Prior Learning Assessment

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) is an assessment process by which individuals who have acquired learning through formal and non-formal education can be assessed for credit toward an educational program at Northern Lights College. Examples of non-formal education include work experience, self study, volunteer activities and other life experiences.

The fundamental principle governing prior learning assessment is that it is what you know and what you can do that will earn credit, not the experience itself.

Applying for Assessment

When you apply for prior learning assessment, you are really saying

  • "I know what my educational goal is."
  • "I already know what is taught in this course. I do not need to take it. I would like credit for it."

When assessing your prior learning, your assessor is asking the question:

  • "Does this person already know what is taught in the course?"
  • "Does this person have post-secondary level learning?"
  • "Are the level and content of that knowledge equal to what would be expected of students registered in the course?"

Recognition By Other Institutions

Credits acquired through PLAR are granted toward a NLC Certificate or Diploma only. We cannot guarantee transferability between the college and any other institution. However, many of the colleges and university-colleges in B.C., including NLC, are working together to develop provincial policies and standards.

Does the Learner Need to be Enrolled in a Course or Program at NLC?

A candidate can apply for PLAR as part of their application for admission to the College. However, the assessment (e.g. course challenge) may not begin prior to admission into a program. If credits are gained through the PLAR process and the candidate elects not to continue his/her education at this time, the credits will be recorded on the student record.

How Much Does It Cost?

Course challenge fees are assessed at 75% of the cost of the course tuition as defined in the Tuition Fees Table. Student Services fees and Instruction-related fees do not apply.

Tuition is due at the point of registration, once approval to complete a Prior Learning Assessment has been given.


Methods of Assessment

There are several ways in which prior learning can be assessed:
  1. Transfer Credit
  2. Portfolio
  3. Formal Course
  4. Challenge Exam

With so many choices of assessment approaches, which is the one that is most appropriate for you? That's a decision that you will make with the PLAR Coordinator at NLC. Because certain approaches are better suited to some topics or learning, not all options will be available to you. NLC will have the final say on which method(s) will be acceptable. Your job is to find out what options are possible, weigh the pros and cons, then make your decision. You may decide that PLAR is the way to go. You may decide that it is not for you.

Who Does the PLAR Assessment?

Departmental faculty conduct the PLAR assessment and determine credit awards.

Some Questions to ask Yourself

  • What knowledge and skills have you learned through your paid or upaid work? Remember, it is what you have learned and know, not what you did, that counts.
  • Are there things that you know and can do which will help you meet the standards of the credential you are seeking?
  • Can you demonstrate that you currently possess the knowledge, even though your learning may have occurred at any time?
  • Are you prepared to demonstrate the learning for which you are requesting credit so that it may be evaluated by an expert in the subject area?
  • Do you have an understanding of both the theoretical and practical applications of the subject area? (The appropriate balance between practical and theoretical knowledge varies with the subject matter.)
  • Does your learning have general applicability outside the specific situation in which it was acquired?