Thomas Edison State College Blog

How the New Prior Learning Assessment Courses Can Help You Earn Additional College Credit

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.

If you want more information on the process, or if you have any questions, you can contact the Office of Portfolio Assessment at [email protected] or share them in the comments section.

Tags: assessments , course outcomes , portfolio assessment , prior learning assessment , Prior Learning Assessment and Portfolio , tips and advice

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What fabulous news for nontraditional students. Kudos to TESC for providing excellent resources for helping students get the credit they deserve!
Nancy Szakats 2:45PM 09/05/13

The 5 Questions to Ask Yourself if You are Thinking of Going Back to School

August 20, 2013

We all have different reasons for wanting to return to college. Perhaps it is a personal fulfillment, a message of resilience and determination, or a means to reach that illustrious promotion. Regardless of the purpose, the end goal is the same: you want to earn your degree. You want to finish what you started or take your achievement to the next level.

When it comes to going back to school, you’ve already leaped over the first hurdle. Motivation. That driving force will take you far. Yet, like any significant milestone in your life, you may have a few questions and concerns about returning to college. You have a busy life balancing personal and professional commitments, and we understand this need better than any other institution of higher learning in the world. So if you are thinking of returning to college, ask yourself these questions to assess and prepare for the commitment that will take you to the next level.

What should I expect? With flexible options, you can work towards your degree at your own pace. Depending on your work and personal commitments, you can slow the pace down or accelerate the amount of courses you take in your degree program. The length of time also varies and there are a few factors that can impact how many courses you need to take to complete your degree. One is how many credits you are able to transfer to your new school. Depending on the institution you select, you may also be able to earn credit for professional or military training, professional licenses and certifications that have been assessed for college credit, credit-by-exam programs (such as the College-Level Exam Program (CLEP)) or through portfolio assessment.

Many schools offer programs where there are no time limits on completing a degree and no classroom attendance is required, so pursuing a degree fits in with your life. Of course, taking courses online does not mean the degree program will be easy; the same expectations apply to online courses as they do in a traditional classroom setting. Remember that life does not stop because you are attending college. You must still meet the expectations of work, life and school, and understand any sacrifices you may need to take to meet your goals.

How much time and commitment must I devote? The length of time it takes you to complete your degree depends on the number of credits you bring to your degree program. These issues are determined during the evaluation that takes place after a prospective student applies to college. However many credits you choose to take in a year, recognize that your goals must be realistic. With certain professional and personal commitments, you may not be able to complete your degree in a year. Assess the amount of courses you can reasonably manage in your schedule and progressively move forward.

How can I best balance my school, professional and personal commitments? It all comes down to time management and creating a plan. Develop a routine in a structured environment by setting up certain dates and times to accomplish whatever you need to do. Once you find your niche – maybe an hour after the kids are in bed or a few hours on a Sunday morning – stick to it. Finding the balance between life, work and school will be your key to success.

What will I study? While you cannot choose ‘undecided’ during the application process, you can switch into any program. You are not married to the program noted on your application. Once you receive your academic evaluation, your academic advisor can discuss with you the requirements and help map out any degree program that interests you. Also, if you started a program 30 years ago, we can help you cultivate the same program regardless of our degree offerings.

What do I need to do to prepare? To familiarize yourself with the distance-learning format, you can take an entry-level online course at any community college for a similar experience. As you map out a degree plan, look at a variety of credit options that you feel comfortable with; maybe you prefer to learn in a discussion format rather than on your own, or taking tests comes easily to you. Research what materials you will need to go back to college. Most importantly, discuss with your family the type of commitment you are making – it will affect them all. An understanding, supportive family atmosphere will help you achieve your goal; a spouse helping with the dishes so you can finish writing a paper can feel like a miracle.

Recognizing the expectations required for going back to college will only help you as you navigate the tricky balance of work, school and life. Since no one is telling you to go do your homework, creating a structured environment and routine will help you cultivate the self-discipline necessary to achieve your goals. As you drive your own educational success, remember that, in all efforts “there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence and honest purpose, as well as perspiration.” A very true quote, stated by our namesake, Thomas Edison.


Tags: admissions , assessments , CLEP , Degree Programs , tips and advice , Undergraduate Programs

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Stark Notes: Now That You Have Applied, What’s Next?

June 18, 2013

Jennifer L. Stark, Assistant Director of Academic Records and Registration

Jennifer L. Stark, Assistant Director of Academic Records and Registration

By Jennifer L. Stark
Assistant Director of Academic Records and Registration

Once you have submitted your Application for Admission and arranged to have your official transcripts sent to the College or are newly enrolled, you may need some guidance on the next stages. Just getting started can be the toughest part, but the Thomas Edison State College staff are here every step of the way to offer the support and flexibility you need to complete your degree program.

Once you have applied or enrolled, here’s what to expect next:

  • After completing your College Application and submitting your transcripts, an academic evaluation is performed by the College to determine how many credits you need to complete your degree requirements. Many students think that the evaluation process begins from the time their transcripts arrive in the Office of the Registrar, though this is an important step, the evaluation process actually begins after our receipt of your College Application.
  • The College’s benchmark for completion of your Academic Evaluation is within 20 business days. Once your evaluation is completed, you will receive an e-mail from our office directing you to review this document through your Online Student Services (OSS) account.
  • While you are waiting for your Academic Evaluation, we recommend that you apply for employer tuition assistance, relevant scholarships and financial aid, if applicable. You can also arrange your Annual Enrollment Fee payment with the Office of the Bursar or use the time to familiarize yourself with the enrollment requirements of your degree program.
  • Once you receive your Academic Evaluation, review it thoroughly to see where your previous credits have been applied and what remaining credits you will need to take to complete your degree.
  • If you need guidance in selecting courses that will fulfill your remaining credits, contact the Office of Advisement. In order to keep your advisement consultations as productive as possible, it’s best to make this appointment after you have had a chance to review your Academic Evaluation.
  • To make an appointment with our advising staff, visit the College’s homepage at and click on “Current Students” and choose “Advisement” from the dropdown menu. You may also schedule an appointment through myEdison® once you have officially enrolled by clicking the “Help” icon at the top of the page, the “Submit a Ticket” link on the resulting page and choosing “Academic Advisement” from the departmental drop down menu. You and your academic advisor can then begin selecting courses that best suit your program plan.
  • You can view the College’s various course formats by visiting the College’s homepage at, clicking on “Academics” and “Taking Courses.” Keep in mind when reviewing the online course syllabus that some requirements may change once your course is officially underway.

Once you have selected your courses, you can register for them anytime via Online Student Services, by phone: (609) 633-9242 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. EST or via fax: (609) 292-1657. The staff at Thomas Edison State College strives to put our students first. We focus our programs, procedures and academic mission on the needs of self-directed adults like you and we are here to provide as much assistance as you need to successfully attain your educational goals.


Tags: Academic Credit , Academic Program Review , admissions , application deadline , Applying , assessments , prior learning assessment , Registrar , Registration , Thomas Edison State College

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Many students think that the evaluation process begins from the time their transcripts arrive in the Office of the Registrar, though this is an important step, the evaluation process actually begins after our receipt of your College Application. and i think like this too , but i understand after reading this blog.
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Thomas Edison State College Blog

Featuring stories and information about Thomas Edison State College and going back to college as a busy adult.