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1. What is a PELA portfolio?

The PELA portfolio is a written account of what you have learned and how well you have learned it. The learning outcomes of the prior learning experience must be comparable to those of a specific course in the curriculum at the College of Saint Elizabeth.

2. Is PELA an option for me?

If you have had significant experiences outside the classroom for which you have achieved learning outcomes comparable to those of a specific course at the College of Saint Elizabeth, and for which you can provide documentation, you may want to discuss your eligibility with your advisor and program director.

Typically, those eligible are graduate students and continuing studies students with significant prior work experience.

Credits earned through the portfolio process may not transfer to another college program at CSE or to another institution, subject to the review of the program or institution.

Capstones are not eligible for the PELA Portfolio process.

3. How do I identify my prior professional experiential learning experience?

Take inventory of your history, particularly as it relates to professional experience, training, and expertise to determine if you have:

  • A theoretical and a practical knowledge of the subject matter.
  • Up-to-date knowledge of concerns, research and what the experts are saying.
  • Documentation that demonstrates college level learning.

One way to begin is to prepare an informal learning resume - a chronological list of your jobs and other learning experiences which may include:

  • Job titles and the responsibilities related to each one.
  • What you had to know or what you had to learn to fulfill those responsibilities.

You may have substantial non-job experiences from which you have acquired knowledge:

  • What did you learn?
  • How did you learn it?
  • What you are able to do with the knowledge acquired?

To be considered for college credit, prior learning must:

  • Be measurable.
  • Be at a level of achievement defined by the faculty as college equivalent and consistent with the learning of other students engaged in graduate studies.
  • Be applicable outside the specific job or context in which it was learned.
  • Have a knowledge base.
  • Be relevant today, and not outdated knowledge.
  • Display a conceptual or theoretical as well as a practical understanding.
  • Not repeat learning for which credit has already been awarded.
4. How many credits can I earn through the PELA?

You may earn a maximum of 12 credits as an undergraduate or continuing education student enrolled in a degree program or nine credits as a graduate student through the PELA portfolio.

5. When can I earn the prior learning portfolio credit?

Applicants may submit a portfolio for assessment after they have been accepted to CSE and are enrolled in classes. Students must be enrolled in a declared degree or licensure program at CSE.

6. What is the format for my prior learning portfolio?

The portfolio components:

  • Cover Sheet - indicates that this is a PELA submitted by you to the College of Saint Elizabeth. The submission date is included on the cover sheet.
  • Resume - a chronological record providing details of significant activities including work experience, volunteer experience, and non-formal training.
  • Table of Contents - outlines the sections of the portfolio.
  • Course Description - include from the Undergraduate or Graduate Catalog the description of the course for which you are preparing the portfolio
  • Learning Outcomes - obtain these from the program chair or course of study coordinator. It is essential to demonstrate the learning outcomes for the class have been achieved. Complete the PELA Alignment Chart for Course Outcomes.
  • Narrative - a 3-5 page, double-space detailed analysis of your prior learning which is directly related to the course outcomes and content and supports your request for credit. The narrative outlines the learning, explains how it was obtained, persuades the evaluator that it is worthy of college credit and introduces the evidence materials.
  • Evidence - describes when, where and how the knowledge and skills were acquired that you outlined in your narrative. If evidence is not included, credit cannot be awarded;
  • Documentation - you are expected to demonstrate that you possess the knowledge and skills you claim to have. Documentation may take many forms
  • Statement of Academic Integrity
  • Statement of Disclosure


  • Number pages
  • Standard fonts (Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri) 10 to 12
  • 1" inch margins
  • Submit in a binder for each course divided by sections if more than one course is to be evaluated.

Note: The student should keep a copy of the PELA Portfolio since the copy submitted is retained by the College.

7. What forms can evidence/documentation take?

Evidence or documentation verifies that you have the knowledge and skill that you identify in your narrative.

