UET Online Magazine

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Issue 3: 5/28/2007
Translate life experience into college credit

Many workers have learned skills and information on the job – learning to do their job better or staying current with software and technology. That life and work experience can translate into college credit, and not just from the school of hard knocks, but from many public and private colleges and universities.

But it’ll take more than a resume to prove that you’ve acquired the skills and knowledge that meet a course requirement. So, there’s a bit more work on your part to be done.

Most schools require a portfolio to demonstrate your grasp of a particular course or class. Often no grade is given for the portfolio – just credit for the course – and either a credit hour fee or portfolio application fee is required.

According to its Web site, Franklin University allows students to create a prior learning portfolio based on learning gained from experience that has:

  • General applicability in many situations
  • Theoretical and practical foundation in a specific subject area (not routines, skills or procedures); and
  • Quality similar to that expected of classroom students who pass the related course.

Franklin’s prior learning portfolio has a specific structure (table of contents, autobiography of student, list of course outcomes used to compose the portfolio, narrative of what you know and how you learned each course outcome, copies of documents providing evidence of knowledge and application, and contact information) and cannot be submitted for every class. A student services associate helps students determine whether or not a course qualifies for portfolio credit before beginning the process.

At Franklin University, portfolios are evaluated by the program chair for the subject major or a faculty member who regularly teaches the course.

In a similar fashion, at Columbus State Community College, adult learners prepare a portfolio of their life experience with the help of a subject specialist. Columbus State considers the portfolio the opportunity for the adult student to provide evidence that he or she has the knowledge and skills that match the outcomes identified for a particular Columbus State course.

According to the college, the portfolio “must make its case by identifying learning clearly and succinctly and it must provide sufficient supporting information and documentation so that faculty can use it, alone or in combination with other evidence, as the basis for their evaluation.”

As Columbus State summarizes it: “Colleges award credit not for the experiences you have had, but for the learning.”