Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Through Portfolio

We recognize that some students may have acquired knowledge and skills through life experiences, which equate to Fitchburg State University course offerings. The PLA option allows students the opportunity to have those life experiences evaluated as educational experiences and credited toward an undergraduate degree. Students pay the current undergraduate per-credit tuition, but the fees are waived.

PLA through Portfolio FAQs

A student may apply life experience towards existing university course requirements by completing a portfolio that validates the experience and learning that has taken place. 

Students enrolled in the undergraduate occupation education program that have acquired vocational related credits related to their teaching profession may also use this process to gain credit for vocational related learning and applied experience.

  • You must be a matriculated student in a degree program at Fitchburg State University.
  • You must have a minimum of 3 years of professional experience in the field for which you are seeking academic credit for.
  • Students must be in good academic standing to participate with a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
  • The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education prohibits PLA credit for the Criminal Justice Program.

** Note - PLA opportunities for Occupational Education Students - requires that students have completed 80 credits (minimum) towards their Bachelor’s degree program before PLA can be requested.

A portfolio is a collection of materials that document learning that has occurred outside of a classroom and provides evidence that the learning equates with related undergraduate course work and associated academic credits.  Prior learning outside of a classroom can be gained from a variety of sources including: job experience and training, non-credit courses, workshops and seminars, volunteer work, military service etc.  A portfolio also includes a written paper that summarizes the materials included in the packet and articulates how the prior learning experiences relates to college level learning/experience.

  • Review the requirements for portfolio assessment requirements and determine if you qualify.
  • Submit the form, “Request to Complete a Portfolio” for credit form.
  • If you have questions about the process you can contact gce@fitchburgstate.edu or at 978.665.3182.
  1. Review the checklist to determine qualifications
  2. Submit your request to complete a portfolio
  3. Upon approval of your request form, you will be registered in an online PLA course in Blackboard and assigned a faculty reviewer
  4. PLA portfolio’s must be submitted 2 weeks prior to the end of the semester in which it was started
  5. Your faculty reviewer has two weeks to review and grade the portfolio
  6. If the portfolio is not approved, students will have one opportunity to resubmit within the following semester.

You may earn up to 30 credits per undergraduate degree. 

The cost per course will be the per-credit tuition, excluding fees. You will receive an email after registration to go online and submit payment.

The grade will be Pass or Fail. The credits earned are included in your overall credits but are not calculated into your GPA.

PLA Information for Occupational Education Students

Criteria for 3 credits PLA: 

  1. Trade/Program experience: Minimum of three years experiences (evidence: need resume and letter of references)
  2. Teaching experience: Minimum of two years experiences in high school (evidence: need a letter of appointment from administration)
  3. Skills acquired from documented professional enhancement or development workshops (at least 100 hours), seminars, and other training programs (evidence: need certificates or award letters) Optional
  4. Evidence of leadership, services, and examinations: (minimum of one year)
    • Community service (evidence: documents with minimum of one year service)
    • Activity within professional organizations
    • Relevant experience gained via outside activity
    • Proficiency or competency examination other than those required and/or applied elsewhere with a candidate’s degree program (evidence: need a record of the exams): Optional
    • Military service courses, tests, occupational specialties (evidence: need a record of the military discharge and tests documents): Optional

Criteria for 6 credits PLA: 

  1. Trade/Program experience: Minimum of six years experiences (evidence: need resume and letter of references)
  2. Teaching experience: Minimum of four years experiences in high school (evidence: need a letter of appointment from administration)
  3. Skills acquired from documented professional enhancement or development workshops (at least 100 hours), seminars, and other training programs (evidence: need certificates or award letters)
  4. Evidence of leadership, services, and examinations: (minimum of one year)
    • Community service (evidence: documents with minimum of one year service)
    • Activity within professional organizations
    • Relevant experience gained via outside activity
    • Proficiency or competency examination other than those required and/or applied elsewhere with a candidate’s degree program (evidence: need a record of the exams): Optional
    • Military service courses, tests, occupational specialties (evidence: need a record of the military discharge and tests documents): Optional

Criteria for 9 credits PLA:

  1. Trade/Program experience: Minimum of eight years experiences (evidence: need resume and letter of references)
  2. Teaching experience: Minimum of four years experiences in high school (evidence: need a letter of appointment from administration)
  3. Skills acquired from documented professional enhancement or development workshops (at least 150 hours), seminars, and other training programs (evidence: need certificates or award letters)
  4. Evidence of leadership, services, and examinations: (minimum of two years)
    • Community service (evidence: documents with minimum of two year service)
    • Activity within professional organizations
    • Relevant experience gained via outside activity
    • Military service courses, tests, occupational specialties (evidence: need a record of the military discharge and tests documents): Optional
    • Proficiency or competency examination other than those required and/or applied elsewhere with a candidate’s degree program (evidence: need a record of the exams): Optional

Criteria for 12 credits PLA:

  1. Trade/Program experience: Minimum of ten years experiences (evidence: need resume and letter of references)
  2. Teaching experience: Minimum of five years experiences in high school (evidence: need a letter of appointment from administration)
  3. Skills acquired from documented professional enhancement or development workshops (at least 150 hours), seminars, and other training programs (evidence: need certificates or award letters) 
  4. Evidence of leadership, services, and examinations: (minimum of two years)
    • Community service (evidence: documents with minimum of two year service)
    • Activity within professional organizations
    • Relevant experience gained via outside activity
    • Military service courses, tests, occupational specialties (evidence: need a record of the military discharge and tests documents): Optional

PLA for undergraduate occupational education students – portfolio description

  • Cover page – The cover page should include the introduction, PLA Portfolio, your name, student ID number, email address.
  • Table of Contents – The table of contents includes the portfolio page numbers, supporting documents properly cataloged and noted.
  • Current Resume – Provide an updated resume that includes education and work experience. Detail significant activities, dates, accomplishments in the workplace, and all non-formal and work-related training. 
  • Introduction Statement – Contains a brief overview of the work and/or life experience for which the student is seeking credit for. This should be a minimum of one page and not more than 2 pages. 
  • Learning Experience Summary Form (Found in your Blackboard course) – This is a worksheet to help organize, categorize and reflect on your life experiences as they relate to higher level learning.  For each type of learning experience (workshops, certificates earned, licenses held, volunteer service performed or other) provide a description of the experience/learning that occurred and outline what supporting documentation you plan to provide to document this experience. For examples of learning experiences and types of learning see the bottom section of the Learning Experience Summary Form.
  • Narrative of Knowledge Acquired – From the information and supporting documentation outlined on the student’s Learning Experience Summary Form they will develop an essay to summarize how the learning from their experiences relate to each course learning outcome. The narrative should include both an introduction and a summary section to describe broadly.
    • Pull in details from the Learning Experiences Summary Form to explain where, why and what experiences were involved.
    • Discuss how the theories that are part of the course for which the student is seeking credit relate to the work and life experiences presented in the portfolio. Include examples of how work and life experiences relate to the concepts described in the course learning outcomes.
    • The narrative should be a minimum of 4 pages in length and a maximum of 10 pages.
  • Documentation – Evidence of the student’s experiences and competencies includes items such as the following:
    • Certificates showing the completion of training programs
    • Letters from an employer confirming the experience or training gained
    • Evidence showing the completion of workshops such as a certificate of attendance or completion
    • Job descriptions or copies of employee reviews
    • Samples of work
  • Other documentation that supports the learning experiences described in the narrative and on the Learning Experiences Summary Form.