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What is Prior Learning Assessment?

Prior learning is a term educators use to describe learning that a person acquires outside of a traditional academic environment. This learning may have been acquired through work experience, employer training programs, military training, independent study, non-credit courses, and volunteer and community service.

Prior learning assessment (PLA) is the process by which an individual’s experiential learning is assessed and evaluated for purposes of granting college credit. There are four generally accepted approaches to PLA: (1) national standardized exams, e.g, AP, CLEP, and DANTES (DSST) exams; (2) departmental credit by examination; (3) evaluated non-college programs, e.g., National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) or American Council on Education (ACE) evaluations of corporate and military training; and (4) portfolio assessment.

Most, but not all departments participate in prior learning assessment. Danielle Forrest, the Prior Learning Specialist within the Center for Individualized Learning, can give you more information about each option and can help you integrate prior learning credit into your degree program. Click on side links to learn more.

Office Hours: Although Danielle is often available to meet on a walk-in basis, it is always safest to call the front desk at 303-556-8342 first to make sure she is available. She also holds office hours as follows:

Monday and Wednesday 12:00 - 2:00

Tuesday and Thursday 10:00 - 12:00

Also available by appointment, including some evening hours.

Do you qualify for credit for prior learning?  Take our questionnaire below:

Assessment of Prior Learning      

          ___  I have worked as a professional in my field for at least three to five years.

          ___  I have also worked in other professions for extended periods of time.

          ___  I have attended work-related trainings such as computer workshops or interpersonal skills trainings.

          ___  I have earned certifications that keep me up-to-date in my job and have helped me to get promotions.

          ___  I have learned a lot of different things during my many years of working and involvement in the community.

          ___  I have taught others what I know or coached colleagues.

          ___  I perform as well as other people who have college degrees.

          ___  I have learned some specific skills that help me every day at work.

          ___  I want to learn more in my field but don’t think I need to start at the beginning.

          ___  I have knowledge in my field that is quite extensive in certain areas.

If you have checked several of these a portfolio may be a good option for you!  All prior learning assessment credits must match with a MSU Denver course.


College Subject Tests and Departmental Exams for Credit

         ___  I have studied a lot on my own by reading and practicing new skills in very specific areas.

         ___  I have taken classes and workshops in subjects such as government, history, or computers.

         ___  I have taken some open online courses (MOOCs) on specialized subjects, and think that I learned a lot.

         ___  I do well on tests if given proper preparation.

         ___  I am already in college, but there are a few courses I don’t think I need to take because I already know the material.

         ___  I don’t know which degree I am going to get, but there are some general education MSU Denver classes offered that

I definitely would not need to take.

         ___  I am in a degree program and am taking classes, but I am required to take one or two MSU Denver classes in my

major that I could ‘test out of’ or challenge.

         ___  I have looked at the requirements for a MSU Denver class and I know I could pass it with what I already know.

If you checked several of these, taking some college subject tests (through CLEP or DSST) or departmental exams for credit may be a good option for you. CLEP exams are offered here at MSU Denver and it takes just a few hours to take them. The results are immediate! Click here for more information. Acceptance of DSST exams are on a case-by-case basis. 

Please consult with the Prior Learning Specialist for more information.


Get a jumpstart and try the FREE college credit predictor here    (credit acceptance is subject to MSU policy)

Content built from a model from Vermont State Colleges: