AMU APU Online Learning Original

Prior Learning Assessment: Using Experience for Credit

By Marsha Metzer, M.A., MBA
Senior Project Coordinator and PLA Faculty Member

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) can be useful for many non-traditional students who find going back to college daunting. The Prior Learning Assessment program allows students to gain academic credit for skills and knowledge they have built through work, military training, volunteering, and even hobbies. Rather than making students repeat courses on information they already know, PLA offers a way to translate real-world experience into college credits.

How Does the Prior Learning Assessment Program Work?

With PLA, the University provides opportunities for students to demonstrate their college-level learning. Typically, a PLA student creates a portfolio to exhibit a mastery of course objectives. For example, students with 20 years of management experience could develop a portfolio showing that their skills meet the learning goals for an undergraduate or graduate business leadership course.

PLA professionals and subject matter experts then review the portfolio and assess whether to award academic credits for a student’s work. Students receive academic credits on their transcript for the knowledge they have demonstrated, allowing them to graduate faster and save money on tuition.

The Prior Learning Assessment program offers adult learners an accessible way into higher education. It is particularly useful for students who have work, family obligations and other responsibilities.

The Benefits of the Prior Learning Assessment Program Are Clear

In addition to saving time and money, PLA benefits students in other ways, too. By validating their hands-on learning, the Prior Learning Assessment program builds their confidence and reinforces that they have useful business skills. Furthermore, studies show PLA students have equal or better college outcomes than those without credit for prior learning.

With the Prior Learning Assessment program, the knowledge gained from years of work and life experience does not go unrecognized. It provides a bridge between practical know-how and academic accomplishment.

How to Learn More about the University’s PLA Program

PLA offers a powerful way to progress towards a degree while balancing your real-world demands. Before you enroll, take stock of all the knowledge you’ve gained from jobs, military service, hobbies, and volunteer work, and identify areas where you already have advanced skills and knowledge.

After this self-assessment, you can pursue Prior Learning Assessment academic credit and get the most out of your educational journey. For more information, visit our Prior Learning Assessment page or email

Marsha Metzer is a multifaceted professional with experience in education, psychology, business, ministry, and coaching. As a senior project coordinator and Prior Learning Assessment faculty member at the University, she helps adult learners achieve their academic goals. Marsha also serves as a life coach and chaplain, providing guidance and spiritual support to others. Marsha holds a Regents Bachelor of Arts (RBA) degree with a concentration in elementary education from Shepherd University, as well as a Master of Arts in psychology and a graduate certificate in life coaching from American Military University. Her educational background also includes an MBA from American Public University and a certificate in chaplaincy. Known for her ministry leadership, volunteering, mission trips, and worship singing, Marsha is dedicated to service and bringing out the best in people. At her core, she is family-oriented and committed to empowering individuals to thrive.

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