for the level of acceptable learning that are both agreed upon and made public.
- Assessment should be treated as an integral part of learning, not separate from it, and should be based on an understanding of learning processes.
- The determination of credit awards and competence levels must be made by appropriate subject matter and academic or credentialing experts.
- Credit or other credentialing should be appropriate to the context in which it is awarded and accepted.
- If awards are for credit, transcript entries should clearly describe what learning is being recognized and should be monitored to avoid giving credit twice for the same learning.
- Policies, procedures, and criteria applied to assessment, including provision for appeal, should be fully disclosed and prominently available to all parties involved in the assessment process.
- Fees charged for assessment should be based on the services performed in the process and not determined by the amount of credit awarded.
- All personnel involved in the assessment of learning should pursue and receive adequate training and continuing professional development for the functions they perform.
- Assessment programs should be regularly monitored, reviewed, evaluated, and revised as needed to reflect changes in the needs being served, the purposes being met, and the state of the assessment arts.
How does PLA differ from what diploma mills do?
Most diploma mills award degrees based on "life experience" or "work experience" that is not independently verified to see whether the student actually knows anything. The diploma mill may ask for a resume or may ask the student to take an online open book test that anyone could pass. In reality, as long as your check clears, you can get a degree from a diploma mill. However, going this route has ruined the careers of thousands of individuals whose bogus degrees have been exposed.
In contrast, one receiving credit by PLA will have either: 1) taken a nationally recognized exam, such as CLEP, from an authorized testing center; 2) received credit for corporate or military training or certifications that have been evaluated previously by the American Council on Education and are recognized nationwide; and/or 3) created a portfolio documenting prior knowledge and skills in a particular course that is reviewed by an expert in that field based on criteria from CAEL (see above).
What is PLA 301?
PLA 301, Prior Learning Assessment, is a four credit-hour undergraduate elective course taken by those who believe that they can benefit from PLA. In the course, students learn about the different forms of PLA, and how to: 1) distinguish between college-level and non college learning; 2) determine their educational goals; 3) match their knowledge to specific college courses and 4) how to create a prior learning portfolio to articulate and document their prior learning for possible awards of college credit.
Does a student who takes PLA 301 have to submit a portfolio for credit to pass the course?
No. The PLA course and the portfolio process are separate. Students take PLA 301 first and then submit their portfolios after. Often, students will have completed a portfolio by the end of the course but will still be waiting for documentation to arrive before they can submit their portfolios.
Does taking PLA 301 guarantee that students will qualify for PLA credit?
No. Students who successfully complete PLA 301 receive four hours of elective. Each portfolio will be evaluated on its own merit, apart from the PLA 301 course.
How long after completing PLA 301 may students submit a portfolio?
Students have up to two years after completing PLA 301, or two quarters prior to graduation (whichever comes first) to submit their portfolios.
Can a student submit more than one portfolio?
Yes. A student may submit multiple portfolios, each for 4 or more credit hours.
Is there a limit as to how many credits a student may petition to receive via portfolio?
No. PLA credit may be used for up to 75% of a person's degree program.
How much does it cost to submit a portfolio?
Please see the current Sullivan Fee Schedule for current fees. Portfolio fees are paid according to the credit hours requested, not the credit hours granted.