What is prior learning assessment (PLA)?

No doubt you’ve had a lot of education beyond the walls of a classroom. Prior learning is learning gained outside the college classroom in a variety of settings and through formal and non-formal means.

These learning experiences may be equivalent to college-level skills and knowledge and warrant academic credit.

Houston Community College evaluates the college-level knowledge and skills an individual has gained outside of the classroom for college credit. This evaluation is called prior learning assessment (PLA), but can also be called experiential learning or credit for prior learning.

Six ways to receive Prior Learning Assessment:

  1. ACE Evaluated Military Training
    HCC is committed to ensuring our military service members and veterans receive credit for their college-level knowledge gained through their service to our country.
  2. Testing/Credit by Exam
    HCC encourages students to use for-credit examinations to demonstrate subject matter knowledge. These exams cover a wide-range of topics and disciplines. A complete listing of exams is included in the Resources Section of this Guide. Taking exams for credit is one of the most affordable ways to accelerate degree completion.

It is recommended that students who are fluent in Spanish take CLEP exams to demonstrate their knowledge. A Spanish-speaking student could earn up to fourteen credits through CLEP which will save time and money while moving that student fourteen credits closer to degree completion.

  1. CEU/WECM to Credit (Minor Courses)
    A Mirror course is the articulation of a CEU or non-credit course into a for-credit course applicable toward a certificate or associate’s degree. The continuing education courses must meet the same rigor, evaluation process, and faculty guidelines as the equivalent for-credit courses. The documentation must demonstrate that individual continuing education students have met the same competencies as the successful for-credit students prior to making the decision to award credit for a course taken as continuing education
  2. ACE/NCCRS Evaluated Industry Certificates and training programs
    Many adult students attend college while in the workforce or after working for many years. They find themselves in a position to either earn a certificate or degree to continue employment or to retrain for another career altogether. In either case, the adult may have completed industry or corporate training programs or certifications that may count as college credit toward a degree or certificate at HCC. These completed trainings and/or certification programs can be evaluated by ACE (The American Council on Education) and may be equivalent to courses required in a selected degree or certificate program.
  3. Work experience
    For students with significant professional experience, military experience or trade experience, portfolio assessment is a rewarding process that teaches you to document your learning from experience. Portfolio Assessment provides the opportunity to earn college credits and much more. A portfolio is built by matching a college course (such as any course from the HCC Schedule of Courses or Catalog) with the knowledge and skills gained by work or profession, through civic, community and volunteer work, or through independent self-directed study or travel.  Successful students tend to have these skills and qualities:
  • Significant learning gained through work experience and training.
  • Understands the time commitment involved in building a portfolio.
  • Has talked with their campus advisor about portfolio assessment.
  • Strong writing skills.
  • Access to a computer with internet access and is a good candidate for online learning.
  • There are two options for pursuing a portfolio that will demonstrate skills learned by work or professional experience, community or volunteer work, or through travel or self-directed study.
  1. Articulated agreements

HCC has articulation agreements with several agencies and/or institutions. An articulation agreement permits credits/CEU’s/certificates that are earned at one institution or agency to be transferred as a college credit toward a specific degree or certificate at HCC. The specific recognized articulated agreements are listed under Articulated Credit.

Students who are good candidates for Prior Learning Assessments (PLA) are:

  • Comfortable with their writing skills
  • Have significant work experience, five years or more
  • Have earned some college credit already
  • May have earned certification or taken non-credit courses
  • Military service members or veterans
  • To be eligible to earn Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), a student must:
  • Be enrolled at HCC
  • Meet al HCC admission and Texas Success Initiative (TSI) requirements
  • Pursue an HCC degree or certificate
  • Meet the HCC residency requirement (25% of the credits for he HCC degree or certificate must be completed at HCC)
  • Completed six hours of HCC classes before PLA credit can be posted to the transcript

For more information on Prior Learning Assessments, visit www.hccs.edu/pla