Earning Degree Credit Outside of Formal Coursework

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

Prior learning assessment is a term used by colleges to describe the process of earning college credit for learning acquired through a student’s work, training, volunteer experiences, and personal life (Colvin 2006). Credit is not granted on the basis of a student’s experience; instead it is granted for college-level learning which can be demonstrated and documented. At Lewis University, PLA includes the successful completion of national proficiency examinations, departmental challenge examinations, special licensures and credentials in a profession, and the development and submission of a Prior Learning Portfolio.

Credits awarded for prior learning are transcripted on a pass/no credit basis and do not affect the student’s grade point average. A Lewis student may earn up to 30 credits through PLA, but those credits are not considered in satisfying the 32-hour residency requirement of the University. Credits earned through PLA cannot be used to satisfy the transfer credit hour requirement for admission into an accelerated degree program.

The University-wide approach for PLA provides a system for working with adult students enrolled in an undergraduate degree program offered by the four Colleges, or in an accelerated undergraduate degree program delivered through the School for Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE). Registrations for PLA are coordinated by SPCE, and all adult students who would like to pursue credit through PLA must attend a free orientation program before registering. The orientation will include detailed information about each PLA method available, the time commitment involved for this alternative approach to earning credits, and other related processes. Key features of the PLA program at Lewis include

  • All credits pursued and earned through PLA must be completed prior to the student's last semester at the University.
  • A maximum of 30 credit hours may be earned at Lewis through PLA. Consult the specific College/School or degree program for specifications on hours that may be applied to the major through PLA.
  • The appropriate faculty in each College/School will determine the required college equivalent learning to be demonstrated by a student for each method of PLA. College/program administrators will determine the appropriate subject matter expert, i.e., faculty member, who will evaluate a student’s examination, credentials, and/or portfolio.
  • SPCE will coordinate student registrations for PLA; students will be billed through the Business Office.
  • Once a student has registered to develop a PLA portfolio, the timeline for completion of an individual portfolio (by subject area) will be one calendar year.

Contact the School for Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) at (815) 836-5570 for additional information on PLA.