Jan 24, 2022  

Academic Affairs

02:29:00 Prior Learning Assessment Policy


  1. Chattanooga State Community College recognizes the college-level learning students acquire outside of formal education. Chattanooga developed the following policy to ensure practices are consistent with academic integrity and responsive to non-traditional learners. This learning may be derived from various life and work experiences and the term prior learning assessment refers to all of the processes the institution uses to review and evaluate evidence of learning and to award academic credit as indicated by academic and administrative standards. Adherence to this policy is also intended to support transparent transfer of prior learning assessment credit among institutions of higher education.
  1. Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is defined as learning gained outside a traditional academic environment. It is learning and knowledge students acquire while living their lives, such as working, participating in employer training programs, serving in the military, studying independently and volunteering or participating in community service. PLA is the evaluation and assessment of an individual's life learning for college credit, certification, or advanced standing toward further education or training. There are generally three forms of PLA:
    1. Credit by examination
    2. Credit recommendations for past training
    3. Portfolio assessments.
  1. Eligibility - Academic credit will be awarded only:
    1. For students who have been admitted to Chattanooga State Community College who are in good academic standing.
    2. After the student has consulted with an advisor about the possibility and advisability of seeking credit for PLA.
    3. For students who have declared an academic program/major.
    4. For courses directly applicable to curriculum requirements of the declared program. Changing majors will result in a reassessment of the applicability of the PLA credit.

*PLA is not recommended for students seeking acceptance into competitive programs as no letter grade will be awarded for PLA credit.

