April 03, 2014
By Todd Siben, Assistant Director
Prior Learning/Portfolio Assessment
Concerned about the math requirements in your degree? Perhaps it’s been 20 years - or more - since you studied math. Depending on your degree program, fulfilling your math requirement may not be as difficult as you think.
First consider the degree you have chosen and the math requirement for that degree. Ask yourself, "Have I chosen a degree appropriate for my own ability?" For example, since you haven't studied math in almost 20 years, your math skills may be rusty. Perhaps the last math you studied was algebra, and you passed, but barely. Now you've chosen a degree that requires calculus I and II.
Taking that calculus course may require that you first refresh your algebra skills. Then you'll be better prepared to take the next logical sequence of courses. Math is taught in logical sequences, with concepts built upon previously learned concepts.
Consider Your Comfort Level
According to College mentors Ildy and Csaba Boer, "it is better to start with a lower-level math course even if it doesn't fulfill your degree needs. Students who lack basics often do not succeed when taking a course above their level. Instead of dropping down to a lower-level course, they repeat the higher-level course again, unsuccessfully, wasting both their money and time."
Consider Your Assets
As a self-directed, mature student, perhaps you are better prepared to study math now than you were years ago. You are more analytical, more disciplined and more driven toward degree completion. So, why be threatened by a math requirement?
Consider Your Degree
Some institutions require algebra for all degrees. Thomas Edison State College offers alternatives. If you have selected a liberal arts or human services degree, the math requirement can usually be satisfied with an "entry level" math such as MAT-105 Applied Liberal Arts Math. Although MAT-105 is a reasonable option, students often choose intermediate or college-level algebra because they've heard the word "algebra" before, so it seems more familiar than a course called "Applied Liberal Arts Math." This fear-of-the-unknown can result in the incorrect choice.
Perhaps you are pursuing a business degree that requires MAT-119 Quantitative Business Analysis. If you wait until the last few courses to complete this requirement, then find you are unable to pass the course and switch to a liberal arts degree with a lower math requirement, you may find that you now need additional credits to earn the new degree. This situation can often be avoided with a bit of advanced planning.
(Cue your advisor…)
Consider Your Options
Along with the many online math courses available to you, credit-by-exam programs such as CLEP and DANTES (DSST) standardized tests in math and statistics. Some investigate math courses by distance from other schools. Some students just prefer to take math as a classroom course at a local college whenever possible. Also consider that a statistics course can satisfy your math requirement for some degree programs.
Before you jump ahead and register for a math course, discuss the options with your advisor. In most cases, there are choices that will be a better fit for you, your learning style and your level of capability in math.
Ultimately the choice will not only have an impact on your success but on the amount of antacid and aspirin required to successfully complete the course. Choose wisely!
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
September 03, 2013
By Todd Siben
Assistant Director of Portfolio Assessment
Unsure if you possess enough knowledge to earn college credit? Think again.
Do you have a background playing the piano, or are you accomplished in another instrument like guitar or trumpet?
Do you teach pre-school or a daycare provider?
Do you have experience in the marketing or communications field?
Do you work in law enforcement in New Jersey or attended one of the police academies?
Do you have a business background in accounting, finance, management, marketing or another area of business?
Do you identify yourself as a computer geek with knowledge of programming, systems design, network design or website design?
Do you have volunteer or career experience in a “helping” profession such as a teacher, counselor or some other form of human interaction and support?
Do you have skills in public speaking, presentations, non-verbal communication, small group discussion or dynamic one-to-one communication?
Do you have military training that has or has not been recommended for credit by your training school?
Whether these specific examples apply to you or not, chances are, as an adult, you have acquired additional knowledge through work and other experiences. And that understanding can potentially help you to earn college credit through creating a portfolio.
You’ve heard the term used in a few contexts. Artists keep a portfolio of their work in a carrying case, financial advisors help clients build a portfolio of stocks and assorted investments and job hunters present a portfolio to a perspective employer highlighting their background, competencies and accomplishments. At Thomas Edison, students can develop a portfolio to earn credit for the college-level knowledge they have obtained through work, the military, hobbies, or some kind of training.
Now, to guide students through the process of documenting prior learning, and save time and money, are two new courses: PLA-100: Intro to Prior Learning Assessment and PLA-200: Intro to Portfolio Development. These courses help you identify your competencies, college-level knowledge and background, all while teaching portfolio development skills.
