Prior Learning Defined
Prior learning from life experience must meet two initial tests:
- It must be equivalent to a graduate-level learning experience
- It must be relevant to your current degree program. This means that the student believes that a previous learning experience has direct relationship to some of the requirements needed for the student’s degree program.
Prior learning is acquired from a variety of experiences, including:
- Non-credit-bearing professional training such as summer institutes, in-house training, workshops, and professional development sponsored by employers
- Professional experiences such as job-related work projects, committee and task force work
- Volunteer work in community organizations or local government
- Significant personal experience such as travel
- Graduate work more than five years old
- Undergraduate courses taken after earning the bachelor’s degree
- Graduate work at an unaccredited institution
Candidates for prior learning from life experience credits should be aware that some colleges and universities view life experience credit differently from classroom-based credit. Students considering transfer to, or additional graduate study at other institutions should make themselves aware of relevant transfer and admissions policies at those institutions before applying for prior learning credit.
Demonstration and Documentation:
Students who seek credit for learning derived from life experience must be able both to document their experience and to demonstrate not only their learning but how that prior learning might meet some of their degree requirements.
Documentation is the provision of written materials, or other products, confirming that you have had certain experiences which resulted in learning. Examples of acceptable documentation would include: job descriptions, certificates of attendance or achievement; copies of speeches made or articles, papers, or reports written, curriculum units designed, supporting letters from supervisors or colleagues.
Demonstration is the process by which you articulate the learning that has resulted from these experiences. Most demonstrations are in the form of essays, critiques, or case studies.
Application for the crediting of prior learning proceeds in three phases:
Step I: Development and approval of a plan
- Meet with your advisor for a preliminary discussion on the content and process of the application.
- Identify and define the areas in which you have knowledge and/or skills that could be credited towards meeting degree requirements in your program.
- Identify options for documenting and demonstrating your work.
- Submit to your advisor:
- An application form for advanced standing credit award for prior learning based on life experience (available in Registrar’s Office), listing the learning areas you plan to document
- A plan for documenting each area of competence proposed for prior learning credit
- A plan for demonstrating competence in each area
- Once approved by the advisor, all materials go to the chair of your academic department. S/he can either approve the submitted plan, propose modification, or recommend against the application.
Step II: Completion of Plan
Once the advanced standing plan has been given final approval by the department chairperson, you:
- Obtain documentation of each area of competence
- Complete demonstration of each area of competence
- Assemble and submit a portfolio of all materials to the Vice President for Academic Affairs or designee
Step III: Approval of Credit
The chairperson of your department will review the portfolio and, as a general rule, will seek the counsel and review of faculty who are qualified to evaluate your work, and make a final determination in the award of credit.