Syllabus for PLA-200



Introduction to Portfolio Development is built upon the knowledge and reflection gained in PLA-100, Orientation to Prior Learning Assessment. PLA-200 will help students identify courses that best match their selected knowledge base. Students will plan each segment of their portfolio and will use learning outcomes to create a detailed outline. This outline will delineate topics for development based upon the knowledge, theoretical understanding, and applied learning gained from work, community, and personal experiences. As a result of this course, students will be prepared to complete their written portfolio.

It is important to understand that this course prepares you for portfolio development, even though only the outline will be complete at the end of these eight weeks. Keep in mind that  it prepares you for any future portfolio development as well. If, later on, you wish to create a new portfolio, you will not have to take this course again. What you learn in this course will apply to any portfolio you wish to complete in the future.

Advisory: Your success in this course will depend 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 course.


  1. Hoffmann's Prior Learning Exploration Process Model
  2. Articulation of goals
  3. PLA résumé
  4. Determining areas of academic expertise
  5. Targeting courses
  6. Using course objectives and competencies
  7. Using Bloom's taxonomy for self-assessment
  8. Correlation of body of knowledge to learning outcomes
  9. Identifying applied learning and evidence to support learning outcomes
  10. Documentation
  11. The learning narrative


After completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Apply Hoffmann’s Prior Learning Process Model to organizing their portfolio segments.
  2. Identify significant life learning experiences.
  3. Select experience and learning tht could correlate to coursework.
  4. Delineate course objective-relevant competencies using the definitions from Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  5. Extract course-specific knowledge and theoretical understanding from experience and apply the principles to problem-solving situations and experiences.
  6. Organize evidence or documentation that supports learning claims.
  7. Combine and synthesize previously-identified and outlined learning and documentation into the learning narrative outline.
  8. Identify the next steps in the PLA portfolio completion process.


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.


Introduction to Portfolio Development is a two-credit online course, consisting seven (7) modules. Modules include topics, learning objectives, study materials (including a lesson), and activities. Module titles are listed below.

  1. Module 1: Course Introduction
    Course objectives covered in this module: 1

  1. Module 2: Exploring Your Prior Learning Background
    Course objectives covered in this module: 2

  1. Module 3:  Prioritizing and Articulating Expertise

Course objectives covered in this module: 3

  1. Module 4:  Writing Competencies Using Course Objectives
    Course objectives covered in this module: 4

  1. Module 5: Gathering Evidence of Learning
    Course objectives covered in this module: 5, 6

  1. Module 6: Creating an Outline for Your Learning Narrative
    Course objectives covered in this module: 7

  1. Module 7:  Next Steps for Portfolio Development

Course objectives covered in this module: 8


One of the tasks you will complete during this course is the creation of your portfolio site. This is a simple process, using Google Apps, that will provide you with a place to build your portfolio or portfolios. The outline that you create during this course wo;; be placed on this site and shared with your mentor and the Office of Portfolio Assessment.


There are several terms that are used in specialized ways at Thomas Edison State College. This brief list will help you understand how they apply to your portfolio development.

  1. Objectives: Objectives are part of every Thomas Edison State College course. They state, using measurable verbs, what students will be able to do after they have successfully completed the course.
  2. Learning Outcomes: Learning outcomes are, essentially, objectives that relate to the college-level learning that you will need to demonstrate in your particular portfolio. They state (again, in measurable terms) what you should have learned through your experience in order to earn college credit. During PLA-200, when you submit to the Office of Portfolio Assessment  a list of courses for which you intend to earn credit, you will receive a list of learning outcomes that you will need to address in your portfolio. Your narrative will focus on those outcomes.
  3. Course Mentor: During PLA-200 you will have the guidance of a course mentor, a generalist who will facilitate your completion of the assignments in this course, including the writing of your narrative outline. The course mentor will grade your assignments and discussion postings according to established rubrics and will provide helpful feedback along the way.
  4. Subject Matter Expert or Portfolio Evaluator (interchangeable terms): This individual will evaluate your completed portfolio. (Depending on the courses you are challenging through your portfolio, you may have more than one portfolio evaluator.) The evaluator does not play a role in helping you develop your portfolio either within this course or after you complete it because he or she must provide an unbiased evaluation. He or she is an expert in a particular academic field and provides an objective evaluation of the creditworthiness of your portfolio. Evaluation occurs after the course is over and you have submitted your portfolio to the Office of Portfolio Assessment.


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 seven (7) 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 eight (8) written assignments. All are are on a variety of topics associated with the course modules. Written Assignment 7 consists of your learning outline and will be worth a greater percentage of your grade than other assignments (see next section).


Note the course area titled Samples. In this area you will find samples for each of the assignments (except Written Assignment 2, which is a form). These samples are designed to give you an idea of what is expected for each assignment. They are designed to be helpful guides; your own work will of course reflect your own prior learning.

In the resources area, as well as the Rubrics area, you will also find the Portfolio Evaluation Form. This is the form your subject matter expert will use to evaluate your portfolio, and examining the form will help you prepare your portfolio most effectively.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

  1. Online discussions20 percent
  2. Written assignments 1 through 6 and  845 percent
  3. Learning narrative outline (assignment 7)—35 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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