Assessment of Alternative Credentials

Alternative credential programs should include a valid form of performance-based assessment to ensure that students are mastering learning outcomes. Performance-based assessments may include: portfolio, standardized examination, major project, oral presentation, etc.

Note: Performance-based assessment is particularly important when the alternative credential includes non-credit experiences and is intended to be “stackable,” meaning it could lead to a credit-bearing and transcripted certificate or other degree program.  Instructors are encouraged to embed performance-based assessment (e.g., comprehensive examination or major project scored with an evaluation rubric) in all components of the alternative credential, including the non-credit components.  See below for more information about stackable credentials.

Stacking Credentials & Prior Learning Assessment

Proposers of alternative credentials should consider whether the proposed credential may be “stacked” to lead to a credit-bearing degree program, major or certificate program.  If the alternative credential includes noncredit bearing components, the proposer should carefully consider the learning outcomes for each of those components and consider how they might “match” to requirements of the target degree program/certificate. 

The proposing department or unit may create a Prior Learning Assessment option for students in the alternative credential to receive credit for one or more courses within the target degree program, major or certificate program. 

Prior Learning Assessment or PLA is a term used to describe learning gained outside a traditional academic environment. Put another way, it’s learning and knowledge students acquire while working, participating in employer training programs or noncredit alternative credentials, serving in the military, studying independently, volunteering or doing community service, and studying open source courseware. 

Students demonstrate through an examination or portfolio (scored via a rubric) that they have acquired the necessary outcomes to receive credit for a particular course or courses within the target degree program, major or certificate.

For more information, contact Carolyn Haynes, Associate Provost,