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Why Is the Prior Learning Assessment So Useful for Students?

The Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a meaningful opportunity for non-traditional and adult learners returning to college. By translating real-world experience into academic credits, PLA allows students to earn formal academic recognition for the knowledge they acquire through work, military service, volunteering, and personal pursuits.

Rather than requiring students to take classes and learn skills and knowledge they already possess, the Prior Learning Assessment provides academic credit for the substantive learning students possess from life outside the classroom. This innovative approach bridges the educational gap, helping non-traditional learners leverage their rich experience to fulfill degree requirements.

Related: How to Become More Productive as a College Student

How the Prior Learning Assessment Helped a Retail Management Student

Paili Bloom prior learning assessment
Paili Bloom. Image courtesy of author.

Paili Bloom is a retail professional with 15 years of retail experience. She currently oversees the execution of corporate business strategies, procedures, and programs for the Army Air Force Exchange Service as a store manager.

Paili is also an AMU student with an associate degree in communication and a bachelor’s degree in retail management. Near the end of her bachelor’s degree, Paili learned about the Prior Learning Assessment option to accelerate the completion of her degree.

With her extensive experience in retail management, pursuing the PLA option would save her time and money. Paili eagerly pursued PLAs for courses aligning with her daily work, which involves overseeing areas such as daily operations, changes in retail trends, and relationships with customers, leaders, employees, vendor partners, and key stakeholders.

Her PLA portfolios provided evidence of her competencies through performance reviews, training, awards, and work samples. Prior Learning Assessment faculty members assessed her materials, recommending her for academic credits. Also, a PLA workshop guided her writing approach to her portfolios so that Paili could effectively demonstrate her knowledge to faculty reviewers.

Through eight successful PLAs, Paili reduced the time she needed to earn her bachelor’s in retail management while working full-time. Paili highly recommends other working students leverage PLAs to showcase real-world experience.

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A Testimonial about the Effectiveness of the PLA from Paili

Paili says, “The option to do Prior Learning Assessments was presented to me by the associate dean for the Alternative Learning Program as I approached the end of my degree program. The dean knew that I had over a decade of retail management experience and was currently a retail store manager.

“I jumped at the opportunity to choose Prior Learning Assessments in the areas in which I had the most experience in my everyday career. In the everyday life of a retail manager, I oversee organizational change and behavior, merchandising, operations, innovations in retail trends, and employment relations.”

She adds, “With each Prior Learning Assessment, I answered questions about the key developmental competencies of the course and then showcased my work throughout my career using photos, performance reviews, awards, and outside training courses that I had taken. A PLA faculty member would then review my Prior Learning Assessment portfolio and assess if I would be recommended for credit.

“Once I chose which courses to complete through Prior Learning Assessments, I enrolled in the PLA workshop to help guide me through the first course. The workshop and guidance from Marsha Metzer during the workshop helped lead me in the right direction. She ensured that my writing styles were refined and that I added all of the required information.

“I used what I learned in the workshop and completed eight PLAs, finishing out my bachelor’s in retail management. Choosing to do the PLAs gave me more time in my everyday life; the papers were broken down into parts that you could tackle at your rate, but overall, it was much quicker than attending an eight-week course. I highly recommend the Prior Learning Assessment option to anyone I know enrolled at the University!”

The Prior Learning Assessment can be a useful way to complete a degree in a shorter amount of time and save money on educational expenses. For more information, visit the Prior Learning Assessment page or email

Marsha Metzer is a multifaceted professional with experience in education, psychology, business, ministry, and coaching. As a senior project coordinator and Prior Learning Assessment faculty member at the University, she helps adult learners achieve their academic goals. Marsha also serves as a life coach and chaplain, providing guidance and spiritual support to others. She holds a Regents Bachelor of Arts (RBA) degree with a concentration in elementary education from Shepherd University, a Master of Arts in psychology, and a graduate certificate in life coaching from American Military University. Her educational background also includes an MBA from American Public University and a certificate in chaplaincy. Known for her ministry leadership, volunteering, mission trips, and worship singing, Marsha is dedicated to service and bringing out the best in people. At her core, she is family-oriented and committed to empowering individuals to thrive.

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