Giving credit where credit is due
When Melissa Brantford’s career plateaued, she decided to return to school to earn a degree. But because she had valuable skills and education under her belt, she didn’t have to start from scratch.
The Seneca College student applied to Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) for three credits. “Having the opportunity to pursue this avenue is important. It validated the prior education and skills I have acquired over my career,” says Brantford (not her real name).
“It did make school less intimidating to know my previous education and life experiences were recognized as being valuable to them as well. It’s also great to save time and money by receiving PLAR credits rather than having to take the courses. I can complete my degree faster, which is significant to me.”
PLAR is ideal for those who’ve gained skills and experience outside of the classroom or in non-traditional educational setting but still have acquired the knowledge that would be equivalent and comparable to in-class/online study, says Danielle Mercier, chair of business studies in Seneca’s faculty of continuing education.
“Particularly, PLARs are beneficial for those who are interested in returning to school and have extensive work or volunteer experience in a particular area and are seeking to strengthen their expertise and skillset,” she says. “Students taking part-time courses through the faculty of continuing education are ideally suited to apply for PLAR, as many bring a variety of skills and experience from their employment.”
If a course covers material you already know and is PLAR eligible, you can ask to ‘challenge’ your knowledge. You may be tested with written or oral exams, interviews or case studies to assess your knowledge and skills or asked to submit a portfolio of your work. It can help save students both time and money – though there is a charge to challenge a credit.
Your assessment will be graded and the grade will appear on your transcript and count towards your Grade Point Average. You can receive up to 75% of your credits through PLAR and transfer credits; the remainder must come from classes taken at the institution issuing the diploma, degree or certificate. Visit the Canadian Association for Prior Learning at www.capla.ca for helpful resources.