Prior Learning Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the question below to obtain answers to frequently asked questions.

  1. What is prior learning?
  2. Why has Atlanta Metropolitan State College decided to adopt PLA?
  3. What is PLA?
  4. Who is eligible to participate in PLA?
  5. How should interested students determine if PLA is right for them?
  6. What are some ways of earning credit for prior learning?
  7. What are the national criteria for quality assurance in assessing learning for credit?
  8. What are the advantages of PLA?
What is Prior Learning?

Prior learning is learning gained through life or work outside of structured higher educational courses. Many people learn through their experiences in life such as those in professional endeavors (through business, the military, or other work/training experiences) or through other educational experiences (through community work, family, travel, or personal study).

Why has Atlanta Metropolitan State College decided to adopt PLA?

The administration and faculty at AMSC believes that PLA fits with the mission of the University. The mission of Atlanta Metropolitan State College (AMSC) is to:

Prepare our students to meet global opportunities and challenges through excellence in teaching and learning.

Expand the boundaries of current knowledge, and explore the practical applications of that knowledge, through excellence in scholarship and creative endeavors.

Promote the economic, cultural and educational progress of our community and our region, through excellence in service outreach.

AMSC seeks to accomplish this mission in a dynamic, student-centered learning environment marked by a respect for diverse abilities, backgrounds, and contributions by all members of the university community.

To better meet this mission, AMSC will work with students from diverse backgrounds to evaluate their prior learning and determine if it meets the stands and requirements of college-level learning.

What is Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)?

PLA is a process through which students identify areas of relevant learning from their past experiences, demonstrate that learning through appropriate documentation, and submit their materials so that they can be assessed and possibly awarded academic credit relative to specific course objectives at AMSC.

Who is eligible to participate in PLA?

Prospective students who fit the following criteria are eligible to participate in PLA:

  • they are adults
  • they are non-traditional students
  • they have other learning experiences outside of a traditional college curriculum.

How should interested students determine if PLA is right for them?

Students who believe they might be eligible for PLA should schedule an appointment with AMSC's PLA Director, Dr. Babs Onabanjo.

Office: S170

Phone: 404-756-4746


What are some ways of earning credit for prior learning?

Broadly speaking, one of the goals of college level education is to prepare responsible, reflective citizens who adapt constructively to change. College level education also helps students become critical thinkers and problem solvers in an ever-changing world. Students can acquire learning from a variety of sources outside the traditional classroom, and they can earn appropriate credit in their work towards a degree for verifiable college level learning acquired through life or work experience, not for the experience itself. Students who acquire the level of knowledge that meets the expectations and the learning outcomes of a specific course may get credit for that course, provided the students can demonstrate proficiency in that specific course.

What is the PLA Documentation Course

If prospective students have other learning experiences that may fit courses not served under one of the above options, they may be advised to sign up for the PLA Documentation course (PLA 2000). This course is the method by which students will develop documentation for the courses for which they hope to earn PLA credit.

What are the National Criteria for Quality Assurance in Assessing Learning for Credit?

Credit or its equivalent will be awarded only for learning, and not for experience.

  • Assessment should be based on standards and criteria for the level of acceptable learning.
  • Assessment should be treated as an integral part of learning, not separate from it, and should be based on an understanding of learning processes.
  • The determination of credit awards and competence levels must be made by appropriate subject matter and academic or credentialing experts.
  • Credit or other credentialing will be appropriate to the academic context in which it is awarded and accepted. The program of study and the student's major, i.e., core, upper-division, or graduate, of the student determines the "academic context."
  • For more information visit: The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) at

What are the advantages of PLA?

PLA will reduce the repetition of relevant course-related material for students with prior learning (or with prior degrees). The documentation course will also help students who have not been in college before or who have not been in college recently to reacquaint themselves with college learning and expectations.

PLA will also reduce the time and the money required to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree although it will require the investment of both.

Description of Courses

What kinds of courses are available for PLA credit? Click here for the list of the current courses available through PLA credit.

What courses are NOT available for credit by portfolio? The courses covered by CLEP, Departmental Examination, and DANTES assessment methods of earning credit will not be eligible for credit through the portfolio process.