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An Examination of Prior Learning Assessment Participation and Guidance at Four-Year Universities

Matt J Bergman, Stephen McCaskey


Amid the push to increase educational attainment nationally is the growing embrace of strategies that create greater efficiency to graduate both traditional and nontraditional learners. One such advancement is the assessment of prior learning that happens outside the confines of the college walls. This study examined data from a Hanover Research report prepared for Indiana State University (ISU) about the participation of 20 Midwestern public nonprofit institutions in prior learning assessment (PLA) for college credit. The authors used the report to explore application of the four most common delivery methods for PLA including portfolio assessment, credit by exam, military education credit, and corporate and professional credentialing. ISU synthesized the best practices for PLA and made tangible adjustments to processes and procedures that will allow the university to be responsive to the aims of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education in a manner that has rigor and academic integrity. Based upon the findings, a task force has been successful in moving PLA practice forward to address institutional issues including the need for new students, retention of existing students, and greater degree completion of adult learners at ISU.

Keywords: prior learning assessment, adult learners, nontraditional students, persistence, degree completion programs

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