The PLA Portal Project for Prior Learning Assessment Training and Development is a Carl Perkins State Leadership project funded by the Texas Higher Educational Board in 2015.
The project was designed, by an administrative team at Eastfield College and in partnership with the North Texas Community College Consortium and Texas A&M University at Commerce, to address the need for professional development of postsecondary personnel in order to increase Texas postsecondary institutions’ capacity to provide innovative assessment options to award students credit toward programs of study for prior career or military training and experiential learning. To date, the project has provided training for personnel from over 50 colleges and universities throughout the state of Texas-based on surveyed feedback from personnel of educational institutions and organizations regarding areas of need in professional development regarding competency-based education and prior learning assessment.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly half (44%) of individuals living at or below poverty in Texas have a high school diploma or below. However, for individuals without a four-year degree, but some postsecondary education that rate drops to less than thirty percent (29%). To achieve the state’s Closing the Gaps’ goals, Texas colleges and universities are continuously challenged to develop innovative models to increase degree and certificate completers as well as meet the need of industry employers seeking qualified candidates for thousands of job openings as a result of economic growth and replacements. The proposed project will address the need for professional development of career and technical postsecondary personnel enabling institutions to build a comprehensive assessment process that includes a combination of Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) techniques as well as transcript evaluation from military training to assess experiential learning and award credit toward completion of students’ program of study.
The overall approach or design of the project resulted in an online accessible Prior Learning Assessment compendium of generally accepted approaches for PLA. Using innovative web development technology platforms, the "PLA Portal" is an online resource manual for standards in PLA development, training opportunities associated with PLA and samples of PLA instruments recommended by a consortium of educational and industry partners that assess both knowledge and performance.
Another component of the project includes Professional Development training opportunities on the contents and use of the tool as well as workshops, conference sessions, and webinars about Prior Learning Assessment. Training and sample assessment practices for high-demand career and technical education (CTE) programs of study will assist institutions of higher education in developing and implementing customized and innovative PLA models at their institutions.
With two primary goals in mind,
- to advance student success by developing strategies for the training of career and technical education counselors and advisors, administrators, and faculty that will increase students’ acceleration through their program of study, recognizing prior knowledge and experience for college credit, and
- to enable the development of replicable Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) programs or services of excellence among Texas institutions of higher education, the use of innovative technology will incorporate training opportunities designed to increase both the number of institutions who develop new or improved PLA models at their institutions as well as the number of students who accelerate toward completion as a result of PLA and competency-based strategies.