Is PLA Right for You?

Posted Wednesday, 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: Prior Learning Assessment and Portfolio , Taking Courses , Transfer Credits

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Why You Didn’t Get Another Interview

Posted Friday, October 12, 2012

We have all been witness to lots of successful and unsuccessful job searches.

This is probably the worst job market for new graduates and career changers in the last 24 years. Because most of us work in “lean” conditions, with more work on our plates than can be covered in the normal work day, employers and HR representatives and search teams are using as many criteria as possible to efficiently sift through the stacks of resumes received for each opening.

And even at the interview stage, they will likely see five or 10 highly qualified individuals which must be whittled down to two or three finalists. For those of you currently seeking a new position, below is some feedback we have collected over the years as to why a candidate was not selected.

  • Candidate's hair was too wild
  • Unibrow
  • Candidate was not wearing a proper business suit
  • Candidate did not network with anyone in the company/division/group prior to the interview
  • Candidate had a typo in his cover letter
  • Cover letter could have been written for any other job at any other organization
  • Bad breath
  • Too much perfume/cologne
  • Candidate had no questions for us
  • Candidate had not done any research/hadn’t read my book
  • No follow-up or thank you notes sent after interview
  • Candidate yawned during dinner

Note that none of this has to do with qualifications or fit or interest. Remember, we all get rejected at one time or another – so please stay positive and try not to take it personally!

We hope you find this material helpful as you consider your strategy and approach to searching for a job.


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College Prepares Move to Cloud-Based Learning Management System

Posted Thursday, October 04, 2012

20 Courses in Nov. 2012 Term Part of Pilot for the New System

Thomas Edison State College is preparing to launch a new learning management system that provides better navigation for students in their course spaces and greater flexibility and efficiency for the development, design and delivery of new courses. The new system, based on the Moodle platform, utilizes cloud-based technology and better positions the College to leverage the latest technology to provide a richer educational experience for our students.

Watch a video tour and orientation of the new system and course space.

moodle orientationThe College is running a pilot featuring 20 courses in the November 2012 term that are being offered in the new learning management system, including:

  • AOJ-102-OL: Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • APS-302-OL: Customer Service: A Practical Approach
  • ART-100-OL: A World of Art
  • BIO-101-OL: Introductory Biology
  • COM-339-OL: The Story of Human Language
  • EAS-101-OL: General Earth Science
  • ELE-211 OL: DC Circuits
  • ENG-298-OL: Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
  • MAN-311-OL: Organizational Behavior
  • MAR-335-OL: New Product Development and Marketing
  • MAT-231-OL: Calculus I
  • MAT-232-OL: Calculus II
  • MAT-331-OL: Calculus III
  • MAT-332-OL: Calculus IV
  • NUC-365-OL: Reactor Fundamentals
  • REL-275-OL: Introduction to Islam
  • SOC-384-OL: Gangs
  • SOS-110-OL: Living in the Information Age
  • SOS-360-OL: Games People Play: Game Theory in Life, Business, and Beyond
  • SOS-440-OL: Terrorism

The College, which is also running a pilot featuring seven courses offered in the new system in the Sept. 2012 term, looks forward to receiving feedback on the new learning management system from students who participate in the pilot. The College plans to fully implement the new learning management system for all courses in 2013. Once fully implemented, one of the major benefits of the new system will be a single sign-on for students to access courses, Online Student Services and the myEdison® student portal. In addition, students will be able to access entire courses using mobile devices, such as tablets, e-readers and smartphones.

In addition to the orientation video, you are encouraged to view an interview with Matthew Cooper, associate provost for Learning and Technology, who discusses the new learning management system and what students can expect. Additionally, the College has prepared a Q & A for students to help make them more familiar with the system prior to its full implementation and created a Moodle Video Help Site that provides additional resources to assist students and mentors with the new learning management system.

Tags: Online Tools and Resources , Taking Courses

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