Photo of David Starr-Glass. Photo credit: Prof. Jerry Koller

The Thoughtful Assessment of Prior Learning: Hastening, Ensuring and Enhancing Graduation

David Starr-Glass


It is well recognized that prior learning assessment (PLA) has the power to decrease the time-to-graduate for most college students. In an environment where increasing time-to-graduate, rising drop-out rates, spiraling tuition costs and daunting graduate debt are all significant problems for those in higher education, it is to be expected that many students and institutions are keenly interested in PLA. Participation in PLA initiatives, however, is also associated with increased student motivation, greater learning engagement and better overall academic outcomes. This article examines the nature and the assessment of informal learning, considers differing PLA philosophies and examines a number of PLA alternatives. It argues that PLA is a fluid, holistic and exceptionally effective experience for all college students who might wish to shorten their time-to-graduate, enhance the quality and value of their degrees, and participate in what can often become a truly transformative learning experience.

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