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Department of Credit for Prior Learning University of Illinois Springfield

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Credit for Prior Learning?

Credit for Prior Learning is one of the Experiential and Service-Learning Programs offered at UIS. CPL provides students the opportunity to earn up to four courses worth of credit in recognition of their lifelong learning experiences. The first step students must take to earn this credit is to enroll in the CPL course, EXL 305/501.

EXL 305/501 is an online course that involves substantial reflection, analysis, writing, and editing. During the course, students develop a portfolio to document and qualify their prior learning experience. Academic credit is not awarded on the basis of experience alone; the experience must be shown to have provided learning outcomes that are equivalent to one semester of college-level study.

For UIS undergraduates, EXL 305 is primarily used to satisfy the ECCE Engagement or ECCE Elective (students who began UIS prior to Fall 2007 apply the credit toward their AST requirement). Graduate students should check with their program to see if EXL 501 credit may be applied towards their degree before enrolling.

After completing the course, students may have the option to earn additional credit and satisfy additional ECCE requirements at a reduced tuition by submitting Additional Portfolios.

Discuss your plans for CPL with your academic advisor or with the CPL program office at 217-206-6640 or Students who believe they are qualified can also submit a CPL Student Information Form directly to the program.

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Is it easy to earn credit for prior learning?

The process of receiving academic credit for prior learning experiences is quite different from that of a traditional course. Students who enjoy the portfolio process tend to be learners who prefer to initiate projects and learn in a self-directed, autonomous manner.

Since CPL recognizes the time students have already spent during their experience there is less “class time” than other courses. Students are required to reflect upon their experience, identify the new knowledge and skills attained, analyze how this learning relates to the defined Learning Goals, and clearly communicate this analysis through your portfolio. The process calls on students to use criticial reasoning and writing skills that are comparable with their other courses.

It is important to remember that, although the credit for the experiential learning process may, in fact, save you time and money, its purpose is to provide a mechanism for students to use their significant personal and/or professional learning through their experiences to support their academic career.

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How can I tell if my learning was college-level?

Defining college-level learning is a key activity of the EXL 305/501 course, but understandably many students want to be certain that their experience will qualify them to earn credit before enrolling in the course.

In general CPL defines college-level learning as learning that is transferable and can be applied to situations outside of the setting in which you learned it. That is to say, learning an on-the-job tasks that is only useful for that one purpose in that one position most likely would not qualify as college-level learning. However, if the skills involved can be applied to new situations or new roles, then it most likely would.

Another way to identify college-level learning is to find whether UIS or another accredited higher education institution teaches a course that would result in the same learning outcomes.

The CPL faculty and staff are available to review your experience its potential for a successful portfolio. Please contact CPL at 206-6640 or if you wish to discuss the possibility of earning prior learning credit.

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How do I demonstrate experiential learning?

Experiential learning is demonstrated by describing the concrete experiences that contributed to your learning; by reflecting on those experiences; by describing how you learned from the experiences; by discussing the meaning of the experiences on both personal and global levels; and, by describing the ways in which you have, and will, apply or use your learning in the future.

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How does CPL differ from AST?

The main difference is that CPL students’ learning experience has already happened. Students who take AST 300 or its related courses create portfolios and attend seminars during the same time that they undergo their learning experience. In other words, in CPL, students will reflect on their prior learning rather than describe their current learning.

In general, CPL is designed for non-traditional students who enter college after years away from school, while AST is designed for traditional students who continue their education directly out of high school. However, the course is open to any student who wishes to create a portfolio based upon past college-level learning experiences.

If you are not sure which option is more suited to you, you should contact the CPL Program at 206-6640 or

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Are there other methods for assessing experiential learning?

CPL is the only form of prior learning assesment that can give you ECCE Engagment Credits, but other assessment methods are available for students, including:

  • The College Level Examination Program (CLEP), which consists of standardized tests that allow students to earn course credit. CLEP offers General and Subject Matter exams.
  • The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) is a series of exams much like the CLEP exams and have been
    used for many years by military personnel. They were originally created by the U.S. Department of Defense.
  • The American Council on Education (ACE) evaluates courses offered by many large corporations, government agencies, and the military, and can recommend college credits for some courses. Check with your employer if you have taken courses through your workplace to determine if you can have them evaluated by ACE.

Students should contact an Admissions counselor to discuss their eligibility for CLEP, DANTES, and ACE.

Contact Admissions at(217) 206-4847 or toll free at (888) 977- 4847

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What are the requirements to enroll in EXL 305?

EXL 305 requires instructor approval to be granted for students to enroll.

If you are an experienced learner interested in enrolling in EXL 305 Prior Learning Portfolio Development, you must be admitted to UIS, have chosen a major, and have completed 48 semester hours of credit. It is also beneficial to have an area of study in mind and have substantial past experiences that can translate into college-level learning.

Students who meet these criteria should submit a Student Information Form and copy of your unofficial transcript to the CPL program office. Once you have been approved by the instructor, the program will contact you letting you know that you may enroll in the course.

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How can I use my Prior Learning credit?

As mentioned earlier, most undergraduate students use their CPL credit towards their general education requirements:

  • Students who entered UIS in the Fall 2007 semester or later can use CPL credit to satisfy their ECCE Engagement or ECCE Elective requirement (or both).
  • Students who entered UIS prior to the Fall 2007 semester can use CPL credit to satisfy their AST requirement.

After completion of EXL 305 and the first portfolio, students have the option to complete three Additional Portfolios to receive additional credit at reduced tuition. One of these portfolios may be used towards additional general education credits (eg, the ECCE requirement not fulfilled by EXL 305 or further EXL University Requirement credit). Students may also complete Additional Portfolios through the Course Match process.

Course Match portfolios allows students to earn credit for a specific course based upon the student’s extensive prior learning experience. The course match process at UIS requires students to demonstrate equivalent skills and knowledge to the Learning Activities and Objectives outlined in the syllabus of a course offered by UIS or another accredited institution. The work is assessed by a Portfolio Review Committee who will have the authority to accept, reject, or place conditions upon acceptance of the portfolio (eg, require the student to pursue additional learning activities). Acceptance of Course Match credit must be approved by the student’s advisor and the department through which the course is offered.

If you are interested to learn more about the Course Match process, or if you have other questions about Credit for Prior Learning at UIS, please contact the program office at 217-206-6640 or

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Who assesses my portfolio?

Portfolios are assessed differently depending upon how the credit is used and potentially based upon the requirements of your major. Essentially there are three models of assessment:

  • Single Reader: This is the standard for most portfolios written for ECCE or University Requirements credit. The initial portfolios is assessed by the course instructor. Additional portfolios are assessed by a different reader, normally from within the EXS-L department.
  • Content Expert: Some portfolios may require a second reader (in addition to the course instructor), who will judge the value of the experience as it relates to the particular requirement. This may be required for students seeking ECCE or University Requirement credit if the students’ major department generally requires an Applied Study Term or other supervised experience. Students who petition for special use of the CPL course or portfolio will generally need a Content Expert Second Reader.
  • Portfolio Review Committee: Student portfolios written for Course Match credit will be assessed by a Portfolio Review Committee. The PRC will have the authority to accept, reject, or place conditions upon acceptance of the portfolio (eg, require the student to pursue additional learning activities). PRC’s consist of three faculty level assessors, at least one of whom is a Content Expert in the area of the portfolio’s focus. Course Match credit is only available for Additional Portfolios.

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