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Prior Learning and Assessment (PLAR) Procedures

Ref. No. Executive sponsor Policy steward Approval authority First approved Last reviewed Effective date Next review
  1. Purpose
    1. The purpose of this procedure is to identify the accountabilities and processes associated with Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) and to ensure that any student being awarded college credit has met all NSCC requirements for a particular course.
  1. Definitions
Term Definition
Academic Chair A College position that leads the delivery of high quality and consistent teaching and learning in programs assigned to their portfolio.
Academic Course Credit Credit that is awarded in recognition of having met the conditions for passing a course in a program of studies.
Academic History An unofficial document that is a permanent chronology of a student’s credit and non-credit course work at the College. Academic histories also record successful completion of course milestones required for graduation.
Advisor In terms of the PLAR process, an advisor may provide timely and accurate information on College requirements, policies, processes and help the student connect to college resources and engage confidently as a learner. An advisor may also assist students to set and meet meaningful goals that align academic, career, and personal development.
Course Outline A document that outlines the learning requirements and outcomes of a course.
Equivalent Learning Learning acquired through formal, informal, non-formal, and/or experiential learning experiences which are assessed to be equivalent to the learning outcomes identified in a course or program.
Experiential Learning Knowledge and/or skills acquired through life experiences.
Faculty A person or persons appointed by the College to deliver a course and evaluate students in accordance with the learning outcomes and the course outline.
Formal Learning Knowledge and/skills underpinned by accredited learning from a formally recognized educational institution. The intent of this type of learning is to gain knowledge in a structured and organized manner.
Informal Learning The knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes that a student has acquired through a combination of work, non-formal, and/or experiential learning experiences. Often this type of learning is known as learning from experience and may not be organized and structured.
Internal Equivalency The official acknowledgement of previous courses completed at NSCC equivalent to a course taken within the current program of study.
Learning Contract Formal statements of what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate in order to receive a pass mark in a course.
Learning Outcomes A mutual, documented agreement between the student and the faculty member. It clearly provides a written summary of the circumstances for the Contract and the agreed upon intervention strategy and conditions, including completion date.
Non-Formal Learning The skills and abilities and attitudes that students have acquired from non-credit courses, on-the-job-training, and workshops.
Official Transcript An original printing of a student’s academic record. It bears both the signature of the Director of Enrolment and Registrar, and the College’s official seal.
Part-Time Course Load When a student is enrolled in less than 60% of the mandatory courses in their program of study as per the curriculum document in a given semester.
PLAR Candidates Individuals who have decided that PLAR is a sound educational decision for their career pathways and are preparing for assessment of their prior learning.
Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) A type of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). It is the process for assessing non-formal and informal learning acquired in work, life and educational settings as equivalent to the learning outcomes of a college course. When faculty and other subject matter experts (SMEs) assess and verify that a student’s learning is relevant, valid, sufficient, authentic, and can be measured reliably against course outcomes, academic credit may be awarded. PLAR ensures consistent, transparent, fair and quality-assured assessment of relevant lifelong learning regardless of context.
Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition Plan (PLAR Plan) A document prepared by faculty/SMEs and their Academic Chairs for students proceeding with PLAR. A PLAR Plan clarifies the breadth and depth of learning required to PLAR a course and may be useful for developing an advising-assessment schedule. A PLAR Plan would include a course description, course learning outcomes and objectives well as the corresponding evaluation and assessment methods. Reference to reading lists and other resources may also be included.
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) A comprehensive term that refers to the recognition of the sum of an individual’s learning that has occurred prior to the present. RPL recognizes that learning is life-long and occurs in formal, non-formal, informal work, life and educational situations. In addition, RPL places value on all learning including the unrecognized knowledge, skills, abilities, and values that individuals gain throughout their lives. Furthermore, RPL creates pathways for recognizing that some prior learning may be equivalent to the content of one or more college courses.
Residency The percentage of total units in a program of study that must be completed by a student through NSCC to be granted an NSCC credential.
Student Anyone who is active in a program and/or enrolled in courses
Student Services A team of professionals available to students to assist them in their learning at NSCC.
Subject Matter Expert (SME) Faculty, academic chairs and others recognized by NSCC as determined under NSCC Procedure 25.03: Recognition of Subject Matter Expertise in a Field of Study.
Transfer Credit The granting of an NSCC credit for learning that was successfully completed at another institution. Transfer credit is granted on the basis that the learning outcomes met through another institution are deemed equivalent to NSCC's course learning outcomes.
  1. Policy
    1. Applications for PLAR
      Action Table Header
      a. PLAR candidates can learn about PLAR from the college website and other sources.
      Student/PLAR Candidate, Academic Chair/Faculty, College Marketing & Communications, College Recruiters, Student Services staff.
      b. PLAR candidates who believe they have sufficient prior learning to proceed with PLAR will have access to instructions about who to contact and how to proceed with PLAR. Student/PLAR Candidate, Student Services staff & Academic Chair/Faculty.
