What is Prior Learning Assessment?

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is learning individuals gain outside of traditional educational classrooms. Individuals may obtain learning in a variety of non-traditional settings such as workshops in the workplace, training through the military or law enforcement, professional certifications, or national examinations. The best part is that many non-traditional learning experiences may be equivalent to college-level credit!

Why should a student consider PLA?

Earning credit through PLA can save students time and money, provide a faster path to graduation, allow students to list college credit on a resume, and demonstrate the level of knowledge and skills learned outside of education.

How do I get started?

The first step, if you are not already a student at Arizona Western College, is to fill out an application online. Once you have been accepted, set up an appointment with an Advisor to discuss your educational plans. More information on the PLA process is provided below.

 

PLA Guidelines for Students

To be eligible for PLA a student must have an AWC application on file and be actively seeking a certificate or degree. Before meeting with the faculty, a student must first meet with an Advisor to establish a Program of Study. Credit for prior learning is only available for courses which are in the student's current Program of Study. The faculty will advise students of the PLA options and help them select which assessment option is best. Students must be registered and/or have completed at least six credit hours at AWC in order to have credits posted on their AWC transcript.

Prior learning credit may be granted for major course requirements, departmental requirements, or general elective credit. Program requirements should be reviewed to determine how PLA credits will apply toward graduation.

After successful completion of a portfolio or proficiency exam, the appropriate course credit will be posted to the student's transcript. A credit grade (CR) will be awarded for proficiency exams and a numeric grade will be assigned for portfolios evaluated at a 2.0 or better grade level.

PLA credits will be posted in the semester and year the PLA is awarded.

Students may be allowed up to 30 prior learning credits toward an associate degree and up to 15 prior learning credits for a certificate. Students must complete 6 credit hours of registered coursework at AWC to be awarded a certificate and 15 credit hours to be awarded an associate degree.

The credits awarded are granted toward an AWC degree. AWC does not guarantee the credits awarded through the PLA method will transfer to other institutions. All institutions reserve the right to review credits to determine how awarded credits apply at their own institution.

Credit for PLA may be awarded for:

Certifications (local, state, national)

Students who have completed a professional certification or training program may be eligible for course credit. Law enforcement academies, allied health certifications, and massage therapy are a few examples of professional certifications or training programs that may be translate to equivalent coursework in that discipline.

  • Student shares interest in PLA with advisor
  • Advisor refers student to appropriate academic division
  • Student contacts division and provides certifications for review
  • Faculty review credentials and assign appropriate coursework on PLA Evaluation form
    • in the semester and year the PLA was requested
  • Career and Technical Education faculty will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to the Dean of Career and Technical Education
    • All other academic faculty/divisions will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to Vice President for Learning Services
  • If approved, the Dean of Career and Technical Education or Vice President for Learning Services will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to the Transfer Services Office
  • The Transfer Services Office will notify the student when posting has been completed
Challenging AWC Courses

Students have the opportunity in some Arizona Western College courses to earn credit by completing a comprehensive examination. Students cannot receive credit for a course that is equivalent to or lower than that in which they are currently enrolled or for which they have already received credit. Students may not apply to challenge a course a second time.

  • Student shares interest in PLA with advisor
  • Advisor refers student to appropriate academic division
  • Student contacts division
  • If approved, academic division agrees to provide/proctor challenge exam to student, fills out and signs appropriate form
  • Students submits necessary paperwork to the Business Office, pays the exam fee
  • Student coordinates exam schedule with academic division and completes the challenge exam
  • If the challenge exam is graded as a C grade or better the Academic division will record the exam score on the form and submit the document to the Transfer Services Office. The course grade will be denoted as a ‘CR’ on the student transcript
  • The Transfer Services Office will notify the student when posting has been completed
Military Experience

“A Guide to the Evaluation of Education Experience in the Armed Services,” is the basis for evaluating the training and experiences in military service. When applicable, credit earned may be used for degree credit as equivalent courses in the major or as general electives up to the maximum number of credits prescribed by the specific program requirements. Credit accepted from such sources may not apply for graduation in specific majors or degree programs. These credits may not transfer to another educational institution.

  • Students must request their military transcripts from the appropriate branch of service

  • After student has registered and the military transcripts are received, the evaluation and posting of credit will transpire

  • The process of evaluation may take up to three weeks after the transcripts have been received

Portfolio Development

Portfolio Development courses are designed for students who have acquired and applied knowledge in a specific discipline that is equivalent to college coursework and/or have documented evidence of non-traditional learning. Students pursuing a Portfolio Development course should possess an ability to analyze their experiences and demonstrate mastery of college- level writing skills.

