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The Advantages of the Prior Learning Assessment and How It Benefits You

The Advantages of the Prior Learning Assessment and How It Benefits You

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By Kimberly Watson
Alternative Learning Specialist, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, APUS

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a way in which you can receive academic credit for college-level learning that has taken place outside of the traditional classroom. It benefits you in three major ways:

  • You won’t have to learn redundant material.
  • You may shorten the time that you need to earn an academic degree.
  • You can save on your tuition costs.

What Types of Prior Learning Are There?

Universities have a long history of providing expedited ways for students to complete their degrees. Prior learning is one of those options.

Since the 1970s, universities have offered a variety of ways for students to demonstrate their prior learning. There are different forms of prior learning:

  • Advanced Placement (AP)
  • College-Level Exam Program (CLEP)
  • Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education (DANTES)
  • DANTES Subject Standardized Test (DSST)
  • American Council on Education (ACE) recommended credit

At American Public University System, we use all of these forms of prior learning for awarding college credit to qualified students. In addition, we have the PLA program. In November of 2015, we reached a milestone of awarding more than 1,000 credit hours to students using the PLA portfolio approach!

There are millions of Americans who have achieved their learning on the job or through a hobby such as volunteer work. Also, there are millions of Americans who have some college credit, but no degree. These types of learning could be used for academic credit.

Developing a Portfolio for Your Prior Learning Assessment

In addition to the options listed above, you can take advantage of the opportunity to develop a portfolio for a specific course within your degree program and petition for credit for what you have learned. Traditionally, students who have successfully completed the Prior Learning Assessment course and submitted portfolios have earned up to 30 credits, saved upwards of $5,000, and finished their degree programs between two months and 18 months earlier than they would have without the PLA program. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for the program.

Helping students achieve their educational goals is a priority for us at APUS. Our PLA program is one of the most comprehensive and respected programs in higher education, and we stand by ready to work with interested students. Please contact us at pla@apus.edu for more information.

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About the Author

Kimberly Watson joined American Public University System in 2010 as the Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Coordinator when the University began the pilot of the PLA program. She later became an Alternative Learning Specialist, which supports all forms of non-traditional learning.

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