If you have decided to apply for credit for prior learning you have accomplished outside of formal educational institutions, then you need to formally request a prior learning assessment. Many colleges and universities require you to submit a prior learning portfolio which they can use to assess your prior learning.
This portfolio is a comprehensive collection of the materials which you assemble to support your claim of prior learning you have acquired. Before you begin to create the portfolio, you will need to contact your school to find out how to go about applying for the portfolio assessment. Each school has its own conditions which must be followed. Usually you need to be enrolled in a program; often you will have to have completed a certain number of courses; often you are assigned an advisor or mentor; you may have to take a portfolio course during which you learn how to make a portfolio and sometimes actually complete it while in the course. Once you pay the fees, you are usually given a certain amount of time to complete your portfolio.
Portfolios need to be organized in a particular way. They usually consist of a three ring binder with tabbed sections. There are certain sections that your school will require you to include and other sections that are fairly standard in almost all prior learning portfolios. Here is a list of the standard pages to be included in most portfolios.
- A cover page or Title page – This usually includes your name, your degree program, and your contact information.
- A Table of Contents – This is often a listing of each tab in the portfolio. So Tab 1 might be your resume or your autobiography. This allows the assessors to easily find and read a section that they are interested in.
- An autobiography – This is generally a 4 to 6 page summary of your life describing who you are and emphasizing the important events in your life that made you who you are today. You would need to show how you learned the knowledge and skills you possess today, how they relate to your present work, and how they relate to your goals for the future.
- Other Narratives – these might include educational and career goals statements, critical reflections on your learning, descriptions of your learning and how you have met the course outcomes of the course syllabus, and any other narrative that helps the assessors determine exactly what learning you have accomplished.
- Course outcome competency table – the list of the course competencies and how you have met them.
- Documentation – this can include letters of verification, descriptions and/or certificates of training programs you have completed, job descriptions, work that you have done such as artwork, written work, short video segments of presentations, newspaper write-ups about your work and so on.
Working with a mentor or taking a workshop will definitely help you to prepare all these sections of your portfolio. Once your portfolio has been submitted it generally takes 3 to 4 months for the school to complete the review. It can be even longer if they ask for more information. Creating a Prior Learning Portfolio is an important and time consuming task which has long term benefits for you whether or not you gain the credits you are hoping to earn. The work you have put into it has already helped you to assess the knowledge and skills that you already possess and thereby helped you in your future planning. It is now a professional document that you can modify and use over time in your career development.