Some students do not consider prior learning assessment programs because they do not realize they have acquired college-level knowledge, skills, or abilities for which they could earn credit. They forget life is a learning experience. While learning can occur in any setting, the workplace is a good place to start discovering what you really know.
Workplace learning may result from formal training programs or on-the-job training. Determining what you learned from formal training is easy. There was likely a brochure or announcement describing the class and its focus. Learning on the job is not quite so easy to isolate.
In order to determine the knowledge, skills, and abilities you have attained, start with your position description or perhaps the entries on your resume. These will not necessarily indicate what you have learned, but they will identify what you have done or are currently doing on the job. Then, dissect the job and determine what you have really learned. While colleges will not award credit for experience, they may award credit for learning via experience.
Take a look at some examples starting with a typical, very basic position description for an administrative assistant. What would a person need to know (knowledge) or be able to do (skills and abilities) in order to perform these tasks?
Performs administrative and office support activities for multiple supervisors. Duties may include fielding telephone calls, word processing, creating spreadsheets and presentations, filing, and faxing. Extensive software skills are required, as well as Internet research abilities and strong communication skills.
Knowledge, skills, or abilities required
|Fielding telephone calls, receiving and directing visitors, receiving and directing visitors||language skills, (possibly bilingual depending on the nature and geographic location of the business) interpersonal skills, communication skills, an understanding of the organization|
|Word processing, creating spreadsheets and presentations||most organizations use the Microsoft suite so we can assume this person would need to be proficient with the advanced tools in MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint|
|Internet research abilities||problem solving and critical thinking skills, ability to determine validity and reliability of web resources, information literacy skills|
Based on the analysis above, this student might consider seeking prior learning credit for communications courses and computer applications courses. Depending on the type of organization and other duties required, further analysis might reveal other opportunities.
The following is a generic resume entry for a retail sales associate position.
- Greeted customers and determined their needs and wants
- Discussed type, quality and number of merchandise required for purchase
- Recommended merchandise based on individual requirements
- Advised customers on utilization and care of merchandise
- Provided advice to clients regarding particular products or services
- Explained the use and advantage of merchandise to customers
- Answered customers’ queries and concerns
- Demonstrated merchandise
- Quoted prices and discounts as well as credit terms, trade-in allowances, warranties and delivery dates
- Prepared sales contracts and accepted payments through cash, check and credit card
- Assisted in display of merchandise
- Maintained sales records for inventory control
This student would have likely learned about customer relations and best practices in selling and merchandising. S/he would have mastered basic math skills and gained knowledge of inventory control and risk management in the retail environment. Depending on the merchandise mix, s/he may have gained other industry specific knowledge. For example, someone selling computers would need to know about computer hardware, someone working in a health food store might have learned a great deal about nutrition.
While not all positions involve developing college-level knowledge, skills, and abilities, students should not discount the possibility of participating in a prior learning assessment program without first reflecting on their lives in terms of what they have learned. Once students have considered the knowledge gained in the workplace, they should move on to contemplate other aspects of their lives, such as community or church involvement and volunteer work. Prior learning assessment programs can help students achieve their goals much faster and save them a great deal of money.
For more information about the prior learning assessment program at APUS, please visit http://www.apu.apus.edu/admissions/general-information/pla.htm or http://www.amu.apus.edu/admissions/general-information/pla.htm
By Tedi Thompson-Magrini
Associate VP/Prior Learning Assessment at American Public University System