Thomas Edison State College Blog

10 Signs You Have More College-Level Knowledge Than You Think

February 18, 2014

All too often, students think that only the courses taken sitting in a classroom will transfer as college credit. However, credit can be so much more than a list of courses on a transcript. Transfer credit can include professional licenses and certifications, military training and professional training. You can also earn credit through exams and portfolio assessment.

With so many options to earn transfer credit, students should really explore what works for them so they do not have to put their lives and careers on hold by taking courses that, chances are, they already know everything about. Your goal is our goal – to finish your college degree – and the more options you have, the quicker you’ll get there.

Here are 10 signs that you probably already have more college-level knowledge than you think. If at any point you stop and say, “hey, that’s me!” – just follow the links to learn how you can get earn those credits ASAP.

1. You brag about your professional license or certification.

You’ve already studied, taken a test and passed. If you possess a current and valid license and certification in one of more than 60 fields ranging from aviation to healthcare, law enforcement to business, you could earn college credit. The College’s Office for Assessment of Professional Workplace Learning, the American Council on Education (ACE) and the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS)
have already evaluated and approved several licenses and certifications for college credit. You can find them organized by topic, here.

2. You show off what you learned after completing a training program for your profession.

If you participated in any apprenticeships and courses taken at your workplace, be it through a corporation, government agency, professional association or union, or any specialized training program, your professional license and certification may have already been evaluated for college credit. You can create a transcript of your training, with appropriate documentation, to send to the Registrar for review.

3. You’ve become the “in-house expert” at your organization on something.

Are you the person who trains new recruits? Or are you always the go-to person whenever a colleague has a question? It can be anything, from project planning to editing, or budget balancing to problem solving. Obviously, your colleagues already recognize your extensive knowledge, and you can too by documenting and equating what you know with a college-level course through portfolio assessment.

4. You have military experience or attended a military service school.

If you have military experience, depending on the military training documented in the Joint Service Transcripts (JST), transcripts from the Community College of the Air Force and the Coast Guard Institute or, you are a service member who left the military before 1886, you may be able earn additional college credit. Learn how you can submit official transcripts and receive credit, here.

5. You have taught college-level courses, for college credit, at a regionally accredited college or university.

Were you the primary instructor? Or the person responsible for determining and submitting course grades? There are instances where a regionally accredited college or university may employ a faculty instructor who is without a completed baccalaureate degree. There is a certain level of expertise in teaching such courses, and you can earn Credit for Courses Taught.

6. You practically have a second job volunteering in your community.

Do you volunteer beyond the occasional bake sale? Does your community service work read like a resume? Your extensive real-world expertise in a specific subject or content area can equate to what you would learn in a college course. If this sounds like you, then you may be a good candidate for portfolio assessment.

7. You are passionate about a subject and can’t stop reading (or talking) about it.

Whether you are a Civil War buff, or you have read every how-to book on leadership ever published, the knowledge you developed from your independent study could help you pass an exam for credit instead of taking the course. Look through the College’s TECEP® offerings, its own credit-by exam program, and other exam programs, to find out if your passion can earn you college credit by simply taking a final exam.

8. You live for your art (or just really, really enjoy it).

If you are a writer, painter, actor, musician, photographer, performer, artisan, sculptor, dancer - essentially, the creative type - you probably have a portfolio of work that demonstrates your talent or skill. Your achievements, whether they are on CDs or DVDs, printed in playbills, painted on canvas or written as online reviews, are an excellent source that demonstrates your knowledge. Your latest project could be your ticket to earning college credit through portfolio assessment.

9. You are much sought-after master in your hobby field.

Are you a respected hobbyist in a specific field? Have you written published articles about your interests? If your recreational activities and knowledge have placed you in an esteemed position, or your peers are looking to learn from you, you probably already know what would be taught in a college course. The expertise and skills developed through your hobby are perfect for portfolio assessment.

10. You have trouble fitting all your experience, skills, knowledge and work into a 1- or 2-page resume.

Your extensive background is filled with significant responsibilities and accomplishments that may not fit into 1 or 2 pages, but will work great in a multi-page portfolio assessment. Identify your learning and experiences that best equate to a college course by utilizing the College’s PLA Course Description Database to earn credit for what you already know.

College-level knowledge doesn’t only come from a classroom. And neither does credit. Find out more ways you can earn college credit for what you already know, here.

Tags: Academic Credit , ACE , CLEP , credit-by-exam , DSST , Going Back to College , PLA , portfolio assessment , prior learning assessment , Prior Learning Assessment and Portfolio , Registrar , Studying at Thomas Edison State College , TECEP , tips and advice

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Learning in the Field

December 17, 2012

Warren Gramm, mentor at Thomas Edison State College

Warren Gramm, mentor at Thomas Edison State College

by Warren Gramm
Mentor, Thomas Edison State College

Prior learning assessment (PLA) at Thomas Edison State College is designed to help students gain college credit for knowledge gained through real life experiences. As a mentor for the College, when I consider that, I can't help but gravitate towards the many students that have had success through the music PLA credits they've earned while serving our country in the armed forces in locations throughout the world.

Many adult learners are actively engaged overseas and are at the same time demonstrating for me their music backgrounds and capabilities. I wish that more members of the armed forces bands knew that it is possible to gain college credit for what they already know!

Many students enrolled in Thomas Edison State College pursuing the Bachelor of Arts degree program in Music are playing the music of famous composers on a daily basis. While gaining real world experience serving our country, they are also gaining valuable experience in the music field.

In my mind, there is no better way to learn about Mozart and Beethoven than by playing their music. It is important to know what a literary resource might tell you about these musical giants, but to play their compositions add a substantive personal connection.

