Prior Learning Assessment & the Adult Learner

Read Time: min

Adult learners bring a lifetime worth of experience into the classroom—whether in person, remote or online. Although one’s expertise might not always be academic in nature, a great deal of knowledge can be acquired throughout the course of one’s professional and personal life. Endicott College’s Van Loan School of Professional Studies has developed programming specifically designed for the adult-learner, and encourages each student to leverage their own work and life learning experiences through Prior Learning Assessment (PLA).

The Van Loan School’s faculty and staff understand adult learners, because they themselves are lifelong learners. They have been able to continuously improve as they themselves have attended courses as adults, and learned how to balance their professional and personal lives, while making time to complete their coursework. This firsthand knowledge is at the core of their passion for learning, and the experience of the adult learner. They get it!

The Van Loan School offers a wide variety of associate and bachelor’s degree programs with flexible schedules and accelerated courses, delivered both online or in person. Additionally, our PLA program allows students to gain college credit for their previous and applicable work and life experience. Wow, right? We think it's awesome, too. The value gained from the PLA process is three-fold—at the very least. As you begin to recognize how much knowledge you already possess, your confidence begins to increase. This knowledge can be turned into credit, which reduces the time you will spend working towards your degree. Furthermore, by having to take fewer courses, your degree becomes even more affordable.

The semester-long PLA course offers each student a personal tour of reflection and retrieval, and the opportunity to develop one’s writing processes. Students create a portfolio that documents their professional and personal expertise, which they will use to petition for credit. A single PLA course can award up to three credits per course area (for instance, Business Fundamentals I or Introduction to Education). Depending on your personal areas of expertise, you can take multiple PLA courses and potentially earn up to 15 credits toward an associate degree or up to 30 credits toward a bachelor’s degree.

Adult learner Jessica Bean A’18 ’20, pursued her degrees as a means to further her career in education. Her efforts paid off as she secured a promotion upon completion of her bachelor’s degree. As a fun fact, she is now enrolled in a master’s program, but here’s what she had to say about the PLA program. “For years I had felt bad about not having my degree and the career choices that I made, but I realized that there was thought behind my career decisions Being able to reflect through PLA was a gift," says Bean. "When I look at myself as to why I made those decisions, they were good and smart choices.” Bean’s previous work experience earned her five courses worth of credit towards her Associate degree and another five towards her Bachelor’s.”

Read Bean's full story.
Adult learner Nikki McQueen graduated from Endicott with her associate’s degree in 1988 and has recently returned to earn her bachelor’s. In the 30 years since earning her first degree, she has held a very successful career—in fact, she recently published a book on the topic of customer service—but has returned to see what opportunities will arise with a graduate degree. “The PLA experience is great. I highly recommend Endicott’s program to anyone who is considering returning to college to finish their degree." says McQueen. "My academic advisor, [Director of Van Loan Undergraduate Programs] Dr. Maureen Znoj, as well as my PLA advisor, Dr. Enid Larsen, are wonderful. They really make registering for classes a breeze and are always there to answer any questions. Both are encouraging and never make you feel as if your questions may be foolish.”

Read McQueen's full story. 

The PLA program at the Van Loan School was developed with the understanding that the knowledge gained from work and life experience is more important than where you learned it. The PLA process allows each student to gain confidence through methods of active discovery and collaboration with faculty and peers. The goal of the program is to show each student how much they already know.

Learn more about PLA and the Van Loan School’s adult degree programs. Feel free to contact us with any interest or questions.

PLA blog main