Outsourcing prior learning evaluation

I hate it when, like this Chronicle of Higher Education article does, prior learning credit is referred to as "credit for life experience."  It misrepresents the process. Credit should be awarded only for learning--not for experience.  I've worked on and off with CAEL for years, and I support credit for prior learning but this new service--Learning Counts--troubles me.  I feel strongly that a student should request credit for college level learning that equates to specific courses at the student's institution.  And I believe that the institution's faculty should be the ones evaluating the student's portfolio of learning experiences.  Furthermore, I believe prior learning is most appropriate for lower-division credit since theory is often integral to upper-division courses and theory is often ignored in training and other noncollegiate learning activities.  That said, all the problems with the process outlined in the following article exist...

Will Work for Credit - Faculty - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Show, Don't Tell

One of the Learning Counts pilot institutions is Saint Leo University, in Florida. That institution had a longstanding program for awarding credit for experiential learning. But its president, Arthur F. Kirk Jr., says the new national system should be much more efficient and transparent.

"Evaluating portfolios is labor-intensive and time-consuming," Mr. Kirk says. "Part of our challenge had been that students were receiving ad hoc training in creating their portfolios, and so were the faculty evaluators. Having a more efficient external system just made all the sense in the world to me."

Clint VanWinkle, a senior at Saint Leo, is a student in the first cohort of Learning Counts. He fits the classic profile for these new programs: He completed more than 60 hours of college coursework two decades ago, then left to pursue a career in information technology. He decided to finally complete a bachelor's degree in computer science, he says, because more employers seem to be demanding it.

But he did not want to retake courses whose content he had already mastered. So this spring, he signed up for the Learning Counts course and created a 38-page portfolio that attempts to express his mastery of networking and database architecture. If the portfolio is approved, he might be awarded as many as six computer-science credits by Saint Leo. (He submitted the portfolio two weeks ago and expects to hear the verdict within days from now.)

The portfolio process, Mr. VanWinkle says, was as challenging as any other academic experience he had this year. He was not permitted simply to assert that he had learned certain skills. "I had to describe specific work projects that matched each of the learning objectives on the syllabi of these courses," he says.


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