Introduction to Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a process for assessing learning gained outside a traditional academic environment. This could be learning acquired through military service, employer training programs, independent study, non-credit courses, open courseware, or volunteer or community service. Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a means of evaluating what a student already knows at the college-level derived from these experiences for college credit, certification, or advanced standing toward further education or training.

Six Alternative Pathways for Prior Learning Assessment

Military

HCC is committed to ensuring our military service members and veterans receive credit for their college-level knowledge gained through their service to our country. Military service members and veterans may contact the HCC District Office of Veteran Affairs (vaonline@hccs.edu) for all necessary information.

Note: All military students seeking Prior Learning Assessment need to complete the Application for Prior Learning Assessment Form (p. 17). The $25 fee is waived for all military students.

Credit By Exam

HCC encourages students to use for-credit examinations to demonstrate subject matter knowledge. These exams cover a wide-range of topics and disciplines. A complete listing of exams is included in the Resources Section of this Guide. Taking exams for credit is one of the most affordable ways to accelerate degree completion.

It is recommended that students who are fluent in Spanish take CLEP exams to demonstrate their knowledge. A Spanish-speaking student could earn up to fourteen credits through CLEP which will save time and money while moving that student fourteen credits closer to degree completion.

The following exams may be taken for credit or transferred into HCC if the student has already taken an exam:

Procedures for National  Exam

  1. Any student interested  in demonstrating his/her knowledge by passing an exam needs to be advised first if the exam (s) are applicable to the student’s degree plan.
  2. The student needs to register and pay for the exam.
  3. The student needs to take the exam.
  4. The test scores will be sent directly  to the HCC Registrar.  Passing scores are accepted and posted to the student’s  transcript.
  5. CLEP exams can be taken at each college.  For a schedule of testing dates, contact your campus counselor.

Note:  The Application for Prior Learning Assessment Form and $25 fee is not required for national exams.

Procedures for Internal Exam

  1. Any student interested in demonstrating her/his knowledge by passing an exam needs to be advised first if the exam(s) are applicable to the student’s degree plan.
  2. Provide the student with an Application for Prior Learning Assessment form.
  3. Students may request through the appropriate department chair, permission to take final exams for certain courses.
  4. The student needs to pay a $25 fee to the Business Office at campus upon submission of the Application for Prior Learning Assessment form to the campus advisor.
  5. The student is then approved to take the exam.  At this point, the student needs to register for the exam or make arrangements to take a proctored exam with the appropriate HCC Chair of the department that would recognize the credit (such as Business, English, Humanities, etc.).  In cases where the exam of a course is skills based, the student coordinates a time and place with the department chair to take the exam.  Students must not have previously enrolled in the course.
  6. Test scores are reviewed by the Instructional Dean and/or Department Chair.  Passing scores are then accepted, submitted to Registrar, and credit is posted as “AP” on the student’s transcript.

Note:  All students seeking Prior Learning Assessment by department final or challenge exam need to complete the Application for Prior Learning Assessment form and pay the $25 fee.

Mirror Classes

A Mirror course is the articulation of a CEU or non-credit course in to a for-credit course applicable toward a certificate or associate’s degree. The continuing education courses must meet the same rigor, evaluation process, and faculty guidelines as the equivalent for-credit courses. The documentation must demonstrate that individual continuing education students have met the same competencies as the successful for-credit students prior to making the decision to award credit for a course taken as continuing education

CEU Mirror SCH Classes Description

A Mirror Course is the articulation of a CEU or non-credit course into a for-credit course applicable toward a certificate or associate’s degree. The continuing education courses must meet the same rigor, evaluation process, and faculty guidelines as the equivalent for-credit courses. The documentation must demonstrate that individual continuing education students have met the same competencies as the successful for-credit students prior to making the decision to award credit for a course taken as continuing education.

  1. To start this process, the student must see her/his advisor at the college to obtain the Application for Prior Learning Assessment form for CEU to Credit. At this time the advisor will review the student’s records to verify the course was taken. If a CEU to Credit articulation agreement is in effect, only students who have earned CEU’s with a grade of “P” may apply for articulated credit. Verification of available articulated courses can be done by going to the ACC website at www.hccs.edu/acc and following the “Articulated Credit” tab.
  2. The student completes the Application for Prior Learning Assessment Form and submits the $25 fee. All signatures are required before the application can be processed.
  3. The advisor reviews the application, approves it, and signs the form. The advisor should also make a copy of the form for her/his files and submit the original signed form to the registrar.
  4. The Registrar will then apply the credit to the student’s transcript and notify the student of the credit award.

