According to Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Center for Individualized Learning (2016), prior learning is a term used by educators to describe learning that a person acquires outside of a traditional academic environment. This learning may have been acquired through work experience, employer training programs, military training, independent study, non-credit courses, and/or volunteer/community service.

Prior learning assessment (PLA) is the process by which an individual’s experiential learning is assessed and evaluated for purposes of granting college credit.

Valdosta State University defines Prior Learning Assessment as:

“A process through which students identify areas of relevant learning from their past experiences, demonstrate that learning through appropriate documentation, and submit their materials so that they can be assessed and possibly awarded academic credit relative to specific course objectives.”

ACE also provides a National Guide for College Credit for Workforce Training. Established in 1974 to connect workplace learning with colleges and universities by helping students gain access to academic credit for formal training taken outside traditional degree programs, with over forty-years of experience and over 35,000 programs reviewed, with its College Credit Recommendation Service, ACE is the national leader in the evaluation process for education and training obtained outside the classroom including courses, exams, apprenticeships, and other types of nontraditional forms of training.

American Council on Education (ACE) - About Learning Evaluations


Guidelines for PLA from Nationally Recognized Educational Organizations

Guidelines from Texas Institutions with Best Practices Models for PLA