Some examples of documentation:

  • Verification of employment; job descriptions
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Honors, recognition, appointment
  • Certificates, diplomas, graded exams or assignments, licenses
  • Art works, videotapes or musical performances, publications
  • Military records/ ACE (American Council on Education) Examples of acceptable documentation for military experience include, but are not limited to AARTS (Army/ACE Registry Transcript System) SMART (Sailor/Marine/ACE Registry Transcript) or Community College of Air Force Transcript
  • Management reports you have compiled and written, computer programs you have designed, manuals or brochures you have written or designed, patents you have obtained, curriculum plans you have prepared
  • Official personnel evaluations by your supervisor; documentation of the completion of training programs; program notes from performances you have given or exhibits in which you have shown work
  • Magazine or newspaper articles about you and your accomplishments.
  • Where applicable, the evidence/documents must be labeled as belonging to you or having been produced by you. Certificates and licenses should be explained.

Weak sources of documentation, which should be avoided include:

  • Letters from family members, your own students or clients, your own employees or friends who might serve as "personal references" in other contexts;
  • Travel brochures of places you visited; newspaper clippings about events in which you say you participated but which do not mention you;
  • Job evaluations that are not specific about what you actually did or what skills you exhibited;
  • An evaluation that merely states you were a good employee, or even a super employee, is poor documentation for your skills and learning.
8. What is a letter of verification?

You may need to provide letters which confirm that you have indeed done and learned what you outlined. Such letters may come from former employers, supervisors, teachers - anyone who has been in a position to know you and judge your work.

Specify what knowledge you want documented, because only documentation that verifies learning can be used to support your claims as to what you know. The letter writer should:

Submit the letter on official letterhead.

  • Know the letter is for verification and not recommendation.
  • Explain their professional qualifications, relationship to you, and length of time it continued.
  • Describe your learning and the particular duties which you were required to perform.
  • Evaluate the level of your performance.

A word of caution about documentation: Use only those pieces of evidence which are directly connected to your credit request. The relevance of the documentation is much more important than the quantity. Portfolios filled with bits and pieces of scrapbook-type items are not appropriate.

9. What is the process for requesting portfolio assessment?
  • The student obtains the PELA Portfolio Guidelines and PELA Registration Form.
  • It is recommended that the student schedule a meeting with Academic Advisor, Course of Study Coordinator/Program Chair to determine if prior learning is applicable to the specific course and the established leaning outcomes in that course.
  • The student begins the process of completing the official PELA Registration Form which requires the approval of the Program Chair/Course of Study Coordinator and the Area Chair. The PELA Registration Form must be completed as outlined with adherence to the established process and timelines.

    Note: The established per-course nonrefundable fee of $350.00 must be paid to the Bursar's Office when the application has been approved by the Area Chair.
  • A copy of the approved application is sent to the student. At that time, student will be assigned a Faculty Evaluator by the Course of Study Coordinator/ Program Chair. The portfolio must be completed within 60 calendar days following the date of approval and payment made to the Bursar's Office.
  • The student submits the portfolio to the Faculty Evaluator as directed.
  • The Faculty Evaluator evaluates the portfolio based on the learning outcomes established for the specific course, evaluates the appropriateness of the documentation, and decides to award credit, not award credit, or request additional information from the student. The additional information could consist of an interview, and examination, more documentation, or a performance evaluation. The student has up to 30 calendar days to comply with this request.
  • The Faculty Evaluator notifies the Program Chair/Coordinator of the results of the portfolio assessment. The Faculty Evaluator forwards the application to the Course of Study Coordinator/Program Chair who may review the portfolio, signs and dates the application and forwards to the Area Chair for their approval and signature. The Area Chair will then forward the application to the Registrar.
10. How do I get started?

View the PELA Form or review the PELA Checklist of the steps required to complete a prior learning portfolio assessment followed by the application. It is necessary to follow the steps required in sequence.