  1. Number of Credits
    1. Credit for prior learning may not be duplicated.
    2. All PLA credit must be awarded prior to the student's last semester of enrollment. PLA credit will not count toward the residency requirement. (Refer to the Graduation Residency Requirement for more information).
  1. Validation Methods - The following guidelines and methods are acceptable for validating prior learning for awarding credit:
    1. Advanced Placement (AP) Exams- a series of exams created by the College Board administered after AP High School Courses. Please refer to the PLA testing equivalencies link to review the AP testing equivalencies at Chattanooga State. It is the responsibility of the student to submit AP score reports to the ChSCC Records Office upon admission.
    2. College Level Examination Program (CLEP) Exams- college level exams offered by College Board designed to assess knowledge in specific areas. Please refer to the link PLA testing equivalencies to review the CLEP testing equivalencies at Chattanooga State. For more information on registering for a CLEP exam please refer to the "College Level Exam Program" information on the testing center link.
    3. Dual Credit Exam- credit obtained institutionally by the passing score on an assessment that is tied to a specific postsecondary course. These are pre-approved courses taught at local high schools. Please discuss your options for taking Dual Credit courses with your high school counselor. Refer to the "Tech Track" link for more information.
    4. Institutional Course Challenge Exams- credit obtained through Departmental Examination. (Division pre-approval required) Please refer to the Institutional Course Challenge Exam link to review exams offered for each division.
    5. International Baccalaureate (IB)- credit obtained under the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme after meeting IB testing equivalencies. Refer to the link PLA testing equivalencies to review the IB testing equivalencies at Chattanooga State.
    6. American Council on Education (ACE) Evaluation- credit obtained through the American Council on Education's evaluation of Military, Workplace/Volunteer training and/or other assessed credit (when applicable to the student's program of study). Students must submit the ACE transcript to the ChSCC Records office. Please reference ACE's National Guide to determine possible credit.
    7. National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS)- credit obtained through the National College Credit Recommendation Service's evaluation of training and education programs offered outside of the traditional college classroom setting. Students must submit proof of the approved training or completion of the education program to the ChSCC Records office. Please reference CCRS's Online Directory to determine possible credit.
    8. Credit for Areas of Licensure/Certification/Apprenticeship Programs
      1. Credit for Certified Administrative Professional Exam (CAP)- applicable toward the AAS degree with a concentration in Office Management. (See the "Licensure, Certification, Apprenticeship Programs" link for more information)
      2. Accelerated Curriculum tracks for Licensed Practical Nurses and Paramedics (See the "Nursing RN (AAS Transition Programs)" link for more information)
      3. Credit for Department of Labor approved Apprenticeship Programs (DOL) (See the "Licensure, Certification, Apprenticeship Programs" link for more information)
      4. TCAT Articulations for Engineering Students (See the "Engineering and Information Technology PLA" link for more information)
    9. WebCAPE Placement exam- used for placement or advancement in a Foreign Language at Chattanooga State. Please refer to the "Foreign Language Education A.S. General Transfer" link for more information.
    10. Credit for Experiential Learning
      1. Credit for life experience that directly relates to the content of specific courses documented through an ePortfolio AND is evaluated and approved by a faculty member with subject matter expertise in the area of potential college credit.
      2. Students will be required to complete a self-assessment process in order to produce the ePortfolio. Students will be given access to the ePortfolio rubric upon approval.In the portfolio, students will describe significant learning experiences and the skills and knowledge that have been attained from those experiences. Documentation (such as letters, certificates, reports and products) will show evidence of the learning that has been acquired.
      3. A non-refundable assessment fee of $125, must be paid prior to faculty assessment of the student's portfolio. Submission of an ePortfolio does not guarantee credit.
      4. ePortfolio assessment applicants should be motivated, self-directed students with significant, demonstrable, and documentable experiential learning.
      5. Suggested qualifications for prospective ePortfolio candidates:
  • Student has successfully passed Composition I and possess exceptional writing skill
  • Student has worked in an area of specialty for at least 5 years or more
  • Student has adequate skill in using technology and in the Digication ePortfolio system
  1. Military Service Credit
    1. Chattanooga State may give credit for military science to students with six or more months of honorable active service in the United States Armed Forces or in a service academy. Chattanooga State policy permits granting credit for appropriate educational experience in the armed services in accordance with evaluation in the American Council on Education Guide to the Evaluation of Education Experience in the Armed Services or by the commission on the accreditation of service experiences evaluation service. Chattanooga State also gives credit for many correspondence courses completed through USAFI. Veterans should apply to the Records Office with supporting documents of their previous training.
    2. Students with an honorable discharge and a valid DD 214 form can receive physical education activity credit. One credit is allowed for each six months of service to a maximum of two credits.
    3. Chattanooga State may give credit for appropriate educational experience listed in The National Guide to Educational Credit for Training Programs sponsored by the American Council on Education. The program is national in scope, and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission is a participating agency. Each request will be considered on its own merit and must have the approval from the appropriate division.
  2. Institutional Course Challenge Exam and ePortfolio Procedure
    1. Applying for Institutional Challenge Exam and ePortfolio Credit
      1. Credit by Institutional Challenge Exam and ePortfolio evaluation will require the approval of the appropriate academic dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The Institutional Challenge Exam fee of $25 (as mandated by TBR) and $125 for the ePortfolio evaluation shall be paid prior to the examination or evaluation. Appropriate personnel will administer examinations. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required of students applying for credit by examination or for ePortfolio evaluation; students who do not meet this requirement shall not be permitted to take the examination for credit without prior approval by the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
