Prior learning assessment (PLA) is becoming more widespread at many colleges and

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1 Northern Virginia Community College September 2015

2 Prior learning assessment (PLA) is becoming more widespread at many colleges and universities throughout the world. Prior learning encompasses any college-level learning that a student has acquired outside of a traditional classroom setting. This includes workplace training, skills learned on the job (in a career), volunteer activities, civic duties, and major life experiences. NOVA has been a leader in granting credit for prior learning and has been awarding such credit for decades. Prior learning assessment at NOVA is intended to encourage degree completion, and in many cases, PLA can help students save time and money by reducing the amount of courses a student must take to earn a degree. In a survey of a variety of 48 public and private 2- and 4- year institutions, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL, April 2011) found the following to be true: Students who received PLA credits were more than twice as likely to graduate 56% of students who received PLA credits went on to earn an associate or bachelor s degree, compared to 21% of those with no PLA credit Employers are recognizing the benefit of PLA to help employees gain higher education, thus adding value to the company Page 1

3 VCCS POLICY MANUAL Advanced Standing (C) Advanced standing is the administrative placement of a student that awards credit for subject matter competency based upon previous academic study or occupational experience. This may include, but is not limited to, college credit and advancement based upon individual college participation in the Advanced Placement Program of the College Entrance Examination Board; College Level Examination Program (CLEP); the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB); the International Baccalaureate (IB) program; the Cambridge Advanced program; other placement examinations; training provided by non-collegiate institutions, such as armed forces and service schools; professional certification; or experiential learning. VIRGINIA LEGISLATIVE INFORMATION SYSTEM HB 195 Higher educational institutions; course credit for military service. Summary: Requires the governing boards of each public institution of higher education, in accordance with guidelines developed by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, to implement policies that award academic credit to students for educational experience gained from military service. Page 2

4 To ensure all prior learning options have been considered and recommendations have been made in the student s best interest, it is suggested that academic advisors and counselors follow this procedure: Before recommending prior learning credits, ask the student about any plans to transfer to a 4 year institution, as not all PLA credits will transfer (see page 4) As early as possible in the student s time at NOVA, refer to student s degree Advisement Report to determine remaining courses needed to graduate To help determine if student may qualify for prior learning options, ask the student to tell you about his or her own learning experiences Inquire specifically about experiences related to degree-path and remaining courses: College courses from other institutions Standardized exams Workplace training, skills learned at a job, professional certifications Experiential learning through volunteer activities, civic duties, family life, and other learning experiences Refer to the prior learning chart on page 5 for assistance in determining the best options available for the student For detailed information regarding any prior learning opportunities, refer to the Credit for Prior Learning Manual, available online at Page 3

5 Before recommending non-traditional prior learning methods, always make sure to review the student s transcript for traditional college credit transfers. Please note that once a student takes a NOVA course, he or she may not retake the course using prior learning. Many students will ask about transferring prior learning credits to other institutions. This is especially important for courses required for the major at the 4-year institution, as well as for schools that do not offer general education waivers. Transferring prior learning credits is not always easy, and includes many factors. In such situations, it is best for the advisor/ counselor or student to contact the 4-year institution and speak with the office that deals with transfer credits. The student or advisor can also refer to the GAA or articulation agreement, or the list of articulation agreements listed on NOVA s website. Prior learning credits will appear as NOVA-equivalent courses or elective (EEE) courses for which credit has been earned. The source of the credit is clearly shown on the transcript. Most prior learning credits will be listed on the student s transcript with a grade of T, or P for PLACE and ABLE. These grades will not affect the student s GPA. Financial aid cannot be used to pay for prior learning, with the exception of course SDV 298. Students should check with financial aid sources for possible impact of outside reimbursement for these courses. Page 4

6 Credit through evaluated program PRIOR LEARNING CHART Credit by exam (includes American Council on Credit Portfolio development CLEP, DSST, Education (ACE), National through through PLACE (Prior ABLE, ASE, etc. College Credit Recommendation evaluated Learning Activity for Service (NCCRS) and NOVA credentials Credit Evaluation) faculty approved programs) Expert knowledge in career field Corporate and employer training Military training / courses Professional certificates Experiential learning through events such as volunteering, family life, community involvement, or civic activities, etc. Page 5

