Thompson Rivers University

PLAR gets you credits for interests, volunteer work, workshops, more

May 30, 2019

Rachelle Cornwell, a copyright specialist with TRU, is part of a PLAR pilot project initiated by TRU Human Resources

Getting transfer credits is one thing, but earning credits for your employment, volunteering, independent studies, professional development, hobbies and even travel—well, that’s a game changer in the academic world.

Thanks to a long-running TRU initiative called Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR), many students can find out if their non-formal education can count toward requirements for certificates, diplomas and degrees. There is a fee to do PLAR and, depending on how much credit you’re seeking, it can take weeks or months. During the process, students are required to complete a portfolio, answer in-depth questions, self-reflect and clearly show their learning. After the portfolio is reviewed and assessed, applicants receive their feedback.

“PLAR has given me the tools to see much more beyond the words on my resumé and beyond my life experiences. My work and experiences now have a new purpose in an academic perspective,” said Rachelle Cornwell, a copyright specialist at TRU who is doing PLAR to determine how much credit can count toward a General Studies Diploma.

TRU employee pilot project

Cornwell is part of a 10-person pilot project for TRU employees that human resources initiated following an employee engagement survey. In this project, the PLAR tuition was waived for the group. Over the past few months, they met to work through the portfolio, asked questions and helped each other. They have until July 11 to submit their portfolio. Director of PLAR Susan Forseille facilitated the sessions.

Two-way learning between students and facilitators

“We went into this knowing that we would learn just as much from the students as the students have learned from us,” said PLAR Advisor Nicole Borhaven, who helped facilitate the workshops.

“The questions, comments and feedback that have come from the pilot group will undoubtedly help us refine the information we give to PLAR students and to complete our PLAR Competency-based Portfolio Handbook. It has been a really rewarding experience watching the pride and excitement that has come from the group as they plan for the expression of their rich learning in their portfolios—and the anticipation of gaining recognition and credit for it.”

Portfolio process enhances life skills

With several weeks to go before the hand-in deadline, Cornwell is nearly finished. She said the process has been tough and worthwhile. Her critical thinking skills are now stronger as are those around negotiating, communicating, self-confidence, building up others and taking pride in her accomplishments.

“This journey truly is one of the hardest learning experiences of your life, and will give the most sense of purpose and validation, both personally and professionally. The credentials attached to your name will not only state your education, but will symbolize a badge of who you truly are and how you got there,” said Cornwell.

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