Recognition of Learning

A research initiative to inform policy and practice

WICHE partnered with several organizations from 2018-2020 to conduct a broad landscape analysis and original research related to the recognition of prior learning. The landscape analysis focuses on issues arising in the practice of the recognition of prior learning, policies that encourage or limit its adoption, and key research needs and future directions for the field.  This work has culminated in a series of briefs, reports, and actionable toolkits that can be found below. Additional materials will be added through the end of 2020. This initiative was made possible through generous funding from Lumina Foundation and Strada Education Network.

As part of this initiative, WICHE and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) collaborated with more than 70 institutions to research the impact of prior learning assessment (PLA) on adult student outcomes. Analyzing data on more than 230,000 adult students, the research finds:

PLA Boosts Credential Completion Rates for Adult Students

  • 17% Increase in completion rate for adult students when controlling for other factors (and Hispanic, Community College, and Pell Grant students saw ever greater completion rates).

PLA Saves Adult Students Time and Money

  • $2,224 to $11,587 Estimated adult student savings through PLA, depending on sector.
  • 7 to 12 Months Estimated adult student time savings in earning degrees, with 12 or more PLA credits.

Institutions Also Benefit through Better Retention

  • 17.6 Additional credits earned by students with PLA compared to non-PLA students.

Yet, we found that only 11 percent of students in the sample earned PLA credits and the rates were far lower for Black students and students from low-income backgrounds.

It is critically important to ensure there is better access to PLA (and other ways to recognize college-level learning from work and life experience) among adult students who have not traditionally had strong access to these programs.

 

Results from CAEL and WICHE’s 72-Institution Research Study

Full Report

Executive Summary

Technical Appendix

Fact Sheet

The PLA Boost: Results from a 72-Institution Targeted Study of Prior Learning Assessment and Adult Student Outcomes

The PLA Boost: Results from a 72-Institution Targeted Study of Prior Learning Assessment and Adult Student Outcomes

The PLA Boost: Results from a 72-Institution Targeted Study of Prior Learning Assessment and Adult Student Outcomes

The PLA Boost: Results from a 72-Institution Targeted Study of Prior Learning Assessment and Adult Student Outcomes

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Briefs

The following briefs are part of the landscape analysis regarding prior learning policies and practices. The landscape analysis focuses on issues arising in the practice of the recognition of prior learning, policies that encourage or limit its adoption, and key research needs and future directions for the field.

 

HBCUs and Prior Learning Assessments

Written by: Amy D. Goldstein, Thurgood Marshall College Fund

October 7, 2020

This brief explores the ways in which HBCUs acknowledge and award postsecondary credit to students for college-level learning that took place outside of the institution as a way to improve student outcomes. Thurgood Marshall College Fund undertook research that reviewed information publicly available regarding PLA policies and information on HBCU websites and engaged in a more in-depth case study analysis of four targeted HBCUs, each of which represents a distinct type of institution. This brief concludes with recommendations for policy and practice with regard to HBCUs and other institutions facing similar resource constraints.

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Learning Recognition and the Future of Higher Education – A Vision for a Post-Pandemic Learning Ecosystem

Written by: Rebecca Klein-Collins, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and Nan Travers, SUNY Empire State College

September 10, 2020

The authors of this brief conducted conversations with several leaders of change within the higher education landscape. Drawing on these conversations, the authors suggest what a future higher education model could - and should - look like in order to reflect the realities of the changing world of work post-COVID while taking advantage of advances in technology-based tools and our growing understanding of how people learn.

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Advising and Prior Learning Assessment for Degree Completion

Written by: Alexa Wesley and Amelia Parnell of NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education

August 27, 2020

To examine the conditions around advising students about Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) and the current state of the field, NASPA conducted a research study involving video and phone interviews with practitioners in advising-related roles at institutions and a national survey of student affairs professionals. This brief shares findings and recommendations from this research.

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An Examination of Prior Learning Assessment Policy and Practice as Experienced by Academic Records Professionals and Students

Written by: Wendy Kilgore of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers

July 14, 2020

The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) surveyed member institutions to better understand institutional policies and practices related to prior learning assessment (PLA) and fielded a student survey to understand student perspectives on PLA. This brief shares findings and recommendations from this research.

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Recognizing Prior Learning in the COVID-19 Era: Helping Displaced Workers and Students One Credit at a Time

Written by: Sarah Leibrandt and Patrick Lane of WICHE and Rebecca Klein-Collins of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning

June 16, 2020

In March 2020, the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and the accompanying economic impact changed higher education in the U.S. in unprecedented ways and had severe impacts on students. This brief summarizes some of the key findings from WICHE's Recognition of Learning initiative and synthesizes recommendations from this work that practitioners and policymakers focused on postsecondary education and/or workforce development might consider as discussion moves toward recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As this brief argues, fair and equitable recognition of prior learning is one tool among many that higher education can use during this unprecedented time to help more students and displaced workers earn valuable credentials, saving time and money in the process.

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Recent Presentations

October 22, 2020: CAEL and WICHE Webinar

The PLA Boost: Results from a 72-Institution Targeted Study of Prior Learning Assessment and Adult Student Outcomes

 

July 15, 2020: AACRAO and WICHE Presentation

Two Perspectives on Prior Learning Assessment and Student Success

 

For questions, please contact:

Sarah Leibrandt

Senior Research Analyst, Policy Analysis and Research


303.541.0221

sleibrandt@wiche.edu