PLA-100 is a 1-credit, 4-week course that will take you through all the options offered through the College for earning credit for what you already know: portfolio development, testing, program review, licenses, certificates, and more. The course also helps you understand what college-level learning means, and how to determine whether PLA options fit your own goals and experience. PLA-100 carries General Education Elective credit in the Intellectual and Practical Skills (IPSL) category, which is already required for your degree. Intended as a continuation of PLA-100, PLA-200 is a 2-credit, 8-week course that will help you identify the specific courses for which you can earn credit, and get you moving on the path to creating your own portfolio. PLA-200 provides structure and support to help you document your experiences and develop a narrative that aligns with the learning outcomes of a similar course. Along the way, your PLA-200 mentor and the Office of Portfolio Assessment will answer your questions, provide you with the learning outcomes for the subjects you want to earn credit for, and guide your progress so that you can maximize the number of credits you can earn through PLA. As with PLA-100, PLA-200 also meets IPSL General Education Elective requirements. The resulting portfolios are submitted for review by Subject Matter Experts to award credit.
Upon successful completion of the PLA-100/200 courses you will have gone through a reflective process, identified and organized your personal and professional competencies in one place, and acquired or refined your skills in the area of narrative writing and organizing. You may have also identified some or many areas of competence where you can develop and submit a portfolio for assessment, as long as the potential credits will apply to your degree program needs. Nearly every degree requirement can be satisfied with credit based on prior learning.
At the end of the day, this is knowledge that you already have, and you will determine how it can work for you:
Save you time? Check.
Save you money? Check.
Fulfill program requirements? Check.
Help you earn additional college credit? Double check.
August 05, 2013
Close your eyes and picture a course that has no guide or textbook to help you study, because all the material you needed to know – you already knew. All the life and work experiences you needed to understand – you already did. There are no tests or quizzes, and at the end, you earn college credit…. Sounds like a dream course, a fantasy we all drum up when work, life and school blur together into one seemingly endless challenge.
Except it isn’t. This dream that you dare to dream, is really true; it exists and it’s real.
That’s the idea behind Portfolio Assessment (previously known as Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) at Thomas Edison State College). Like many of our students, you may be surprised to find that you already have knowledge in multiple subject areas from a lifetime of learning that can be applied toward your degree. That college-level knowledge acquired outside the traditional college classroom is valuable because it may be your ticket to earning college credit.
With our new accelerated PLA-100 and PLA-200 courses, (1- and 2-credit courses, respectively) you will learn how to develop a portfolio to potentially earn credit for the college-level knowledge you have, equivalent to what would have been learned in a comparable college course. The difference is that your learning took place as a result of employment, independent study, training programs, volunteer services, cultural pursuits, hobbies, study abroad, and much, much more – so if you can earn credit for any of that, it’s a no-brainer!
To get started, first assess if you are a good candidate for portfolio assessment. As a working adult, chances are you have several areas to draw from. Until you learn how it’s done, building a portfolio can seem like a daunting task. Once you learn how, the benefits can help you in academic, professional and personal ways for a lifetime. Here’s why:
Academic. To learn how to build your portfolio, you take our accelerated PLA-100 and PLA-200 courses, a course sequence that helps you through the process of documenting your learning. These are credit courses, so you get credits for learning how you are going to get credits! These courses guide you as you create one or multiple portfolios; the average Thomas Edison State College student ends up earning around 12 additional credits through the portfolio process, and you could earn even more than that. (BONUS: An added benefit is the new cost structure for portfolio assessment, which could save you money. Click here for more information.)
Personal. Every day we are bombarded with information, and are constantly absorbing information through a mix of venues; we are internalizing a huge bank of learning. So how can you assess what is college-level knowledge? In creating a portfolio, you go through a significant amount of self-reflection and introspection to identify what you know as a result of your learning and experiences. As you review your competencies, knowledge and background, you may identify other areas of expertise you never thought about.
Professional. Your background is extensive, so wouldn’t it be incredible to show it off in one, well-organized place? Building a portfolio will help you develop lifelong learning skills that are great for your career, particularly as it can help you define a specific role, position or job description. A portfolio can also showcase your capabilities and accomplishments to a potential or current employer through your collection of evidence and detailed explanations of what it all means. A professional portfolio can add breadth and depth to your resume and your job search.
More than a course or a method for earning credit, Portfolio Assessment is a process that will benefit you as you navigate the new future you are building for yourself. As a Thomas Edison student, you already have the drive and determination to accomplish your goals, and you may already have the college-level knowledge it takes to get there.
Like Glinda says at the end of The Wizard of Oz, “ you’ve always had the power.” You just need to tap into it.
Featuring stories and information about Thomas Edison State College and going back to college as a busy adult.