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Prior Learning Experience May Transition to College Credits
Vincente Cuevas is a health promotions coordinator at the Barnes Center at The Arch. Blaine Moore works for the 274th Air Support Operations Squadron at Hancock Airport. And Mary Welker works in the Office of Professional Research and Development in the School of Education. They hope their years of professional experience will convert to college credits.
These three students were part a of pilot program created through a partnership between University College and the School of Education. The Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program evaluates students’ knowledge gained through professional experience to determine if they qualify for college credits. The online pilot program took place in fall 2019.
Moore has a wide range of knowledge and experience from his work in the military as a tactical air control party specialist (TACP). He has also worked for various building contractors that specialized in commercial diving, geothermal heating, electrical, plumbing and carpentry. Moore earned an associate’s degree in strategic operations management from the Community College of the Air Force. Currently, he has specialized skills as a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC). To qualify for the position, Moore went through extensive training, including the U.S. Air Force TACP Apprentice Course, the U.S. Air Force Basic Survival School, the U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course and the JTAC Qualification Course.
Moore learned about the PLA program through a friend at the University. Because his goal is to obtain a bachelor’s degree, he thought the program was a great opportunity to examine his current and past experience.
“Along with the assignments and discussions, the course provides in-depth models and tools that allow you to go back through the years and retrieve prior learning experience,” says Moore. “Those exercises were very valuable, and I learned the importance of properly documenting the valuable skills and knowledge I’ve obtained in my life.”
Moore says that the course being offered online was an added benefit. “At the time of the course, I was deployed in support of a NATO mission in Eastern Europe and unable to be on campus.”
Cuevas was also pleased that the course was online. “It allowed me to balance work, life and school and not feel overwhelmed,” Cuevas says.
Cuevas is a sophomore in the bachelor of professional studies program at University College. His first professional position was as a customer service liaison for the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Ferry service. He has also worked in various positions in the retirement savings field.
“One rarely thinks of their professional experience translating into college credits unless you are challenged to do so,” says Cuevas. “Once you reflect and acknowledge the professional competencies you’ve garnered over the years, you can truly appreciate your previous experiences.”
Cuevas says instructors Jason Curry and Jason Scharf guided him and encouraged him to think about his capabilities, skills, aptitude and talents. “They challenge you to dig deep. I never would have presumed that my previous experience as a retirement savings associate taught me how to actively listen to my customers and co-workers,” he says.
“The courses in this program were among the most valuable I’ve ever taken,” adds Welker, who has worked at Syracuse University for over 15 years. In her work as an evaluator in the School of Education, she has had a great deal of experience that is translatable to college credits.
“Through reflection and guidance, the students create a portfolio that can be used to request certain college credits that may apply toward their program of study,” explains instructor Jason Scharf. “The portfolio equips students with tangible, well-documented evidence of their past accomplishments that can be used for future educational and professional pursuits.”
“You are challenged to think about things from other points of view, and as you go through the exercises, you develop intellectual traits of confidence, fair-mindedness and perseverance,” says Welker.
Welker says that upon reflecting on her own past learning experiences her understanding of the phrase “learning” doesn’t just happen in the classroom or office. “As a mother of a child with learning disabilities, you become an expert in learning disabilities. As a mother of a child with an autoimmune disease, you become an expert in that area as well,” she explains. “These experiences require research, management and communication skills—all which are required in college classrooms.”
“The course provides you the tools to think retrospectively and proactively,” adds Cuevas. “You are able to take these experiences and use them to enhance your value as an employee and as an individual. You begin to see your self-worth and how much you bring to the table as an individual contributor in every part of your life.”
The three-credit Prior Learning Assessment course is taught in an eight-week format completely online with one live session each week. It will be taught in the Fall 2020 semester. For more information call 315.443.3261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.