PLA Documentation Course

PLA 2000 - Prior Learning Documentation

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor

Graded “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory”.  Techniques for the development of documentation for prior learning experiences based on standards and criteria established by academic and subject matter professionals.  Students prepare and submit documentation which provides a clear description of competencies obtained

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What is PLA portfolio development?

Students use the PLA portfolio development process to document their prior learning. This process requires students to prepare and submit a collection of documents that establish and support their claim that they have specific relevant skills, knowledge, values, attitudes, understandings, achievements, experiences, competencies, training, and certifications that align with specific course objectives.  The portfolio developed in the documentation course should not only describe the relevant experience but should also identify the particular learning outcomes.

Student must also offer a critical self-assessment of what college-level learning has been acquired through selected non-traditional experience. This experience might include a variety of work, training, reading and research, civil and military service, or life learning.

Once students complete and submit the PLA portfolio, assessors will evaluate it to determine if that portfolio provides evidence that ties those skills to a specific course objectives.  If the portfolio does so, credit can be awarded when assessors determine that the prior learning is acceptable for credit.

What does the PLA Counselor do?

Students who believe that they may have prior learning that can be used for academic credit should schedule an appointment with the PLA Counselor who will work with them to determine if the portfolio documentation process is appropriate.  If students decide to pursue this route, the PLA Counselor will enroll them in the PLA documentation course. 

How can prior learning be made to match the learning outcomes at Valdosta State University?

Prior learning will provide students a way of thinking about broad categories of learning.  The learning outcomes will help the PLA Counselor in guiding students to align and categorize their prior learning with the learning outcomes at VSU.

What are the learning outcomes at Valdosta State University?

The VSU core curriculum provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions indicative of an educated person and foundational to lifelong learning.  The eight student outcomes of VSU’s general education curriculum are:

  • Students will demonstrate understanding of the society of the United States and its ideals.

  • Students will demonstrate cross-cultural perspectives and knowledge of other societies.

  • Students will use computer and information technology when appropriate.

  • Students will express themselves clearly, logically, and precisely in writing and in speaking, and they will demonstrate competence in reading and listening.

  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of scientific and mathematical principles and proficiency in laboratory practices.

  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of diverse cultural heritages in the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences.

Upper division and graduate programs also have further outcomes which students are required to meet.

How do students register for the PLA Documentation Course?

Students register for the PLA Documentation Course in consultation with the PLA Counselor.

What are PLA Documentation Course requirements?

The portfolio as used at Valdosta State University includes an organized variety of verifiable evidence, documentation and reflections of prior learning experiences (e.g., skills, letters, recognitions, certifications and experiences) for which a student seeks credit.  Students and the PLA Documentation class professor must agree upon the content and prior learning outcomes achieved as documented in the portfolio.

In the portfolio class, the outcomes set the requirements and include the following:

  • Establishment of a working relationship with the Prior Learning Counselor for ongoing identification and development of evidence for the assessment of students’ prior learning.

  • Information on the format, length, content, and structure of the portfolio.

  • Understanding of the system by which prior learning is assessed in a given program or organization at the University.

  • Determination of sources of prior learning which may include, but not be limited to, documentation and organization of possible and appropriate supporting sources of prior learning events and experiences that have contributed to students’ learning as individuals or as members of a group to show evidence of creditable learning. Produce only those items that are acceptable to VSU and the program in which credit is sought and that can be assessed.

    • the candidates’ evidence of job descriptions, work samples, videotapes, performance appraisal reports, promotion letters, awards, correspondence, newspaper articles, reports, work logs, learning logs, college activities, students’ perceptions, journal articles, presentations, book reviews, photographs, professional organization involvement, and other life experiences from teaching and training,

    • continuing education unit, hobbies, professional activities, recognitions, non-credit courses, clinical experiences, public and non-public  service, military service, internships, licensure examination scores, membership in professional or trade organizations, military separation papers, military record,  travel, homemaking, annotated resource lists, conversation with experts, paintings done, dances choreographed,

    • exhibits, expert testimony, testimonials, pedagogical narrative, artifacts or objects with commentary, commendations, course outlines, clinical and practicum hours, books published, patents obtained, books read, speeches given, performance programs, electronic presentations, funded and unfunded proposals written and community involvement. 

