A Prior Learning Success Story

This post is a little different.  It’s about my job.  If you know me, you probably know I work for Pulaski Technical College.  Well, in the midst of a very emotional time at work and my wondering if the innovative and unique things I’ve done are really valued, or questioning what kind of future I really have there in the turmoil, a really great story came along.  I don’t know what final form this story will officially take after editors and PR seize it, but I present here my unedited version of it.  And yah, I busted out my old college newspaper reporter skills to write this.  The glimmer of encouragement this story provides me personally really means a lot.  Enjoy.

In June 2014, Pulaski Technical College implemented a new Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) policy for students to gain opportunities to earn college credit for learning experiences outside a traditional classroom setting.  This policy replaced the “life experience” credit policy with a more robust set of credit offerings, including allied health, information technology, culinary, industry, and more.

Since its inception, over 1300 credit hours have been awarded through evaluation of subject exam scores, national and state certification and licenses, military transcripts, affiliation agreements, and portfolio assessments.

“PLA is aimed at helping non-traditional students evaluate their experiences for college-level learning to achieve advanced standing toward a degree,” Benjamin Peacock, the Coordinator for Prior Learning Assessment, stated.

The great opportunity PLA affords is summarized in a recent award offered to Paula Monroe, a new student at PTC this fall.  Monroe has worked as a registered polysomnographic technologist (also known as a Sleep Tech) at Baptist Medical Center for nearly 15 years.   She recently was given the opportunity to instruct at Baptist Health College Little Rock (BHCLR) in their Sleep Technology program.

“To be honest, I had never even come to [Baptist Health College] but when they called and asked if I’d come talk to them, I loved the idea of teaching,” Monroe said.  “But I didn’t have a degree.”

Shortly after she began, Monroe was asked to consider a permanent appointment as an instructor.  The Chancellor of the school, Dr. Judy Pile, confidently assured Monroe that the college would support her work toward a degree, and that’s when she came to PTC.  One of the options of PTC’s Associate of Applied Science in Allied Health is in Sleep Technology.  Traditionally, students take the program at BHCLR, earn a certificate, then complete their degree at PTC.

However, 15 years ago, there were no Sleep Tech programs.  Monroe received on-the-job training before being registered.  Through the college’s PLA policy, PTC was able to evaluate Monroe’s certification and award 42 credit hours for the Sleep Technology program.  Now, Monroe will complete the remaining 19 credit hours and earn her college degree in two semesters.

“I felt like I’d won an amazing prize,” said Monroe.  “That my hard work is recognized as education is like a victory.  I’ve always wanted to get a college degree but have not been in a position to pursue it.”

That’s because Monroe has been balancing all the priorities of life as a single mother.  Monroe’s husband passed away seven years ago, and she has had a very close relationship with her teenage daughter, who is currently home schooled.

“I couldn’t do it all and do it well.  I thought about going to school but felt I couldn’t add it to my plate.”

Monroe also described how her college experience this year will help her learn what opportunities are available to her daughter.

“So this is really an opportunity for the whole family,” she said.

According to Peacock, a majority of credit awarded this past year has been in information technology and industry programs.  Where possible, the college will utilize national and state recognized standards.  Where there is not such availability, PTC’s policy allows for the development of new opportunities when students present their learning experiences to advisors.

“It’s not about someone coming in and saying ‘what can you give me’, but we carefully articulated a policy that had the focused adult learner in mind who, like Paula, wanted to come back to college after years of work and training in a particular field and turn those learning experiences into a degree,” Peacock explained.

Currently in development are college-offered challenge exams in courses like Computer Concepts and Microsoft Office programs, which are frequently requested to be tested out of by students.  Peacock stated he hopes to begin offering these exams this fall.

PLA services are offered free-of-charge for the evaluation of College Level Examination Program (CLEP), Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IBO), and military credit.  Evaluation of certifications, licenses, and portfolios are charged a 25%-of-tuition assessment fee.

“We wanted to assure all stakeholders that we are not allowing the purchase of college credit or that we are giving it away.  I am confident we have an appropriately rigorous process for evaluating learning experiences,” said Peacock.  “Our faculty experts who have helped develop the opportunities have been very enthusiastic, which I greatly appreciate.”

Students who have learning experiences that equate to the college level toward a specific degree can make an appointment with PLA Coordinator by logging on to the MyPTC Portal, clicking the Advising Appointment button, and choosing “Prior Learning Assessment” as their appointment option.  More information can also be found on PTC’s website at www.pulaskitech.edu/pla.

A Prior Learning Success Story