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PLA Self-Assessment Guide

Take our PLA Self-Assessment to see if you a good candidate for Prior Learning Assessment.

Much of the material that follows is covered in the University’s PLA-1010 course designed to guide you through the process of identifying your college-level learning and using the University’s methods of earning credit for what you already know. This page will provide you with some insight into the University’s approach to Prior Learning Assessment, particularly if you are interested in the Single-Course Portfolio Process.

Is PLA Right for You?

Take our self-assessment to learn if you are a good match for earning credit for college-level knowledge you have acquired outside the classroom through prior learning assessment.

Take our self-assessment »

Thomas Edison State University has developed this self-assessment tool to help you determine whether you are a good candidate for Prior Learning Assessment (PLA).

  1. Identify your college-level knowledge and skills.
    First, review your resume and make a list of the following:
    • All full or part-time jobs you have had
    • All independent reading and study you have done
    • All training programs or in-service courses you have completed
    • All volunteer work you have done
    • Your cultural and artistic pursuits
    • Your hobbies and recreational pastimes
    • All community or religious activities you are involved in
    • All military service you have completed
    • Any travel study you have completed
    • Your organizational memberships
    If you are like most adult students, you should now have a list of at several areas to draw from. The next step is to think about the types of subjects and content areas that match your prior learning. For example, if you have experience managing people or supervising projects, you may have college-level knowledge in subjects related to business administration or management. Or, if you have experience in finance or budgeting, you may have college-level knowledge in subjects related to finance, accounting or mathematics. Remember to consider all the types of college-level courses offered that could describe the general knowledge you have accumulated throughout your life. To select the first subject or content area for which you hope to obtain college credit, base your decision on the answers to the following questions.
    • Is your knowledge equivalent to a college-level course?
    • Will the course credits apply to your degree program?
    If you answered yes to both of these questions, then you are ready to find an actual course description!
  2. Find a college course description to match your college-level prior learning.
    Once you have identified the college-level knowledge and skills you possess and the subject or content areas to which you think they are related, you are ready to identify an actual college course description. This is an important step in the process because it will help you to identify what you must demonstrate to prove that you possess college-level knowledge. There are several ways to locate a college course description:
    • Browse the University’s Registration Bulletin to determine if there is an existing course that best reflects your knowledge.
    • Search through the University’s online course directory to locate a course description that can be used to develop an individualized PLA course. In addition, you may search for a course from other regionally accredited colleges and universities. You can find catalogs and course descriptions for most colleges and universities on their web sites. If you select a course from an institution other than Thomas Edison State University, the school must be regionally accredited, the course you select must be represented in semester or credit hours (not quarter hours), and the course description should be no more than two years old.
    Important Notes About Single-Course Process Course Selection:
    Thomas Edison State University will determine how many credit hours will be assigned to the individualized portfolio course you hope to take. Most portfolio courses will be assigned three (3) credits. If you use a course description from outside the University, the number of credit hours assigned by the college whose course description you are submitting might not match the number of credit hours assigned by Thomas Edison State University. Students CANNOT earn college credit through the portfolio process for any course that must be fulfilled through direct current experience, such as: physical education activity courses, field experiences, student teaching, cooperative study, practicum courses, internships, senior seminars, independent study, or lab courses not accompanied by related theory courses.

    If you have located one or more college course descriptions, you are ready to proceed to the next step.
  3. Ensure the portfolio course you have chosen fulfills your degree requirements.
    While the portfolio program is a flexible and convenient way to earn college credit, students must ensure that the courses they select do not duplicate another course already applied to their degree programs. We strongly recommend students have their academic advisor review all course selections in relation to their degree programs to ensure the course may be applied to degree requirements.

    If the course you selected fits your degree program, you are ready to proceed to the next section.
  4. Describe what college-level knowledge you have learned and how you learned it.
    As part of the portfolio process, you will need to write a narrative, similar to a research paper that is supported by theory or concepts. This narrative should outline your learning and explain how your knowledge was acquired. In PLA-2000 as well as in the Single-Course process, you and your PLA mentor will determine the content of your narrative. In this way, the mentor serves as a guide as you navigate the portfolio process. In the narrative you will describe the college-level knowledge you have gained and how you gained it. You will also have to provide your mentor with objective evidence to support that knowledge. You and your mentor will determine what evidence and/or documentation is appropriate to demonstrate support of the learning you describe in your narrative. Types of evidence may include one or more of the following:
    • Samples of your work
    • Documentation of job skills
    • Letters of verification from employers or others who have first-hand knowledge of your abilities
    • Descriptions and requirements for licenses and/or certificates
    • Scanned documents and certificates
    • Video clips and streaming video
    • Audio recordings
    • Web site links
    • Certificates of attendance and notes taken in training courses
    • Transcripts
    • Annotated bibliography
    • Proof of membership in professional or trade organizations
    • Any other material agreed upon with your PLA mentor that offers proof of your college-level learning.
    Students who are unsure whether they can meet the above requirements, or who have questions about how to document their knowledge, should discuss the matter with their mentor immediately upon starting a PLA course.

If you think that you will be able to provide evidence to support your prior learning, our Portfolio program may be a good option for you to earn college credit. For more information about the PLA program, please call (609) 777-5680 or email