7 The first step in prior learning assessment should always be to review previous college transcripts, using the transcript evaluation processes on this page. Traditional Transfer from Regionally Accredited Schools NOVA accepts credits from regionally accredited colleges and universities around the nation (state schools, community colleges, etc), when degree applicable. Credits such as these should follow regular credit transfer procedures. International Credit Transfer 1) Transcripts containing international credits must be translated and evaluated by either World Education Services ( or the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers ( 2) The student must submit the evaluated transcript to the Student Services Center at the student s primary campus. 3) In order to have credit evaluated and applied at NOVA, the student must complete online form (Request for Evaluation of Transcript) with the evaluated transcript. Non-Traditional Transfer from Non-Regionally Accredited Schools Credits from nationally accredited schools that are not also regionally accredited are NOT accepted by NOVA. If the student has such credits, Credit by Exam or NOVA s PLACE course should be recommended to assess student s prior learning. PREVIOUS COLLEGE If none of the above situations apply, the best options for the student may be credit by exam, evaluated program/credentials, or other experiential learning. Page 6

8 CLEP and DSST CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) - clep.collegeboard.org / DSST Program - CLEP and DSST are nationally recognized exams which measure a student s knowledge in a particular subject. CLEP offers general and subject exams in History & Social Sciences, Composition & Literature, Science & Mathematics, Business, and World Languages. DSST offers general and subject exams in Business, Humanities, Math, Physical Science, Social Sciences, and Technology. These are proctored exams taken at a computer, so students are charged a reasonable fee to register and sit for the exam. Most exams last around 90 minutes and consist of multiple-choice questions. Students may take or download practice exams at the websites listed above. If the student earns a qualifying score, NOVA may grant credit for comparable NOVA courses; however, not all exams are accepted by NOVA. Accepted exams and corresponding courses can be found in the Credit for Prior Learning Manual, available online at To register for the CLEP or DSST exam, students must contact a testing agency. Exams are offered at NOVA s Workforce Development Centers on the Alexandria campus ( ) and in Annandale ( ) or at Fort Belvoir or Quantico Marine Corps Base, as well as other locations across the country, as listed on each exam s website. (Students should enter NOVA s college code on the exam to have test results sent directly to NOVA: CREDIT BY EXAM (CLEP, DSST, ABLE) CLEP: NOVA COLLEGE CODE = 5515 DSST: Use the Locate an Institution button on the website for a list of NOVA campus codes. Students must submit a completed online form (Request for Evaluation of Transcript) dashboard.nvcc.edu/default.aspx to have credit evaluated and applied. To ensure credit will be awarded, see the Prior Learning Manual for a list of acceptable tests and scores. Assessment by Local Exam (ABLE) Includes course-specific exams that are written by NOVA faculty. See the Prior Learning Manual for a list of exams. 1) In most cases, students must contact the department offering the exam to determine if they are qualified to take the exam; they may have to meet certain background requirements in order to qualify. 2) There is no charge for the ABLE exams or for having credit recorded on the student s permanent record. Page 7

9 Students may be granted credit for courses or programs offered by employers, professional organizations and other agencies if those courses or programs have been evaluated and recommended for course credit by the American Council on Education (ACE) College Credit Recommendation Service or the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS), as described in the Prior Learning Manual. NOVA is not obligated to accept every recommendation made by ACE or NCCRS. American Council on Education (ACE) 1) Refer to the American Council on Education s National Guide to College Credit for Workforce Training at to determine if the student s employee training program has been recognized for credit. 2) If the training program has been recognized for credit, the student needs to request a transcript by utilizing the CREDIT Online Transcript System found at www2.acenet.edu/credit. ACE will send the transcript to NOVA on behalf of the student. 3) Student must submit a completed online form (Request for Evaluation of Transcript) dashboard.nvcc.edu/default.aspx to have credit evaluated and applied. EVALUATED PROGRAM THROUGH ACE / NCCRS National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) 1) Refer to the college credit recommendations directory at to determine if the course has been evaluated for college credit recommendation and to view detailed information about the course and credit recommendation. If the organization in not in the directory, be sure to look in the Former Members link. 2) Student must contact the organization that sponsored the course or learning experience and have an official transcript sent to the student services center at the student s local campus. (NCCRS does NOT issue transcripts.) 3) Student must submit a completed online form (Request for Evaluation of Transcript) dashboard.nvcc.edu/default.aspx to have credit evaluated and applied. Page 8

