NEBHE: New Directions for Higher Education: Q&A with CAEL’s Tate on Prior Learning, Competency-Based Ed

"The convergence of forces and events affecting higher education today, including the push for college completion, has created momentum for serious discussion on the role “prior learning assessment” (PLA) might play in student learning and achievement.

The practice of granting college credit for learning and knowledge gained outside the traditional academic setting goes back decades, with roots in the G.I. Bill and World War II veterans who earned credits for military training.

With many different approaches to utilizing prior learning assessment to earn college credit— including portfolio assessments, challenge exams, and credit recommendations for military or corporate training—considerable attention is being placed on competency-based programs. In a competency-based approach, a college may grant credit hours or even a degree if individuals can use knowledge gained on a job to pass a college-assessment test without requiring them to spend time in class. Students in competency based education (CBE) programs typically learn and progress at their own pace, using learning from life and work experience."

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