KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Committed to making learning accessible and affordable, Western Michigan University’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) announced a new academic initiative, Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Opportunities. Students may now apply for potential credit for their prior knowledge and experiences for various programs within CEHD. This is a great opportunity for nontraditional students to showcase their prior learning experiences and fast-track their degree program.
“WMU's College of Education and Human Development has long been a leader in offering innovative programs to best support both traditional and non-traditional students. Creating opportunities for current and future new students to potentially earn credits for their prior learning and work experiences just makes sense for all stakeholders involved,” says Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer, professor of educational leadership and Ph.D. coordinator for the educational leadership program.
Most participating students are required to take a self-paced, PLA portfolio development course and submit up to five portfolios per course. The course costs $400 and includes one portfolio submission; each additional portfolio costs $100. Students who are awarded PLA credit for one academic course see a significant savings in cost and time in comparison to enrolling in the course. For example, in the 2021-22 academic year, the graduate tuition rate for Michigan residents is $703.48 per credit hour while non-Michigan residents pay $1,055.22 per credit hour. For a course with three credit hours, the savings would be $1,710.44 for Michigan residents and $2,765.66 for non-Michigan residents.
“In order to be granted credit via prior learning assessment, students must demonstrate that what they have already known or been able to do is equivalent to what they would have learned in an equivalent academic course,” explained Dr. Ming Li, CEHD dean.
The program is currently available in three graduate program areas: coaching sport performance, educational leadership and education technology. An early childhood option will be added in 2022.
Students working on a Master of Arts degree in coaching sport performance, an entirely online program, can earn up to 15 out of the required 36 credits.
In the educational leadership department, several programs are eligible.
- Students working on a Ph.D. in educational leadership: K-12 leadership can earn up to 18 out of 60 credits for the central office focus and up to 27 out of 69 credits for the school administration focus.
- Students working on an Education Specialist degree in educational leadership can earn up to 15 out of 30 credits for the central office focus and up to 18 out of 36 credits for the school administration focus.
- Those working on a graduate certificate in central office leadership can earn up to 12 out of 21 credits.
- For the M.A. in educational leadership: K-12 school principal leadership students can earn up to 15 out of 30 credits and for the M.A. in educational leadership: K-12 school principal leadership and interscholastic athletics, up to 15 out of 33 credits.
In the educational technology program, students working on a Ph.D. in education and human development with an emphasis in educational and instructional technology can earn up to 9 credits out of the 21 required emphasis area credits. Those working on an M.A. in educational instructional technology can earn up to 15 out of 30 credits, while those working on a graduate certificate in educational and instructional technology can earn up to 9 out of the 18 required credits.
“This program will bring benefits to both traditional and nontraditional students. For nontraditional students, they can complete a program quickly with less cost. They will see a significant savings in cost and time. For traditional students, they will benefit from the rich experiences shared by nontraditional students in class,” says Li.
Many institutions in the nation have already adopted PLAs, and the Higher Learning Commission recognizes and supports their use.
Students must be a admitted to a program to be receive PLA credits, and the credits can be no more than 50% of the total program credits. Any credits awarded will be posted on a student’s transcript as “credit earned by PLA examination” without a letter grade and will not be counted in the total GPA. The credits can be used to meet WMU graduation requirements.
About the College of Education and Human Development
As the cornerstone of WMU, the College of Education and Human Development continues to build upon its rich tradition of excellence by facilitating the preparation and growth of pre-K-12 teachers and administrators, human service professionals, innovative designers and health and wellness specialists. Learn more about the College of Education and Human Development.
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