June 27, 2016  |  Kerrie Houchens

Credit for Work and Life Experiences at Purdue Global

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 Purdue Global? 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 Purdue Global, 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.

Purdue Global offers two Credit for Work and Life Experience portfolio courses:

  • LRC 100: Documenting Your Experiences for College Credit—a free course recommended for students who haven't started their classes or degree program yet; and

  • EL 206: Academic Prior Learning Portfolio—a 6-credit course recommended for students who have already started classes; suggested for a student's second-term registration.

By taking one of Purdue Global'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.

Additionally, students are encouraged to complete the PLA Calculator; by answering a few short questions, students can easily find out if they might be a good fit for Purdue Global's Credit for Work and Life Experience courses.

About the Author

Kerrie Houchens

Earn a degree you're proud of and employers respect at Purdue Global, Purdue's online university for working adults. Accredited and online, Purdue Global gives you the flexibility and support you need to come back and move your career forward. Choose from 175+ programs, all backed by the power of Purdue.

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Credit for Prior Learning: Purdue Global does not guarantee transferability of credit from any of these sources. See the University Catalog for the Prior Learning policy.