NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) - Beginning this fall, Pulaski Technical College will offer students a way to earn college credit for subject matter knowledge they have gained through work experience outside the traditional classroom setting.
The program is called Prior Learning Assessment and is sometimes referred to as “adult experiential learning.” It’s geared toward older, non-traditional students and provides those students an opportunity to advance more quickly toward a degree.
“Prior learning assessment is becoming increasingly more common, and we anticipate that the Arkansas Department of Higher Education will be involved in setting statewide practices in the next five to ten years,” said Benjamin Peacock, Pulaski Tech’s PLA coordinator. “We want to be on the forefront of making this available to our students.” The average age of PTC’s student body is 30, and many students have accumulated substantial learning experience from previous jobs, he said.
Students will be able to earn up to 30 credit hours (the limit set by the state) from non-traditional learning experiences. These credits may be earned one of two ways: credit by examination or portfolio assessment.
Credit by examination includes nationally recognized assessments such as College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and Advanced Placement (AP), which PTC has long offered as avenues of credit. (For tracking and statistical purposes, they are being rolled into the PLA policy). Military credit evaluation and credit earned through affiliations with other institutions and agencies will continue to be provided at no charge. There are also many credentialing and licensing exams at the state and national level that PTC may use to award course credit. Examples include culinary certifications, certificate medical exams and cosmetology exams.
The assessment of these documents for credit will cost $25 and if awarded, the student will pay 25% of the current tuition rate. In addition, the college may provide in-house challenge exams where another avenue of assessment may not exist. For example, students often request computer credit opportunities, such as for Microsoft Office classes. These will be developed in the future.
The other way to assess a students’ prior learning is through portfolio assessment. Students would provide a portfolio with a narrative and documentation or demonstration of learning that occurred through prior experiences. The process of creating the portfolio allows the student to be introspective and self-critical using the Kolb model for learning (which connects an experience to the act of learning).
A faculty expert in the field will review the portfolio and determine if the student meets all of a course’s objectives to award credit.
“One important thing we want to communicate is that credit is not being awarded for just having an experience,” Peacock said. “Students must demonstrate they have learned something from that experience that is at a collegiate level. We are not letting students simply purchase college credit; PLA is a rigorous process of evaluation for both the student and the assessor.”
To assist students with the creation of their portfolio, PTC devised a one-credit hour Portfolio Development course that students may take online, with guided instruction. PTC also plans to offer this course as a free workshop through the Business and Industry Center, periodically. The assessment of the portfolio costs $25 for submission, plus $75 per course requested. If awarded, the student then pays 25% of the current tuition rate.
“The benefit to the student is both time and cost savings,” Peacock said. For example, if a student requests credit for 9 credit hours of coursework, he or she would normally pay about $1,200 to take the classes. If awarded through Prior Learning Assessment, the student would pay about $650 and possibly be a full semester ahead in earning a degree.
Interested students can make an appointment to discuss specific opportunities and find information on PTC’s website at www.pulaskitech.edu/pla.
Pulaski Tech’s Prior Learning Assessment policy has been in the works for more than a year. With partial funding through the federal Path to Accelerated Completion and Employment (PACE) Grant, PTC met with a consultant and developed policies using the Council for Adult Experiential Learning (CAEL) standards. Several workshops were held, with community colleges from around the state invited to participate. In fall 2013, a committee was formed to begin the work of creating the policy. The PTC Board of Trustees approved the policy in January 2014, for implementation this fall.
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