Prior Learning Assessment Policy

The benefits of awarding credit for prior learning include shortening a student’s time to degree; improving student retention and completion rates; and acknowledgement of the diversity of methods of learning which result in achievement of learning outcomes.  Prior Learning Assessment is a means of determining whether or not the knowledge, skills, and competencies a student has gained through prior learning match the knowledge, skills, and competencies a student would gain by completing a specific course offered at Chancellor. 

As a private sector, majority on-line university, Chancellor isn’t selling the traditional college experience.  We don’t have a quad, a basketball team, or a marching band; what we are selling is learning.  We can’t teach a student something they already know.  What we can do is help them document and get credit for what they have already learned.  We want to then focus on what they can learn from coursework at Chancellor to complete their mastery of a field and earn their degree.  To that end, prior learning assessment is a method of documenting what a student has already mastered and involves a rigorous, precise measurement of mastered learning outcomes.

PRINCIPLES:  In establishing a policy for awarding credit for prior learning, Chancellor determined a course of action based upon established principles consistent with the University’s mission and values.  A review of established approaches to prior learning from universities across the country along with sound assessment philosophy led to the adoption of the following principles synthesized from a number of university practices and state legislative policies:

  1. Credit or its equivalent should be awarded only for learning, and not for experience.
  2. Assessment should be based on standards and criteria for the level of acceptable learning that are both agreed upon and made public.
  3. Practices used in assessing prior learning should be consistent with sound assessment methodology.
  4. If awards are for credit, transcript entries should clearly describe what learning is being recognized and should be monitored to avoid giving credit twice for the same learning.
  5. The determination of credit awards and competence levels must be made by appropriate subject matter and academic or credentialing experts.   Assessment of the learning should be the responsibility of faculty who are content specialists and the names and qualifications of those making an assessment should be recorded.
  6. All personnel involved in the assessment of learning should receive adequate training and continuing professional development for the functions they perform.
  7. Fees charged for assessment should be based on the services performed in the process and not determined by the amount of credit awarded.

METHODS:  There are two primary methods that students can use to pursue credits from prior learning: credit by exam and a portfolio review process (PRP).

CREDIT BY EXAM:  There are a variety of tests that students can take in order to verify learning achievements.  These exams include the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests designed by the College Board, Excelsior College Exams, and the DANTES Subject Standardized Tests.  The American Council on Education (ACE) evaluates training offered by the military, employers, government agencies, and professional associations to see if it is at the college level and then recommends appropriate credits. 

The use of these tests is similar to transferring credits from other institutions of higher learning.  A CLEP or Excelsior College exam credit is treated like an AP test credit by Chancellor University.  Credits for Composition and Literature, World Languages, History and Social Sciences, and Science and Mathematics will be accepted for course credit for general education requirements.  Exams that cover courses that are part of Chancellor’s core programs will be evaluated to determine if the learning measured by the test matches the learning outcomes of corresponding Chancellor courses.  In the case of a core course, an examination may not be the most appropriate measure of student mastery, and a portfolio of student evidence may be recommended through the Portfolio Review Process (PRP).

Portfolio Review Process

STEP 1:  A student will be identified as a candidate for PRP by Admissions, Faculty Advisor, or Instructor. 

STEP 2:  Student will be enrolled in PLA 101 and assigned an academic advisor to begin the process of matching their pre-existing learning to Chancellor course outcomes.  Students will access a catalog of course learning objectives organized by programs in order to investigate how their experience can be matching with evidence of learning.  An archive of successful prior learning portfolios will be established as a guide to students, advisors, and faculty within the course as well. 

STEP 3:  PLA 101 is a self-paced course where students match their knowledge gained through employment and training to Chancellor University learning outcomes.  The process is iterative, with a faculty member from the discipline working with the student to match evidence of learning to learning outcomes.

STEP 4:  Students will complete their portfolio and apply for credit.  The portfolio will be judged by the faculty member assigned and then signed and forwarded to the appropriate program chair or dean, and finally, to the director of assessment.   Credits will be awarded for existing Chancellor courses and entered on the student transcript.

PARTIAL CREDIT:  Students may also qualify for partial course credit if they are able to demonstrate evidence of mastery of some subset of a course’s objectives and may take the course at a reduced fee, targeted at the specific content they have not yet mastered.  This targeted learning will be coordinated on a case by case basis with instructors consent as to feasibility.

Initiative Status:

In Process

  • A project to standardize and update course syllabi can be used to create the catalog of course learning objectives by program.

Next Steps

  • Program Chairs and Deans can investigate outside assessments against our course outcomes to determine if Credit by Exam should be extended to core Chancellor courses.
  • Development of comprehensive examinations for Chancellor University courses as appropriate. With the development of course final exams, linked to course outcomes, we could offer test-out options with Chancellor exams.

Chancellor is in the process of building a culture of assessment where instruction and assessment are linked in the creation of mastery learning.  The updating of program learning outcomes, coupled with linking individual course learning outcomes to each program should result in very precise expectations regarding the results of successful course completion.

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