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Learning Center Experience
By Kerrie Houchens, Department Chair of Open College, Kaplan University
You may have heard such terms as "prior learning assessment" or "experiential learning," but what do these terms really mean, and what can they do for students who are enrolled at Kaplan University? To help explain the differences between these two terms and to provide a framework of understanding, consider the below definitions:
Experiential Learning: Learning that "involves direct participation or observation and results in the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Often, experiential learning is gained outside the traditional college classroom, through work and life experiences" (Huggins & Smith 2013).
Prior Learning Assessment (or PLA): "A term used by colleges and universities to describe the process of earning college credit for learning that is acquired through a learner's work and life experiences, outside the traditional classroom. The goal of PLA is to help adult learners earn college credit for what they already know, and achieve their educational goals more quickly and less expensively" (Huggins & Smith, 2013).
There are several ways students can obtain potential prior learning assessment credit at Kaplan University, but the primary way is by creating an experiential learning portfolio—i.e., a collection of work that supports the learners claim for credit-around specific college level courses within the student's degree plan. Depending on the student's individual experiential learning and where that learning intersects with the students chosen degree plan, this will determine what kind of courses a student can petition credit for.
While a majority of the courses petitioned for in a typical portfolio come from the student's work-related experience, additional areas that students can potentially earn college credit for include languages, arts, music, volunteer work, military experience, sports and hobbies—just to name a few.* For example, students who speak multiple languages could potentially petition for the equivalent college-level language course(s)!
How do students figure out which classes to include in their portfolio? Through a detailed conversation in each of the Credit for Work and Life Experience courses, students are mentored on how to select the right courses for them and their degree plan. For example, a student with previous accounting experience who's going into a Bachelor of Science in Accounting program will have different courses available to petition for than, say, the same student with previous accounting experience going into a Bachelor of Science in Health Care Administration program—so, understanding how the selected degree plan affects the individual student's experiential learning opportunities plays a key part in the portfolio process.
Kaplan University offers two Credit for Work and Life Experience portfolio courses:
By taking one of Kaplan's Credit for Work and Life Experience portfolio prep courses, students have the opportunity to build a complete experiential learning portfolio (that houses multiple courses), under the guidance of an instructor/mentor, and that can then be submitted for assessment of college credit by subject-matter experts. Depending on the amount of credit earned, the portfolio process can reduce the amount of time and tuition it takes to complete a degree.
For more information on these two course offerings, please visit the following website: http://portfolio.kaplan.edu. Additionally, students are encouraged to complete the PLA Calculator on the portfolio website; by answering a few short questions, students can easily find out if they might be a good fit for Kaplan University's Credit for Work and Life Experience courses.
Huggins, S. & Smith, P. (2013). Cashing In: How to Get Real Value From Your Lifelong Learning. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
*While no university can guarantee the transferability of credit from any of these sources, we encourage students who possess prior learning to apply for a credit evaluation. See the University Catalog for the Prior Learning Assessment policy.
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