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Darton State College Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

What is Prior Learning?

Prior learning is learning that is gained through life experience and is attained outside of a traditional higher education setting. Darton State College feels that prior learning assessment is an important part of a higher education institution. The Administration and Faculty have a history of accepting many forms of prior learning including, CLEP exams, AP credit, challenge exams, DSST/DANTES, and military credit according to the American Council on Education’s recommendations. The addition of a portfolio method of prior learning assessment is the final component that will be established to further promote and accept prior learning at Darton State College beginning in the fall of 2014.

Why has Darton State College decided to adopt PLA?

The Administration and Faculty at Darton State College feel that prior learning fits with Darton State College’s mission:

Darton, a state college within the University System of Georgia, is focused on providing a wide diversity of constituents access to certificate, associate, and select baccalaureate programs of study. Dedicated to serving as an access institution, our College will empower students by engaging them in a student-centered, caring and technically advanced environment through innovative delivery systems. Darton is committed to providing exemplary teaching to students in our community, region, and state. As a multi-campus, residential institution, the College pursues traditional and unique mechanisms to deliver education to its richly diverse student body. In service to the community Darton State College will offer cultural enrichment experiences, continuing education, and economic development programs (

In addition, Darton State College is actively engaged in the Complete College Georgia Plan. Part of that plan includes a method to help non-traditional, adult learners attain a college degree through the reduction of educational barriers and credit for prior learning.

What is Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)?

PLA allows students to identify areas of previous learning and exhibit that knowledge in a clear and relevant manner. The Student’s demonstrated learning has the ability to be evaluated, and if appropriate, awarded college level credit.

The Council of Adult and Experiential Learning defines PLA as follows: “The recognition of learning gained from experiences that may be granted credit or otherwise certified… The assessment of learning attained through experiences irrespective of the time and place in which they occurred.” (Assessing Learning, 2nd edition, By Morry Fiddler, Catherine Marienau, and Urban Whitaker p.12)

How should interested students
determine if PLA is right for them?

Students who believe they might be eligible for PLA should schedule an appointment with Darton State College’s PLA Coordinator. Dr. Kuck will work with students to determine if their prior learning experiences meet the criteria to earn college credit.

Office: I building, office 132
Phone: 229-317-6805

What are some ways of earning credit for prior learning?

Methods of Assessing Prior Learning for College Credit

The Administration and Faculty have a history of accepting many forms of prior learning including, CLEP exams, AP credit, challenge exams, DSST/DANTES, and military credit according to the American Council on Education’s recommendations.

  1. Course Challenge Exams. Any student who believes he/she is proficient in an academic subject is encouraged to apply for a course challenge exam. Only students who are currently enrolled at Darton State College may take a challenge exam. Credit by challenge exam will not be awarded in courses for which the student has already earned a grade (A,B,C,D,F, WF). Only course credit will be awarded for successful credit by exam; no academic quality points will be assigned. Thus, credit by examination will not have any effect on the students’ grade point average. Challenge exams may not be taken more than one time in any particular course. Inquiries about challenge exams should be directed to the division or department dean/chair where the course is taught.
  2. National Standardized Examination. Credit for prior learning may be awarded through CLEP, DSST/DANTES, Advanced Placement (AP) credit, and ACE.
    • CLEP (College Level Examination Program) Credit- Darton State College students may receive up to forty-two (42) semester hours of college credit for certain courses based on CLEP scores. The Testing Center coordinates the administration dates for the examinations. There is a fee to take CLEP exams. A waiting period of six months is requires before a CLEP exam can be retaken. Criteria for credit awarded for CLEP subject examinations, minimum scores, and credit given may be found at
    • Darton State College will grant credit for DSST/DANTES exams determined to be equivalent to CLEP. The same score minimums will apply to these tests as the CLEP. CLEP credit will be indicated by a “K” on the student’s transcript.
    • AP (Advanced Placement) Credit- Darton State College provides the opportunity for qualified beginning students to obtain credit for certain basic courses. The granting of advanced placement is usually based on the College Entrance Examination Board Advanced Placement Test scores, as approved by departments of instruction. Students may contact the Admissions Office for more details and credit available. Scores of less than 3 will not be considered. The course and credit hours will be posted to the student’s report card; however, the grade received will not calculate in the student’s semester or cumulative grade point average. Advanced Placement credit will be indicated by a K on the student’s transcript. Information about Darton State College Advanced Placement Equivalencies is available at
    • ACE (American Council on Education) Credit- The American Council on Education (ACE) is an organization that provides guidance to colleges and universities on the acceptance of credit. Darton State College is a member of ACE and honors ACE credits as appropriate for the program of study for students. Students must contact their advisor and the Darton State College Offices of Admissions ( for information on documentation of ACE credits and verification of their application to programs of study. ACE can be found online at
  3. Portfolio Assessment. Students use the PLA portfolio development process to document their prior learning. This process requires students to prepare and submit a collection of documents that establish and support their claim that they have specific relevant skills, knowledge, values, attitudes, understandings, achievements, experiences, competencies, training, and certifications that align with specific course objectives. The portfolio developed in the documentation course should not only describe the relevant experience but should also identify the particular learning outcomes. Students must also offer a critical self-assessment of what college-level learning has been acquired through selected non-traditional experience. This experience might include a variety of work, training, reading and research, civil and military service, or life learning.
  4. Military Training. Darton State College will evaluate military transcripts to determine if military training can provide college credit. Students who have served in the military may request an official transcript at Joint Services Transcript or CCAF.

The portfolio as used at Darton State College includes an organized variety of verifiable evidence, documentation and reflections of prior learning experiences (e.g., skills, letters, recognitions, certifications and experiences) for which a student seeks credit. Students and the PLA coordinator must agree upon the content and prior learning outcomes achieved as documented in the portfolio.

What are the National Criteria for
Quality Assurance in Assessing Learning for Credit?

  • Credit or its equivalent will be awarded only for learning, and not for experience.
  • Assessment should be based on standards and criteria for the level of acceptable learning.
  • Assessment should be treated as an integral part of learning, not separate from it, and should be based on an understanding of learning processes.
  • The determination of credit awards and competence levels must be made by appropriate subject matter and academic or credentialing experts.
  • Credit or other credentialing will be appropriate to the academic context in which it is awarded and accepted. The program of study and the student’s major, i.e., core, upper-division, or graduate, of the student determines the “academic context.”

Adapted From:

Morry Fiddler, Catherine Marieneau & Urban Whitaker. Assessing Learning: Standards, Principles, & Procedures. Chicago: CAEL (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning), 2006.

For more information, visit the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) website.

What are the advantages of PLA?

The goal of initiating a comprehensive Prior Learning Assessment Program would be to put students first in higher education by decreasing time and barriers to degree completion and acknowledging that learning takes place in all avenues of life and there are principles and standards that can guide the credentialing process for prior learning. The Ten Standards of Assessing Learning that were developed by Fiddler provides a framework to guide the prior learning process within higher education (2006). It is intended that a comprehensive prior learning assessment program that adheres to the Ten Standards of Assessing Learning will be extremely beneficial to allowing adult learners to complete their degree quicker by reducing duplicity and redundancy that are often considered a “right of passage” in higher education circles.

The Office of Military and Adult Education department is responsible for the information on this page.
For questions regarding content, or for further information, please contact Email: Director of Military and Adult Education.

Last Update: January 4, 2017 9:12 PM

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