    2. Advising
      Action Responsibility
      a. Initial advising will be provided to PLAR candidates to help them decide if PLAR is a sound educational decision for their career pathways. Student Services staff & Academic Chair/Faculty
      b. PLAR candidates proceeding with PLAR will receive advising throughout the assessment process. Academic Chair/Faculty
      c. PLAR candidates are responsible for completing and submitting a PLAR Application form; they are also responsible for preparing their submission. Student/PLAR Candidate
      d. PLAR Candidates will be provided with a PLAR Plan.
      Academic Chair/Faculty & Student/PLAR Candidate
      e. PLAR candidates will be advised of the College’s deadline dates. Student Services staff & Student/PLAR Candidate
      f. PLAR Candidates will be informed that PLAR credit may reduce their student course load status and their ability to qualify for student loans, financial aid, awards and bursaries. Student Services staff & Student/PLAR Candidate
    3. PLAR Fees
      Action Responsibility
      a. PLAR candidates will be informed about the fee per PLAR course application. Academic Chair/Faculty Student/PLAR Candidate, Student Services staff, Finance Department
      b. PLAR fees will be collected before assessments can proceed. Finance Department
    4. Courses Available for PLAR
      Action Responsibility
      a. PLAR candidates will be informed of courses that are eligible for PLAR. Academic Chair/Faculty & Student Services staff
      b. A PLAR Plan containing evaluation methods and assessment criteria will be provided to PLAR candidates. Academic Chair/Faculty/designated SME
    5. PLAR Assessments
      Action Responsibility
      a. Subject matter experts will assess prior learning to verify that a PLAR candidate’s prior learning is relevant, sufficient, authentic, and current and can be measured reliably against course outcomes for the awarding of college credit. Academic Chair/Faculty/designated SME
      b. PLAR Candidates will receive advising from subject matter experts regarding PLAR results, possible course load implications and next steps. Academic Chair/Faculty/designated SME
      c. A learning contract may be initiated by the subject matter expert during the advising or assessing process if a PLAR assessment indicates that additional evidence of learning is required. Approval of the Academic Chair is required. Academic Chair/Faculty/designated SME & Student/PLAR Candidate
      d. College credit will be granted when all learning outcomes in a course are met.
      Academic Chair/Faculty/Assistant Registrar
    6. PLAR Appeals
      Action Responsibility
      a. PLAR candidates have the right to appeal PLAR decisions. Student/PLAR Candidates, Academic Chair/Faculty & Assistant Registrar.
    7. Review of PLAR Assessments
      Action Responsibility
      a. PLAR candidates have the right to review their PLAR assessment. Student/PLAR Candidate, Academic Chair/Faculty
    8. Official Transcripts and Academic Histories
      Action Responsibility
      a. Successful PLAR assessments will be recorded on Official Transcripts with a P. Assistant Registrar
      b. Unsuccessful attempts will not be recorded on a student’s Official Transcript. Assistant Registrar
    9. Impact on Honours Calculations, Bursaries and Other Awards
      Action Responsibility
      a. PLAR candidates will be informed that PLAR results are not included in calculations for honours awards, bursaries and other awards. Student/PLAR Candidates, Assistant Registrar
    10. Limitations on the Use of PLAR and Recorded PLAR Credit
      Action Responsibility
      a. PLAR candidates will be informed that the PLAR process cannot be used as a means of upgrading a course grade for which credit has already been granted or to upgrade a failing course grade. Student/PLAR Candidates, Academic Chair/Faculty & Assistant Registrar
      b. PLAR candidates will be informed that the PLAR process cannot be used in lieu of, or in addition to, a Supplemental Evaluation. Student/PLAR Candidates, Academic Chair/Faculty & Assistant Registrar
      c. PLAR candidates will be informed that the PLAR process cannot be used as means to earn a course grade when a student has audited a course. Student/PLAR Candidates, Academic Chair/Faculty & Assistant Registrar
      d. PLAR candidates will be informed that when PLAR is unsuccessful, that the same candidate cannot present a similar PLAR request elsewhere in the College until proof of significant supplementary learning to offset the deficiency can be demonstrated.
      Student/PLAR Candidate, Academic Chair/Faculty & Assistant Registrar
    11. Quality Assurance
      Action Responsibility
      a. Quality assurance of PLAR is maintained through on-going professional development and continuous policy and curriculum review cycles. Academic Development
  1. Policy Supports
Related Policies & Procedures
25.01 Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition Policy
22.01 Evaluation Policy
23.01 Program Progression Policy
24.11 Academic Performance Policy
32.01 Student Appeals Policy

Additional Resources
Request for PLAR/Challenge Credit Form
Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition Plan (PLAR Plan)
The College Collaborative Advising Program Guide, April 2018.
RPL Framework
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