Syllabus for PLA-100



Orientation to Prior Learning Assessment explains how to earn college credit for what one already knows and can validly document. In this course, students discover how learning gained from work and life experiences could potentially earn college credit. The course covers the background of Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), learning styles, PLA options, and factors leading to program success. Students analyze their own background and experience to determine whether pursuing the PLA option might fit their goals By successfully completing this course, students will have a better idea of the next steps to take and the ways PLA can expedite their degree.

Advisory: Your success in this course will depend partly on how well you express yourself. Therefore, you are strongly advised to have taken ENC-101 and ENC-102 (or their equivalents) before taking this orientation to prior learning assessment.


  1. Purpose of orientation course
  2. What is PLA?
  3. Benefits of PLA for students
  4. PLA Options at Thomas Edison State College (program descriptions)
  5. Definition of college-level learning
  6. Criteria for  PLA Evaluation
  7. Purposes of course objectives
  8. Kolb's Learning Model
  9. Experiential learning
  10. What is my learning style?
  11. What is Bloom's Taxonomy?
  12. PLA skills for success
  13. Prior learning Exploration Process Model


After completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Explain the concept of PLA and the PLA options at Thomas Edison State College.
  2. Define college-level learning.
  3. Explain how learning styles are used in in PLA.
  4. Explain Bloom's Taxonomy and relate it to PLA and to their learning.
  5. Identify factors that lead to PLA success.
  6. Reflect on their own areas of expertise and draw conclusions about whether their accomplishments in these areas constitute college-level learning.
  7. Identify appropriate next steps based on a self-evaluation.  


Recommended Textbooks

Both of the following texts are recommended for students who plan to gain credit through Prior Learning Assessment. Neither, however, is required for this course.

The following book by Theresa Hoffmann takes the student through the process step-by-step and includes many helpful resources.

  1. Hoffmann, T. (2012). Defining College-Level Learning:  Prior Learning Assessment Student Workbook: A Step-by-Step guide for Articulating Knowledge Derived from Life Experiences. 2d ed. Burtonsville, MD: PLA Consulting. Available from

The book by Janet Colvin is designed to help students navigate the PLA process and also includes helpful information and resources.

  1. Colvin, J. (2006). Earn College Credit for What You  Know. Chicago: The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.


Orientation to Prior Learning Assessment is a one-credit online course, consisting four (4) modules. Modules include topics, learning objectives, study materials (including a lesson), and activities. Module titles are listed below.

  1. Module 1: Introduction to Prior Learning Assessment
    Course objectives covered in this module: 1

  1. Module 2: What Is College-Level Learning?
    Course objectives covered in this module: 2

  1. Module 3:  Applying Learning Principles to PLA

Course objectives covered in this module: 3, 4

  1. Module 4:  What Happens Next?
    Course objectives covered in this module: 5, 6, 7


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in online discussion forums and complete written assignments. See below for details.

Consult the course Calendar for due dates.

Discussion Forums

You are required to participate in four (4) graded discussion forums as well as an ungraded Introductions Forum. The online discussions are on a variety of topics associated with the course modules.

Written Assignments

You are required to complete four (4) written assignments. The written assignments are on a variety of topics associated with the course modules.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

  1. Online discussions (4)40 percent
  2. Written assignments (4)60 percent

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a nonarea of study course), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., exams, assignments, discussion postings, etc.).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

  1. Read carefully the entire Syllabus, making sure that all aspects of the course are clear to you and that you have all the materials required for the course.
  2. Take time to read the entire Online Student Handbook. The Handbook answers many questions about how to proceed through the course and how to get the most from your educational experience at Thomas Edison State College.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the learning management systems environment—how to navigate it and what the various course areas contain. If you know what to expect as you navigate the course, you can better pace yourself and complete the work on time.
  4. If you are not familiar with Web-based learning be sure to review the processes for posting responses online and submitting assignments before class begins.

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:

  1. To stay on track throughout the course, begin each week by consulting the course Calendar. The Calendar provides an overview of the course and indicates due dates for submitting assignments and posting discussions.
  2. Check Announcements regularly for new course information.


Students at Thomas Edison State College are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlines procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State College expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the College insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty takes the following forms:

  1. Cheating
  2. Plagiarizing (including copying and pasting from the Internet without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources)
  3. Fabricating information or citations
  4. Facilitating acts of dishonesty by others
  5. Unauthorized access to examinations or the use of unauthorized materials during exam administration
  6. Submitting the work of another person or work previously used without informing the mentor
  7. Tampering with the academic work of other students

Academic dishonesty will result in disciplinary action and possible dismissal from the College. Students who submit papers that are found to be plagiarized will receive an F on the plagiarized assignment, may receive a grade of F for the course, and may face dismissal from the College.

A student who is charged with academic dishonesty will be given oral or written notice of the charge. If a mentor or the College official believes the infraction is serious enough to warrant referral of the case to the academic dean, or if the mentor awards a final grade of F in the course because of the infraction, the student and the mentor will be afforded formal due process.

If a student is found cheating or using unauthorized materials on an examination, he or she will automatically receive a grade of F on that examination. Students who believe they have been falsely accused of academic dishonesty should seek redress through informal discussions with the mentor, through the office of the dean, or through an executive officer of Thomas Edison State College.


Using someone else’s work as your own is plagiarism. Although it may seem like simple dishonesty, plagiarism is against the law. Thomas Edison State College takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing will be severely penalized. If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > “Citing Sources.”)

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else’s. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of the intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

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