10 Students may be granted credit for courses or programs offered by employers, professional organizations and other agencies if those courses or programs have been evaluated by faculty at NOVA, as described in the NOVA Prior Learning Manual at Programs or Credentials Evaluated by NOVA Several training programs and credentials have been pre-approved for NOVA credit, including: Army Child and Youth Services Fairfax Co. Office for Children School Readiness Certificate Army Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) Fire Science Technology Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Clinical Coding Associate Marketing Sales Clinical Coding Specialist Military Service Courses and Basic training Criminal Justice Office Skills Training [Community Preservation and Early Childhood Development Development Corporation (CPDC), Training Futures] EMT Basic and EMT-C Certification (Virginia) Police Academy EMT-Paramedic (National) Respiratory Therapist (CRT, RRT, Neonatal/Pediatric) Please see the Prior Learning Manual listed above for a comprehensive list of programs. Process for NOVA Evaluated Programs or Credentials (1) Refer to the Prior Learning Manual (available at to verify that the student s earned credentials are accepted by NOVA. (2) Student must provide credential documentation (license, certificate, etc.) or a sealed copy of transcripts directly to the Student Services Center of the student s primary campus. Because each program s requirements may differ, please verify with the department dean or program head the acceptable form of credential documentation (original, copy, fax, etc.). (3) Student must submit a completed online form (Request for Evaluation of Transcript) dashboard.nvcc.edu/default.aspx to have credit evaluated and applied. EVALUATED PROGRAM THROUGH NOVA Page 9

11 Veterans and active-duty military may be granted credit for military service school courses and skills if the awarding of credit is approved by the division dean of the student s chosen curriculum or recommended by ACE. Students may check for ACE recommended courses at www2.acenet.edu/militaryguide. Military Transcript Evaluation (1) Student needs to request an official military transcript: ARMY NAVY MARINES COAST GUARD Request official Joint Services Transcript at jst.doded.mil. Transcripts should be electronically sent to the student s primary campus or the Office of Military Services. AIR FORCE (CCAF) Community College of the Air Force transcripts are evaluated by the campus as a traditional college transcript. CCAF transcripts can be requested at (2) Student must submit a completed online form (Request for Evaluation of Transcript) dashboard.nvcc.edu/default.aspx. The student s program listed on the form must match the program listed in the Student Information System. If a student is placed in more than one program, an evaluation form must be completed for each. Please note: The transcript evaluation process takes 4-6 weeks from the time both the form and transcript are received. Once the transcript and evaluation forms are received, credits that are applicable to the chosen degree program will be posted and the student will be notified via their NOVA account. Pre-Approved Military Occupational Specialties MILITARY Please refer to the Prior Learning Manual for a list of Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) of particular branches that have been evaluated and approved by faculty for NOVA credit. Page 10

12 PLACE (Prior Learning Activity for Credit Evaluation) is a program in which students learn how to develop a portfolio to demonstrate knowledge that has been gained through experiences and is equivalent to one or more college courses. If approved by faculty, the student is awarded credit for the course or courses. Student must enroll in the one-credit portfolio development course (SDV 298), which is designed to direct students in the preparation of a portfolio that demonstrates knowledge which aligns with a particular NOVA course. During the class, students will develop at least one portfolio for any NOVA course which the student wishes to gain credit; however, the student may create as many additional portfolios as desired. The student must then pay an evaluation fee for each course portfolio to be evaluated. Each portfolio will be evaluated by an appropriate faculty member, and credit is awarded based upon the recommendation of the faculty member. If credit is recommended, the student s transcript will reflect a P for the course. Students may be awarded up to 15 credits through PLACE, plus the one-credit SDV 298, toward an associate degree. Students may receive up to 10 credits toward certificates and career studies programs through PLACE. In special cases, students may receive more credits through PLACE; to do so they must submit a detailed letter of justification. Credit earned through PLACE may not be used to meet the residency requirement for graduation which states that 25% of courses must be taken on a NOVA campus to graduate; however, the one credit from SDV 298 does count toward residency. PORTFOLIO (PLACE COURSE) Page 11

13 September 2015 by Northern Virginia Community College. PLA Advising Guide is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License: by/3.0/deed.en_us This guide was developed under the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia s (SCHEV) College Access Challenge Grant Program (CACGP) from the U. S. Department of Education. Contents do not necessarily represent endorsement by the federal government.

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