When meeting with these students, the questions often posed center around the assessment of their prior learning and how it can best be applied to their area of college study, including, how have the experiences and learnings of your life influenced you? What have you learned outside the classroom that can enhance your college experience? What skill sets and knowledge do you bring with you to college?
Experiential learning is experience-based learning that occurs outside the classroom. It is the skill set you acquire along the way to becoming a business professional. The Council for Adult Education and Learning (CAEL) defines prior college level learning as learning that is:
- At a level of achievement defined by faculty as college equivalent
- Applicable outside the context in which it was learned
- Reasonably current
- Includes both a theoretical and practical understanding of a subject area
Examples of experiential learning
- Experiential learning covers a broad spectrum of experiences.
- Structured programs in the Armed Forces, nursing or business
- Regionally nonaccredited coursework from a business school, Bible college or art academy
- Comprehensive corporate training or a series of workshops
- Extensive volunteer or community service
- Extensive reading in a concentrated subject area
- Proficiency in a foreign language
Questions to ask yourself
When exploring your experiential learning options at a college, ask yourself the following questions.
- Do I have mastery of a knowledge or skill set?
- Can I apply the knowledge or use the skill in a variety of settings?
- Can I verify this knowledge or skill set? How?
- Can I demonstrate the relationship between what I’ve learned, my own goals and my degree program?
Tying it all together
Credit is not granted for the experience itself but for the learning and skills that have been acquired from that experience. How do you tie all this together?
Depending on your background, experiential learning credit may take several forms.
- College Level Examination Program (CLEP). CLEP exams are standardized, subject-specific tests that provide an opportunity for students to prove what they know. Exams are offered in an array of subjects, including management, accounting, marketing, macro and microeconomics, history, psychology, foreign languages, etc. Many colleges award credit for receiving a passing CLEP score. Visit www.collegeboard.com.
- Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Support) (DANTES). Standardized examinations used to assess competency in particular areas, such as history, math, management, psychology, banking/finance and physical sciences. Visit www.getcollegecredit.com.
- ACE evaluations. The American Council on Education has independently evaluated thousands of programs and produced college credit recommendations for noncollegiate sponsored programs and military trainings. Visit http://www.acenet.edu or http://www.militaryguides.acenet.edu
- Portfolio development. A process based on work experience whereby a student documents their learning and skills by assembling a binder in a predetermined format that highlights what they learned, how they learned it and how they applied it.
- Validation. A process similar to the portfolio development but used for documenting nonaccredited coursework or extensive training/workshops.
- Departmental or challenge exams. These are college-specific tests that enable students to prove their mastery or expertise in selected subjects.
As with anything in life, there are exceptions, so check with your college of choice to see which experiential learning options they endorse and accept.
Jennifer Querner, M.A., is the credit for experiential learning coordinator at the College of Mount St. Joseph, where she works with nontraditional and transfer students who are equating skills and life experiences with college credit. For more information, visit http://inside.msj.edu/academics/cel/