Certification

Many adult students attend college while in the workforce or after working for many years. They find themselves in a position to either earn a certificate or degree to continue employment or to retrain for another career altogether. In either case, the adult may have completed industry or corporate training programs or certifications that may count as college credit toward a degree or certificate at HCC. These completed trainings and/or certification programs can be evaluated by ACE (The American Council on Education) and may be equivalent to courses required in a selected degree or certificate program. 

Industry Certificate Description

Adult learners should be asked if they have taken any training programs that they may have been told were evaluated for college credit.  This will sometimes remind students that for training they had a number of years ago, they were told it was worth college credits.  If this is the case, we want to ensure this college-level learning is recognized at HCC.

  1. Typically, training programs that have been evaluated by the American Council in Education (ACE) are in major industry sectors sand industry competences certifications and licenses, such as in automotive, accounting, Microsoft, CompTia,  and of course documented military training.
  2. Another important question to ask any adult learner is “Do you have any certifications, such as IT (Information Technology) Certifications?” If so, and they are current, these may be worth college credit as well.
  3. If the student knows when the training was taken and from whom, you can assist the student by looking up that training in the ACE Credit Recommendations Guide at http://www2.acenet.edu/credit/?fuseaction=content.getEvaluatedOrganizations.
  4. Students who have certifications or training that they think may be worthy of college credits should be advised to order official ACE Transcripts be sent to the:
    HCC Office of Admissions and Records.
    HCC Office of Student Records
    P.O. Box 667517
    Houston, Texas 77266-7517
  5. Students may order their ACE transcripts at www.acenet.edu.

Work Experience

For students with significant professional experience, military experience or trade experience, portfolio assessment is a rewarding process that teaches you to document your learning from experience. Portfolio Assessment provides the opportunity to earn college credits and much more. A portfolio is built by matching a college course (such as any course from the HCC Schedule of Courses or Catalog) with the knowledge and skills gained by work or profession, through civic, community and volunteer work, or through independent selfdirected study or travel.  Successful students tend to have these skills and qualities:

  • Significant learning gained through work experience and training.
  • Understands the time commitment involved in building a portfolio.
  • Has talked with their campus advisor about portfolio assessment.
  • Strong writing skills.
  • Access to a computer with internet access and is a good candidate for online learning. 

There are two options for pursuing a portfolio that will demonstrate skills learned by work or professional experience, community or volunteer work, or through travel or selfdirected study.

Option 1: Dean Approval

Dean Approval Work Experience Flow Chart

  1. Meet with the Dean to discuss what is required to demonstrate mastery of the course.
  2. Determine the evidence that needs to be submitted to prove that learning outcomes of the course are aligned with the evidence submitted that will prove the student has mastered the skills and knowlege required of the course. The evidence should show that college level learning has occurred.

Examples of proof may include:

  • Letters from prior supervisors/employers validating specific skill sets aligned with course learning outcomes were being used in the workplace proficiently.
  • Samples of work that substantiate examples of work required in the course and validated as own work.
  • Video showing individual performing learning outcomes.
  • Personal interview with Dean to describe learning outcomes and evidence needed.
  • A written narrative (comparable to an end-of-semester term paper) that describes how the student meets the learning objectives through his/her experience, what has been done, how the student knows what he/she knows, and how he/she links theory and application. Include all documentation in this paper.
  • Other evidence determined by Dean and Department Chair as proper documentation.

Option 2: Learning Counts Portfolio

Learning Counts Work Experience Flow Chart

  1. Students who are interested in portfolio assessment should be referred to the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning (CAEL) website: www.LearningCounts.org . The student can try the College Credit Predictor to get an Action Plan or contact a College Credit Specialist to get specific advice.
  2. After receiving the advising, the student will register for “Build Your Portfolio For College Credit”.  This workshop taken through www.LearningCounts.org  is an online course and will teach students critical thinking reflection skills to rethink the value of learning from experience. The course also teaches the student how to build a Learning Portfolio. This is a non-credit, interactive and self-paced workshop. Busy students can go through the whole course in a weekend or take their time, stopping and starting as needed (the course bookmarks progress). The cost of the workshop is $149.00 and remitted to CAEL through the website. Download the first two modules for free -- ask a Learning Counts advisor how.
  3. To build the electronic portfolio at www.LearningCounts.org , the student will:
       a. Identify courses based upon their descriptions and syllabi that best match the student’s expertise. The student will determine if what she/he knows is the same as the learning outcomes for the course.
       b. Prepare a narrative (comparable to an end-of-semester term paper) that describes how the student meets the course learning objectives through his/her experience, what has been done, how the student knows what she/he knows, and how she/he links theory and application.
       c. Provide documentation to prove that what the student says is supported by evidence. This could include letters from supervisors, videos, work product examples, certificates of completion, and more.
  4. The Portfolio Assessment Fee is $125 per portfolio and each portfolio contains one course. Students may submit multiple portfolios for evaluation depending upon the student’s depth and breadth of experience and willingness to do the work associated with portfolio preparation.
  5. The completed portfolio(s) is submitted to LearningCounts.org where it is reviewed and assigned to a faculty assessor with specific subject matter expertise. Students will learn how to do this in the workshop. Assessors are faculty members at colleges and universities all over the U.S. They have been trained by CAEL to review the portfolios with consistency and academic integrity. The assessor reviews the portfolio and provides feedback. The assessor evaluates the portfolio and determines if credit is awarded.
  6. The credits approved for the course or courses earned by portfolio are documented on an NCCRS Transcript and sent to the HCC Office of Admissions and Records .
  7. Student must complete Application for Prior Learning Assessment form (p. 17) with all required signatures and pay $25 application fee.
  8. The credits are posted to the student’s transcript.

