Transitioning Prior Learning Assessment from Competence-based to Course-based Degrees: A Case Study in Tension and Opportunities

Joseph Chen, Nicholas Hayes


The School for New Learning (SNL) at DePaul University had an almost 50-year history with competence-based education before transforming into the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) in 2019. Our commitment to adult students created a context in which competence-based learning (CBL) and prior learning assessment (PLA) were intrinsically linked. The crucial university-level decision to discontinue the competence-based degree in favor of course-based degrees has challenged us to rethink our approach to PLA and its relationship to various types of education. The newly created Office of Prior Learning Assessment (OPLA) has worked to facilitate these changes and leverage new institutional opportunities. This article provides historical context to our institution’s involvement with CBL and PLA and its movement away from CBL. From our unique vantage point, we explore the tension resulting from the decoupling of PLA from CBL, and the opportunities taken in supporting PLA in a non-CBL context.

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