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.
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