Please take a moment to read about a student, Reginald Hennessy, who has benefited from the PLA program.

How has the ability to gain college credit in music while you are serving overseas enhanced your career?
In the Army, college credit translates as promotion points. We are always looking to find ways to better ourselves to make the best of our time. We will not be in the army forever and we need to have opportunities for jobs on the outside of the army. Unfortunately (usually), music credits have to be done in house at your college. The ability to do the class online takes away the wait to get back to the states to finish our degrees.

What was the most challenging part of doing your music PLAs while serving overseas?
Time! Balancing a full time career with going to college is hard for anyone but being overseas it seems to a bit harder. We have to be mission ready while we keep our daily work up to date on top of your personal commitments. Postal Services are slower allowing less time with the materials you need.

Besides college credit, what else did you gain from the experience?
Knowledge, even though it’s a PLA you still learn something. As I went through the course I listened to the artist I was writing about or the time period. I learned that no music is dead, and artists are still writing in every genre or time period today. Most notable Gregorian chant with the group Gregorian: Masters of Chant. It is interesting to see their take on popular music.

The PLA program has awarded credit for college level knowledge to band directors, band members, and some of the finest musicians that our nation has to offer.

While serving in the military is something that should be highly applauded in and of itself, through our PLA program we are able to recognize the great life learning experience that the armed forces bestows upon its members. If you're currently serving as a musician in the armed forces, contact Thomas Edison State College to see if you can benefit from the PLA program! Contact the PLA Office at the College at [email protected].


Tags: PLA , portfolio assessment , prior learning assessment

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Allin Ones 8:40AM 07/30/13
Besides college credit, what else did you gain from the experience? Knowledge, even though it’s a PLA you still learn something. we can learn a lot from the experience.
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Is PLA Right for You?

October 17, 2012

Todd Siben, assistant director, Prior Learning/Portfolio Assessment

Todd Siben, assistant director, Prior Learning/Portfolio Assessment

By Todd Siben, Assistant Director
Prior Learning/Portfolio Assessment

If you are like many adults, a significant amount of your life knowledge has been acquired through learning experiences that occurred outside of a classroom. Through Thomas Edison State College’s Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) courses, you can use your college-level knowledge to earn the credit you deserve.

Because Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs) are such a unique method of earning credit, students often find the concept somewhat difficult to grasp. I'm going to simplify it for you and help you over the next hurdle!

What is PLA?
The PLA process allows you to earn credit for knowledge gained through learning experiences that can be equated to what would have been learned in a college course from an accredited college or university.

This method of earning credit provides you with the opportunity to work with a mentor to demonstrate that you already possess college-level knowledge in a subject. Our students have reported that it is one of the most rewarding ways to earn credits, because it acknowledges and validates the learning they have acquired outside of a traditional classroom setting.

Students often ask if course credit can be awarded for life experience. The answer to this question is no. For example, we would not give you the credit equivalent for our Principles of Management (MAN-301) course because you have a business card that lists your title as 'manager.'  We could, however, award credit for the same course once you articulate the knowledge you have of management theory and concepts, substantiate your associated professional accomplishments and demonstrate how those accomplishments equate with the College's MAN-301 course objectives.

I also explain to students that PLA is not necessarily about book knowledge. Being well read on a topic may not be enough for you to earn credit via this method of course completion as PLA typically focuses on "experiential" learning.

What kind of experience may be applicable?
Did you grow up in an ethnically diverse culture? Are you proficient at playing a musical instrument? Do you have an interesting hobby in which you have an in-depth knowledge? Do you serve as the 'go-to' person for your employer in Microsoft Excel solutions? If so, you may be a candidate for PLA completion.

How is a PLA structured?
A PLA course has four significant components, they include:

  • A course description that you have selected
  • A set of course outcomes objectives provided by the course mentor
  • A narrative that you write, which is fine-tuned to address the course objectives
  • A body of appropriate evidence that proves your college-level knowledge in the subject you selected

The course description can be selected from the PLA Course Description Database. If you can't find a match there, locate a course description from the catalog of another regionally accredited college and submit the course description for approval to a Thomas Edison State College academic advisor.

The course outcomes are determined by the PLA mentor and they will serve as your roadmap for satisfying the PLA requirements. Through these, the mentor conveys what capabilities/competencies someone would have if they had taken this course.

The narrative is a student statement that discusses your knowledge of the topics in the course description and correlates these to the course objectives. In the process of completing the narrative portion and tying your narrative to the course outcomes objectives, you may even uncover some new learning opportunities. In the narrative, you should also address how, when, where and why you gained this knowledge. You would then provide information on how the knowledge was applied through supporting evidence.

Your evidence may include letters of reference or support, transcripts or certificates of completed training, licenses, performance appraisals from supervisors or samples of your work. If you have targeted the performing arts, for instance, you will want to submit a video/Web video or DVD of one of your performances. If you are a PLA candidate for Public Speaking (COM-209), you would need similar evidence. A photo of you giving a speech probably will not suffice, for instance, unless it is accompanied by a newspaper article that details your speaking engagement.

Isn't it time you got the credit you deserve?

This year marks Todd Siben's 24th anniversary with Thomas Edison State College. Previously, he served on the staff of Mercer County Community College, the University of Rhode Island, Northern Arizona State University, The University of Buffalo and Columbia University. He earned his Master of Arts degree at the Teachers College of Columbia University in adult and higher education. Siben has also been known to take courses at the College just to experience things from a student’s perspective.

Contact Todd and learn more about PLA at [email protected].


Tags: course outcomes , PLA , portfolio assessment , prior learning assessment

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