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What Happens When Learning Counts?

Measuring the Benefits of Prior Learning Assessment for the Adult LearnerA CAEL Self-Study of the Academic Outcomes of LearningCounts Students

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In 2010, CAEL conducted the first major multi-institutional study of the relationship between prior learning assessment (PLA) credit-earning and student academic outcomes, which found that adult students with PLA credit were two and a half times more likely to have earned a postsecondary degree than similar students with no PLA credit.


These findings have prompted postsecondary institutions and systems to expand their PLA offerings. In addition, other organizations and institutions have conducted their own studies of PLA and students’ outcomes that have resulted in similar findings.


Responding to the increased interest in PLA, CAEL launched LearningCounts, an online portfolio assessment service designed to expand the capacity of institutions to offer portfolios as a method of implementing PLA in a standardized way.


This report presents the findings of our study, which examined the enrollment patterns and degree completion of former LearningCounts students as reflected in data available through the National Student Clearinghouse, supplemented by the perspectives of the students themselves through survey responses.

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