  • Student shares interest in PLA with advisor
  • Advisor refers student to appropriate academic division
  • Student contacts division
  • If approved, academic division agrees to open portfolio section
  • Student registers in portfolio development course. Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:
    • Articulate rationale for college-level experiential learning
    • Use experiential learning models and concepts
    • Synthesize material from assigned readings and relevant material
    • Generate theoretical and conceptual understanding from relevant experience
    • Demonstrate agreed upon course/discipline outcomes
    • Assess quality of independent learning
  • After successful completion of the course, instructor assesses the portfolio and approves AWC courses applicable to prior learning
  • Instructor emails the PLA Evaluation form and recommended course equivalencies to be transcripted on the student’s record to the Dean of Career and Technical Education or the Vice President for Learning Services in the semester the student is registered in the portfolio course
    • Career and Technical Education faculty will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to the Dean of Career and Technical Education
    • All other academic faculty/divisions will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to Vice President for Learning Services
  • If approved, the Dean of Career and Technical Education or Vice President for Learning Services will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to the Transfer Services Office
  • The Transfer Services Office will notify the student when posting has been completed
Standardized Examinations (AP/CIE/CLEP/DLPT/DSST/IB)

Standardized Examinations allow students the opportunity to complete an examination and at the same time, earn college credit for equivalent courses.

  • Students must register for a minimum of 6 credit hours at AWC and request the credit by examination results be mailed to AWC
  • After student has registered and examination transcripts are received, the evaluation and posting of credit will transpire if the exam and score are accepted by AWC
  • The process of evaluation may take up to three weeks after the transcripts have been received
  • The Transfer Services Office will notify the student when posting has been completed

 

PLA Guidelines for Faculty

The assessment of the learning is the responsibility of faculty who are content specialists at AWC. The names and qualifications of those making the assessments will be recorded. Practices used in assessing prior learning should be consistent with contemporary assessment methodology. Learning assessed for post-secondary credit should be:

  • Linked to established learning outcomes or other criteria consistent with institutional standards for a given course
  • Transferable to contexts other than the one in which it was learned
  • Current and relevant
  • At a level of achievement equivalent to that of other learners engaged in studies at that level in that program or subject area
  • Assessed using a range of strategies consistent with institutional standards for a given course

Faculty are involved with PLA of:

  • Challenging AWC courses
  • Local, state, and national certifications
  • Portfolio development

PLA Process

Certifications (local, state, national)

Students who have completed a professional certification or training program may be eligible for course credit. Law enforcement academies, allied health certifications, and massage therapy are a few examples of professional certifications or training programs that may be translate to equivalent coursework in that discipline.

  • Student shares interest in PLA with advisor
  • Advisor refers student to appropriate academic division
  • Student contacts division and provides certifications for review
  • Faculty review credentials and assign appropriate coursework on PLA Evaluation form
    • in the semester and year the PLA was requested
  • Career and Technical Education faculty will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to the Dean of Career and Technical Education
    • All other academic faculty/divisions will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to Vice President for Learning Services
  • If approved, the Dean of Career and Technical Education or Vice President for Learning Services will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to the Transfer Services Office
  • The Transfer Services Office will notify the student when posting has been completed

Challenging AWC Courses

Students have the opportunity in some Arizona Western College courses to earn credit by completing a comprehensive examination. Students cannot receive credit for a course that is equivalent to or lower than that in which they are currently enrolled or for which they have already received credit. Students may not apply to challenge a course a second time.

  • Student shares interest in PLA with advisor
  • Advisor refers student to appropriate academic division
  • Student contacts division
  • If approved, academic division agrees to provide/proctor challenge exam to student, fills out and signs appropriate form
  • Students submits necessary paperwork to the Business Office, pays the exam fee
  • Student coordinates exam schedule with academic division and completes the challenge exam
  • If the challenge exam is graded as a C grade or better the Academic division will record the exam score on the form and submit the document to the Transfer Services Office. The course grade will be denoted as a ‘CR’ on the student transcript
  • The Transfer Services Office will notify the student when posting has been completed

Portfolio Development

Portfolio Development courses are designed for students who have acquired and applied knowledge in a specific discipline that is equivalent to college coursework and/or have documented evidence of non-traditional learning. Students pursuing a Portfolio Development course should possess an ability to analyze their experiences and demonstrate mastery of college- level writing skills.

  • Student shares interest in PLA with advisor
  • Advisor refers student to appropriate academic division
  • Student contacts division
  • If approved, academic division agrees to open portfolio section
  • Student registers in portfolio development course. Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:
    • Articulate rationale for college-level experiential learning
    • Use experiential learning models and concepts
    • Synthesize material from assigned readings and relevant material
    • Generate theoretical and conceptual understanding from relevant experience
    • Demonstrate agreed upon course/discipline outcomes
    • Assess quality of independent learning
  • After successful completion of the course, instructor assesses the portfolio and approves AWC courses applicable to prior learning
  • Instructor emails the PLA Evaluation form and recommended course equivalencies to be transcripted on the student’s record to the Dean of Career and Technical Education or the Vice President for Learning Services in the semester the student is registered in the portfolio course
    • Career and Technical Education faculty will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to the Dean of Career and Technical Education
    • All other academic faculty/divisions will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to Vice President for Learning Services
  • If approved, the Dean of Career and Technical Education or Vice President for Learning Services will submit the PLA Evaluation form with recommended equivalencies to the Transfer Services Office
  • The Transfer Services Office will notify the student when posting has been completed

 

 

Contact Info

Phone: (928) 344-7519
Fax: (928) 317-6022
Hours:
  • Monday - Thursday: 7:00am - 5:00pm