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What is a 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.