  • Analysis of events and experiences in students’ lives, including the provision of reflections on the prior learning.

  • Identification of the different parts of the portfolio, suitable labeling of the parts, and appropriate evidence for inclusion in the total portfolio and all of its parts.

  • Establishment of the appropriate length and structure of the portfolio.

  • Ascertain the educational, personal, and career goals and plans as a context for the assessment of students’ prior learning.

  • Application of criteria for determining the college-level qualities of students’ learning.

  • Demonstration of knowledge and usage of program-specific forms and formalities for submitting evidence of learning for assessment.

  • Usage of the outcomes of a learning assessment process to plan future educational and professional activities.

  • Development and submission of the portfolio for the classes in which students are seeking credit by students using Standard English in well-written documents which are properly word processed and use appropriate guides for writing based on departmental requirements (e.g., APA and MLA).

What are the appropriate PLA Documentation Course enrollment and completion times?

The PLA Course must be taken upon entry into a University program when students select the portfolio as the means of entry.  The PLA Documentation class must be completed by the end of the junior year (90 semesters of credit) for undergraduate programs since no provision will be made for receipt of credit during the senior year of undergraduate programs.  At the graduate level, the PLA Documentation Course must be completed by the end of second semester of enrollment.

What should the portfolio for the PLA Documentation Course include?

The material contained in the PLA portfolio will vary depending on the course and department for which students seek credit.  An example of what a portfolio might contain follows:

  • A cover and a title page

  • A table of contents

  • A resume’

  • A copy of all transcripts (unofficial)

  • An autobiographical essay

  • A critical reflection

  • Present and future educational and career plans

  • A written statement of the prior learning related to the course for which credit is sought

  • Materials to document and support the prior learning being claimed.

  • A summary statement.

How are portfolios evaluated for credit?

The assessors (evaluators) of the portfolios are, in most cases, faculty members from the department(s) in which students hope to receive course credit.  In some special circumstances, professionals in a given field may do portfolio assessments. The assessors will evaluate the submitted portfolios using already determined content area standards, such as learning outcomes, objectives, and criteria as outlined in documents such as those used in SACS reviews.  The portfolio assessment process does not allow students seeking PLA credit through this means to have direct contact with the assessors (evaluators).  The students’ PLA Documentation Course instructor will guide them through the process in this class.

When will students learn what credit they have received?

The departments responsible for grading particular examinations determine the grading timeline for the examinations. Portfolios are due three weeks prior to the end of the semester for consideration of receipt of credit by PLA.  The portfolio due date permits the announcement of the assessors’ decisions to coincide with the final examinations and regular grades of that semester.

Do students get feedback from the portfolio assessors?

The assessors will work in teams of two, creating one comprehensive report that will give specific feedback to students.  Credit could be awarded after the first submission or the assessors may specifically outline areas for improvement and encourage students to resubmit their documentation one time during the next semester.

How do students resubmit portfolios?

Students may resubmit the portfolio for re-assessment, with a revision of the documentation set and inclusion of any noted areas for improvement in the semester immediately after the PLA Documentation Course or the original assessment of that particular documentation set.  Students are allowed to resubmit only one time for any given course.

How will the credit be recorded on students’ transcripts?

The PLA Documentation Course will be recorded on the students’ transcripts as “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory.”  PLA credit for the courses for which the student seeks credit will be noted with a specific letter (S) designating that credit was given by PLA  (This is the current procedure for courses in which letters like K are used).

PLA Documentation Course Summary

The portfolio provides students the opportunity to show what they have learned, how that learning was acquired, and their ability to apply that learning as well as to reflect critically on it.   A well written, appropriately documented portfolio in a quality presentation format provides the opportunity to earn credit for previous learning, not just prior activities. Competencies acquired must be clearly shown.

Preface, Introduction, Description of Courses

Preface & Acknowledgements (Provides background information on the development of the PLA Program at VSU)


Description of Courses

PLA Documentation Course Information