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CAEL Pathways Blog

PLA on a Shoestring

Definition: A Shoestring Budget:  A budget or allotment of resources that is very meager, sparse, or just enough to suit its purpose. 

Since joining CAEL in 2014, I have had countless conversations with college and university leaders who understand the potential impact that PLA can have on student enrollment, retention and success, but do not have resources or support to implement PLA in the way that aligns with their PLA vision. So, what are you to do in this situation?  The answer is, 'You do the best you can with the resources you have or can garner.'  The good news is, you are not alone; free or very low-cost resources, knowledge and tools are available to you. Here are a few to be aware of:

PLA Policy & Procedures - PLA policies set the rules and parameters for how your program can operate. CAEL offers expert guidance that provides a detailed analysis and feedback on your current PLA policy. However, you can Google 'PLA Policy' and several instructive PLA Policy resources will emerge, including a 50-state comparison of PLA Policies from the Education Commission of the States. The most helpful resources for an individual institution will be to search for PLA policies within similar or competitor institutions in your state or region.

Answering Key Operational Questions for your PLA Program - 'PLA is your Business' is a research-based publication that can answer important operational questions for your program such as: How much do I charge for PLA? What types of PLA options should I offer? How much should I pay faculty for assessing a portfolio?  What kind of Infrastructure is needed to run a PLA program?

Faculty Development for PLA - Support for faculty who are engaged in PLA is critical. They need tools and structure to support a consistent and rigorous process. Faculty need to have clear guidelines in order to provide timely and relevant feedback when assessing student portfolios. They also need to understand the rubrics and be trained to be able to assess a portfolio and determine if it meets the standards to be awarded credit. The most effective way for faculty to be trained is to support their certification as a faculty assessor ($650/Course). CAEL members can sponsor a cohort for 'Assessing Prior Learning' that will be geared toward your institutional context ($7500/ Per Cohort with up to 20 participants).

Academic Criteria - Rubrics for assessing portfolios provide a shared and explicit standard for students to meet in the portfolio process. CAEL offers expert guidance that will help you and your team create rubrics specifically for your institution. You can also Google 'Developing rubrics for portfolio assessment' to see the rubrics that other institutions have developed. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges offers a basic rubric.

PLA Research - Knowledge is power.  Click here to see some of CAEL's publications. Our latest research, The PLA Boost, is a powerful reminder of the impact PLA can have on learning outcomes.

When in doubt, I encourage you to 'Google It.' Utilize your search engine to find examples and best practices. The web is full of examples that can help you to create and implement PLA at  your own institution. Explore the search terms such as PLA Outreach, PLA and the Military Connected student, PLA Advising, PLA Portfolio development, or PLA Data Tracking.

The best value for a small budget is CAEL membership. A CAEL membership includes a PLA Toolkit, a portal full of tools and resources, and a community of fellow practitioners that are eager to support their colleagues. As a CAEL member, you receive a free one-hour consultative call per year. Membership provides access to additional materials including webinars, etc. that are not publicly available. The CAEL Conference also offers an opportunity to hear about the latest ideas, innovations, and models that other higher education leaders are using. 

CAEL is here to support the development of your PLA program. Contact us to learn more. We understand that we all are working within the parameters of a budget and limited resources. Do not let this stop you! If you take a collaborative approach, you can extend your shoestring budget and expand your approach to creatively meet the needs of your adult learners. 

Check out CAEL's robust set of helpful and instructional resources on CPL/PLA available to postsecondary institutions at no charge.

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