 

Articulated Credit

HCC has articulation agreements with several agencies and/or institutions. An articulation agreement permits credits/CEU’s/certificates that are earned at one institution or agency to be transferred as a college credit toward a specific degree or certificate at HCC. The specific recognized articulated agreements are listed under Articulated Credit.

CEU to SCH Program

CEU to SCH Programs: An internal HCC instructional department agreement to accept certain CE courses as semester credit hour (SCH) courses. As of June 15, 2013, the list of internal articulated courses follows:

CE SCH

HITT 1005 Medical Terminology I HITT 1305

NURA 1001 Nurse Aide for Health Care PLAB 1323 or NUPC 1320

(Additional requirements apply-must complete State Certification, have work experience, etc.)

The student must see his/her advisor to obtain the Prior Learning Assessment Form. At this time the advisor will review the student’s record to verify that the articulation agreement applies.
The student completes the Application for Prior Learning Assessment Form. All signatures are required before the application can be processed. This agreement requires the department chair and advisor’s signatures.
The advisor reviews, approves, and signs the form. The advisor should also make a copy for the college records and submit the original signed form to the registrar.
The registrar will apply the credit to the student’s transcript and notify the student of the credit award.
Notice – No Fee Applies to Articulated Agreements

HCC to City of Houston Cape Center

An articulation agreement between the City of Houston and HCC to receive HCC credit for completing training modules from the approved course assessment guide list of Cape Center. The student must meet other requirements as stipulated in the Appendix.

The student must see his/her college advisor to obtain the Prior Learning Assessment form. At this time the advisor will review the student’s record and verify that the articulation agreement applies.
The advisor uses the Cape Center Course Assessment Guide to align articulated courses for HCC. This can be found in the Appendix section of the manual.
Only the advisor’s signature is required to verify this agreement.
The college advisor reviews, approves, and signs the form. The advisor should also make a copy for the college records and submit the original signed form to the registrar.
The registrar will apply the credit to the student’s transcript and notify the student of the credit award.

Advanced Technical Credits/Tech Prep

ATC – formerly Statewide Articulation): A state- level process that identifies commonly articulated secondary career and technical courses, requires enhancement of their curriculum to align with postsecondary courses, and sets common standards for the award of college credit for these courses statewide. State- approved professional development provides information to teachers on articulated course methodology and expectations of college Workforce Education Course Manual (WECM) courses. The statewide articulation process allows students who successfully complete these career and technical courses, graduate from any secondary school in the state, and meet the requirements outlined for ATC, to receive articulated credit from any participating public postsecondary two-year degree granting institution in the state that offers the corresponding course(s).

1. Upon completion of high school, students must follow the steps below to ensure they receive HCC Tech Prep articulated credit. Students are responsible for delivering the following items to the Workforce Program Initiatives Office:

a. Copy of high school transcript

b. Petition for Award of Tech Prep Credit form (see Appendix p. 19), filled in and signed by all appropriate persons.

2. Students can mail, fax, or email documents to:

Workforce Program Initiatives Office
MC 1108
P.O. Box 6678517
Houston, Texas 77266-7517

Fax: 713-718-5018
Email: freddie.wade@hccs.edu

3. After forms are submitted, the Workforce Program Initiatives Office will contact the appropriate department head and registrar to facilitate awarding the appropriate college credit.

4. Students must successfully complete 9 to 12 semester credit hours (non- developmental) at HCC to receive full-articulated credit.

Note: No fee applies for articulated agreements.

Resources