December 17, 2012
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].
October 17, 2012
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:
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].
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