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Prior Learning Assessment by Portfolio

What is PLA?

Prior Learning Assessment or PLA is a way to award academic credit for learning that has taken place outside the classroom. It recognizes that adult students often bring with them considerable knowledge and skills gained from years of experience in the workplace and elsewhere.

Benefits of PLA?

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, a national organization that promotes effective strategies for the academic success of adult learners, conducted a study of over 62,000 adult learners at 48 colleges and universities across the country. They found that students who earned credit through PLA completed their degrees faster, were more likely to graduate and had higher GPA’s. In addition, earning academic credit through PLA can significantly reduce the cost of a college education.

▼   What is PLA by Portfolio (PLA-P)?
The main mechanism for PLA at South is PLA by Portfolio or PLA-P. It is a process by which evidence of learning outside the traditional academic classroom is gathered, organized, and presented for review in the form of a detailed and comprehensive portfolio. It is tied to and addresses the various learning objectives of specific academic courses. Such learning can be gained from:
  • Work experience
  • Continuing professional education and development
  • Seminars and workshops
  • In-service training
  • Certifications and licenses
  • Military Experience
  • Non-credit courses such as MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses)
  • Extensive reading, research, or independent study in a particular area
  • Extensive volunteer experiences
Prior Learning Assessment by Portfolio is an academically rigorous process, explaining and documenting how an individual’s knowledge, skills and experience match the in-class learning of a specific academic course. PLA-P is not simply academic credit from a resume. Credit is granted not for years of experience but for knowledge and learning as a result of those years of experience and the student’s ability to connect that learning to academic coursework learning objectives.
▼   Who is eligible?
All students who have been admitted to the University in an academic program, are two or more semesters from graduation, and are currently in good academic standing are eligible to apply for undergraduate PLA-P credit as it relates to their program of study requirements. Additionally, students must have:
  • Completed EH 102, EH 105, an equivalent transfer course or placement;
  • Received approval from the PLA coordinator;
  • Submitted application form, signed contract and $100 non-refundable application fee; 
  • Students must apply for PLA-P the semester before the portfolio is created for review.
    • PLA-P preparation and review are only available in fall and spring semesters.
▼   What is the PLA-P process?
  1. Students interested in PLA-P will schedule a meeting with the PLA coordinator to discuss their background and potential courses for which PLA-P could possibly be done. It is up to each department as to whether they will accept PLA-P or not. The PLA coordinator will work closely with academic departments and students to determine possible courses for which PLA-P might be suitable.

  2. Once accepted to participate in the PLA-P process, the student will submit the PLA-P application and contract, delineating the approved course or courses and agreement with all PLA-P policies.

  3. Upon submission of the application and contract, student will be charged a non-refundable fee of $100 to start the process.

  4. Student will be entered into a USA Online worksite that will lead them through the creation of a of a robust portfolio with all the required elements. All elements will be printed, compiled into a final portfolio and submitted to the PLA coordinator for review.

  5. PLA coordinator will forward completed portfolios to the department chair or designated faculty assessor along with a review guide and rubric. The assessor will determine if the portfolio adequately demonstrates learning to match the learning objectives of the approved course for which academic credit is being sought. Credit is not guaranteed.

  6. If credit is granted, the student will be charged $100 per credit hour ie. $300 for a 3-credit hour course.
▼   How much credit can be earned through PLA-P?
  • University policy allows students to earn up to thirty total undergraduate hours of credit through all forms of Prior Learning Assessment. PLA-P may constitute any number of those hours, up to thirty.
    • The number PLA-P credit hours allowed toward any academic program requirements will be determined by the department.
  • PLA-P is not allowed for general education credit or for those courses required for certification or licensure.
  • PLA credits are applied to meeting degree or program requirements in the same manner as credits earned at USA.
  • Credits earned through PLA-P can count toward the residency requirement.
  • PLA-P credit is not graded. It does not affect GPA and is not factored into GPA hours. PLA credit will not apply toward academic honors at graduation.
  • PLA-P credit may not be recognized by new majors, transfer to other institutions or meet graduate program admission requirements.
▼   What is included in a PLA Portfolio?

Students approved for PLA-P will be entered into a USA Online tutorial worksite which will walk them step by step through the portfolio contents and creation process.

Prior Learning Assessment by Portfolio Preparation Guide

▼   PLA-P application and contract

Application and contract are fillable PDFs.  Please download, fill out electronically, print and sign.



How can I learn more?

Contact Adult Learner Services to schedule a call or meeting to answer any questions.

Bob Charlebois
PLA coordinator