Learning Recognition is the process by which all learning, regardless of source, is acknowledged, validated and credentialed through academic credit, academic non-credit, or non-collegiate credentials, such as workplace licenses, certifications, badges, etc. While some students have the opportunity to attend one of our institutions directly after completing high school, many more do not. Yet, learning does not stop if you are not in school. Individuals continue to learn through work, life experiences, and personal study. Some of this learning can be recognized at the undergraduate or graduate level and be applied to postsecondary credentials. Regardless of the source of learning or the method by which that learning is evaluated, verifiable learning is valid learning. By recognizing learning acquired by all students, we provide more opportunities that enable students to be successful within higher education and obtain credentials needed for better employment and continuing education. One type of learning recognition is prior learning assessment.
Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is the process by which verifiable learning acquired outside of traditional learning environments is assessed for program-level credit. Two key points are that the learning is verifiable through different assessment strategies and the learning is assessed at the level of the program within which the credits are accepted.
There are many sources from which learners can gain knowledge and skills outside of the traditional learning environment:
- Workplace learning and training – learners may have gained knowledge and skills from professional development through the workplace and/or preparing for and acquiring licenses, certifications, badges. and other workplace related credentials. For example, someone may have taken customer service training, applied that learning on the job, continued with advanced training, and now is a trainer for other employees.
- Military experiences – learners have gained college level learning through training and occupations. The American Council on Education (ACE) has evaluated trainings and occupations across many fields in the military.
- Self-study – learners may have acquired knowledge and skills through their own self-study, workshops, on-line resources, or other means specifically to increase knowledge and skills of an area. For example, someone may have studied the civil war on their own to learn more about the history, social change, and economic impact of that time in the United States.
- Community work and volunteerism – learners may have acquired knowledge and skills through different community service and volunteerism activities. For example, someone may have acquired learning through public speaking or event planning or serve as a child advocate and has learned about the court systems.
- Personal experiences – learners may have rich personal experiences which have developed a depth and breadth of knowledge and skills in specific areas. For example, someone may be a caregiver and learned about a particular disease and the related nutrition, treatments, medications, and resources needed to provide the best care possible.