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Adult Learner Credit for Experience-based Learning

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The Adult Learning Consortium defines an adult learner as possessing any one of the following three characteristics at the time of his or her enrollment/reenrollment:

  • 25+ years old
  • 20-24 years old with fewer than 30 credit hours completed
  • 5 Years since high school completion

Some adult learners will have acquired college-level knowledge and insight through work experiences or through educational experiences and courses that did not carry college credit. The process of validating these experiences and assigning college credit to them is called Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). At Gordon State College, a student can seek Prior Learning Assessment by using national examinations, by examination connected to specific Gordon courses, by assigning of credit for formal courses and tests connected to the workplace and validated by the American Council on Education (ACE), and by portfolio evaluation. If a student seeks Prior Learning Assessment, he or she should contact the Adult Learning Coordinator, Professor Tonya Moore. Ms. Moore will guide the student through the process.

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Prior Learning Assessment

National Examinations: By far the most frequently used mechanisms for PLA at Gordon are national examinations such as CLEP tests (College Level Examination Program), AP Tests (Advanced Placement Tests) and DANTES tests (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Educational Support). Through these testing services, there are tests that provide credit for most courses in Areas A-E of the Core Curriculum; for many courses, in various Area F’s of the Core Curriculum, and some upper-level courses. For information on these tests, refer to the Credit by Examination section of the Gordon Catalog.

Departmental Examinations: As mentioned above, there are national examinations that can yield credit for most 1000 and 2000 level courses. However, if there is a course at any level for which there is no such test, sometimes credit can be given on the basis of examination developed on the Gordon campus. A currently enrolled student who can present satisfactory evidence that he or she is qualified in a particular subject may petition to take a departmental examination in that subject. Satisfactory evidence may be, but is not limited to, work experience, non-credit courses, course work at non-accredited institutions, or military courses. However, campus-based exams will not be permitted for courses for which the student has previously taken an examination for credit or was previously enrolled at Gordon State College.

Courses, Examinations, and Experiences Validated by ACE: In some cases, formal courses and examinations that take place outside of traditional degree programs have been evaluated by the American Council on Education and recommended for credit. If a student can provide evidence of such experiences to the Adult Learning Coordinator, she will assemble a team of faculty evaluators to look at the course or examination and make recommendations relative to college credit.

Portfolio Evaluation: If a student has had college-level learning experiences that cannot be evaluated using the aforementioned mechanisms, he or she may wish to consider portfolio evaluation. Under the guidance of the Adult Learning Coordinator, the student would sign up as a transient in a section of PLA 2000 at a sister institution. In that course the student would be guided as she or he prepares appropriate documentation to substantiate a request for credit.  These materials would then be reviewed by a disciplinary expert.

Ten Standards for the Assessment of Learning


  1. Credit or its equivalent should be awarded only for learning, and not for experience.
  1. Assessment should be based on agreed upon and public standards and criteria for the level of acceptable learning.
  1. Assessment should be treated as an integral part of learning, not apart from it, and be based on an understanding of learning processes.
  1. The determination of credit awards and competence levels must be made by appropriate subject matter and academic or credentialing experts.
  1. Credit or other credentialing should be appropriate to the context in which it is awarded and accepted.


  1. If awards are for credit, transcript entries should clearly describe what learning is being recognized and be monitored to avoid giving credit twice for the same learning.
  1. Policies, procedures, and criteria applied to assessment, including provision for appeal, should be fully disclosed and prominently available for all parties involved in the assessment process.
  1. Fees charged for assessment should be based on the services performed in the process and not determined by the amount of credit awarded.
  1. All personnel involved in the assessment of learning should pursue and receive adequate training and continuing professional development for the functions they perform.
  1. Assessment programs should be regularly monitored, reviewed, evaluated, and revised as needed to reflect changes in the needs being served, the purposes being met, and in the state of the assessment arts.

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