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Prior Learning Assessment

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is prior learning assessment?

    Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is the program that helps students accelerate their progress toward graduation. Through course challenges, industry and military crosswalks, and the prior learning portfolio, students can demonstrate what they have learned and petition to have that learning assessed for college credit.

  • What departments ofer prior learning assessment?

    Many departments offer students the option of challenging a course through a variety of PLA methods. However, not all courses may be challenged. Your Prior Learning Assessment Coordinator can put you in touch with the PLA contact in each department. Or you can search the Course List by department.

  • How will I earn college credit?

    Depending on the course, your learning may be assessed using a variety of methods. You might be asked to take an exam, give a presentation or an oral interview, or submit a portfolio of your work. Whatever method is used, the faculty assessor (referred to as the Subject Matter Expert, or SME) will determine your level of understanding of important course learning outcomes. Credits will be added to your transcript the quarter in which they were earned.

  • Can I earn a "block of credit"?

    No. Credits earned via PLA at Spokane Falls Community College relate specifically to courses listed in our catalog.

  • How will the credit be coded on my transcript?

    Not all colleges and universities support or accept credits based on prior learning. The PLA credits will appear with a special code to signify that the credit was earned using "non-traditional methods" of assessment.

  • How will prior learning affect my grade point average?

    For a locally administered course challenge, you will receive a "grade" based on the level of performance on that challenge exam or procedure, and so can affect your GPA. For national testing programs, industry/military cross walks, or portfolio, credits are awarded without a grade (Pass) and so do not affect the GPA.

  • What kind of learning is appropriate?

    Training that you acquired in the military or on the job may qualify for credits if the training relates to a degree program you are pursuing. Other sources of learning might include volunteer or civic involvement, self-directed study, hobbies, or significant life experiences in a specific discipline.

  • What are the benefits of PLA?

    The benefits of PLA is that it can reduce the number of classes you would need to take (and therefore the expense) to earn a degree. Research conducted by the Council for Adult Experiential Learning confirms that students who are able to petition for credit based on non-traditional learning are more likely to complete a degree than those students who can't do so.

  • How many credits can I earn

    It varies, depending on the degree you are pursuing and the methods used to assess your prior learning. Contact your Prior Learning Coordinator to discuss how many credits might be earned based on your learning.

  • Will the credits transfer to other colleges?

    Colleges and universities reserve the right to review each student's transcript and to accept or reject classes for transfer based on their institution's policies. If you plan to transfer to another college or university, it is best to check on their transfer policies related to PLA.

  • Are there restrictions to earning credits through PLA?

    Yes, there are several restrictions. The CCS Application for Prior Learning list the general policy, but the most important restrictions are:

    • You must have completed 10 credits from SFCC before PLA credits can be posted to your transcript.
    • You may not challenge a course in which you are already enrolled, or that you have audited in the past.
    • You must complete at least 33% of your degree at SFCC, and PLA will not count toward that requirement.
  • How do I begin?

    If you believe you have valid college-level learning based on prior learning experiences, please contact your Prior Learning Coordinator.

  • How much does PLA cost?

    The cost of prior learning assessment varies according to the kind of learning that is assessed and the method of assessment used. Contact your Prior Learning Coordinator to discuss the costs for PLA that may apply to your petition for credit.