      2. All PLA credit must be awarded prior to the student's last semester of enrollment. Credit by examination will be counted as part of a student's load. The minimum score required for course credit by exam will be determined by the appropriate division, department and/or instructor. The load of courses taken and courses in which one is seeking credit by examination will not exceed the maximum load allowed per semester. Credit by examination will be given on a pass/no pass basis only and will not be computed in the student's GPA. A student can attempt an examination for any approved course only once.
  3. Procedures
    1. Applicant must meet with his/her assigned advisor or Academic Completion Specialist to determine courses needed to complete degree requirements.
    2. Applicant must complete the PLA Application found on the Chattanooga State Prior Learning Assessment website, identifying the course and PLA type (i.e. Institutional Challenge Exam, ePortfolio)
    3. Upon approval, the applicant must pay the appropriate fee and present the receipt of payment to PLA Point of Contact in the division, who will verify eligibility, provide course student learning outcomes for preparation, and make arrangements for testing or ePortfolio processing.
    4. Examinations may be administered in the division or in the testing center, as deemed appropriate.
    5. Upon completion, the examination or ePortfolio will be evaluated. If the applicant achieves what is required for a grade of "Pass," the division dean will submit the "Certificate of PLA Credit Authorization" to the Vice President for Academic Affairs for approval. This certificate will be submitted to the records office to transcribe the credit of "AP" on the student's institutional transcript.
  4. Grading
    1. A letter grade of "AP" will be assigned for PLA credit granted. Because no grade is assigned other than "AP," no Quality Points will be awarded to count toward GPA.
  1. Application
    1. PLA credits apply toward majors, concentrations, general education requirements and electives that count toward the degree or certificate being sought and satisfy pre-requisite requirements in the same manner as traditional courses at Chattanooga State.
    2. PLA is not recommended for students seeking acceptance into competitive programs as no letter grade will be awarded for PLA credit.
  1. Transferability
    1. Students who transfer to a community college or university in the TBR or UT system may have their PLA credits transferred to that institution as long as the credits are applicable to the degree or certificate the student has declared and the transfer institution's policy grants credit for that type of PLA credit. However, the statement below still applies in the event that the receiving institution does not grant credit to its native students for that type of PLA credit:
    2. PLA credit awarded at one institution, which meets Common General Education Core Requirements, and/or Tennessee Transfer Pathway (TTP) requirements must be accepted as transfer credit toward the degree if the student transfers to a TBR or UT institution in Tennessee, in accordance with Transfer Guarantee policies related to the General Education Core or the Tennessee Transfer Pathways.
  2. Fees
    1. CLEP- $85 through College Board: $25 Test Administration fee at Chattanooga State's testing center. See "College Level Exam Program" information on the testing center link.
    2. Challenge Exam- $25 per exam (mandated by TBR) and any fees associated with additional materials
    3. Portfolio Evaluation- $125 per portfolio (up to 9 credit hours)
    4. Requested score reports/transcripts from ACE, AP, ACT, SAT etc. are subject to a fee that will be the responsibility of the student.
  3. Portfolio Preparation Support
    1. Upon completion and approval of the PLA ePortfolio application, the student will gain access to review all required components of the ePortfolio and will be given a description of the rubric.
    2. All PLA ePortfolio candidates will also be given access to an ePortfolio template that outlines the information required upon submission.
    3. Students will also have access to the writing center and ePortfolio peer mentors for support during each term.
  1. Appeal
    1. Upon completion of the ePortfolio, if the student is not granted credit, he/she has 30 days to submit an updated portfolio to attempt to meet all requirements.
    2. If the student is not issued credit at this time and requests to appeal the "No Pass" grade, the student can refer to the "Appeal of a Grade" section of the catalog and follow the required steps to appeal the "No Pass" grade.
  1. Staff Professional Development - Assessing faculty/staff should meet the Portfolio Reviewer Qualifications listed below:
    1. Subject Matter Expertise
      1. Educational experience and credentials appropriate to faculty position (e.g. based on SACSCOC or other accrediting body guidelines)
      2. Experience teaching the discipline
      3. Knowledge of relevant college-level course objectives and outcomes
      4. Knowledge of overall curriculum and degree requirements
      5. Evidence of disciplinary writing skills and ability to mentor writing in the discipline
    2. Pedagogical Expertise of Assessor
      1. Training/application in writing and assessing goals, objectives and learning outcomes
      2. Training in matching evidence of college level learning with learning outcomes demonstrated in portfolios
      3. Experience with reflective practice or reflective writing
      4. Teaching and learning philosophy that includes a commitment to the value of experiential learning
    3. Training in consistency of the PLA process at Chattanooga State
      1. Includes completion of assessor training course or workshop, or a local adaptation thereof by ChSCC by an individual who has undergone the training (e.g. CAEL certification).
      2. Institutional credentials sufficient to recommend award of credit
  2. Review
    1. Chattanooga State will review PLA program policies and procedures every five years corresponding with our SACSCOC Ten-Year Re-Affirmation and the Five-Year Review. The review will evaluate all aspects of PLA policy, procedures, and portfolio audits, for consistency with state, regional and national practices.
    2. Additionally, Chattanooga State will report a PLA Program Profile to TBR detailing:
      1. Volume of PLA credits awarded annually (per PLA subcategory and total)
      2. Average volume of PLA credits per award
      3. PLA recipient data including, but not limited to, a demographic summary of PLA recipients (age, race, and GPA) as well as measures of recipient success (per PLA subcategory and total).



04/11/2018:  Approved by Chattanooga State Policy Review Board

Approved: President    September 7, 2016