Introduction to Credit for Prior Learning (CPL)
Northern Virginia Community College’s (NOVA) Credit for Prior Learning Manual provides its electronic materials, and printed media for general guidance. The College does not guarantee that the information contained within them, including; but not limited to; any page that resides under the Domain Name System (DNS) registration of https://www.nvcc.edu/prior-learning/ is up-to-date, complete, and accurate. Individuals assume any risks associated with relying upon information without checking other credible sources, (e.g. a student’s academic advisor). In addition, a student or prospective student’s reliance upon information contained within these sources, individual program catalogs, or handbooks, when making academic decisions does not constitute, and should not be construed as, a contract with the College.
Further, the College reserves the right to make changes to any provision or requirement within these sources, as well as changes to any method of credit for prior learning, whether during a student’s enrollment or otherwise. Updates to the CPL Manual will occur annually following the same cycle as the college catalog. When a student submits prior learning for credit, it will be evaluated according to the most current CPL Manual at the time documentation is submitted.
Links or references to other materials or websites provided in the above-referenced sources are also for information purposes only and do not constitute the College’s endorsement of products or services referenced.
NOVA strives to provide students with opportunities to receive credit for prior learning while still maintaining the academic integrity of NOVA’s academic programs. Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) policies are consistent with Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) principles and with Virginia Community College System (VCCS) policy. This manual describes the mechanisms for obtaining credit for prior learning at NOVA in the 2020-2021 Catalog Year. The term “credit for prior learning” generally refers to the process of granting of college credit for learning gained in nontraditional ways. This manual also provides procedures for granting various kinds of credit earned at other colleges and universities in this country and abroad.
There are four general categories/types of credit for prior learning: (A) Credits from Post-Secondary Institutions (e.g. Transfer Credit); (B) Credit by Exam (AP, IB, CLEP, Cambridge, or Other Exams); (C) Credits Earned from Non-Traditional Program Completion (e.g. Certifications, Professional Licensure, etc.); (D) Credit for Learning Obtained Through Life Experience (e.g. via PLACE).The general policies listed below apply to students seeking credit for prior learning:
- To be eligible to apply for credit for prior learning, a student must be admitted to NOVA.
- Total credits possible through all forms of credit for prior learning must conform to the residency requirements of the particular curriculum, as stated in the current NOVA Catalog. A minimum of 25% of the total number of credits for any degree or certificate must be earned at NOVA.
- Assessments by Local Examination (ABLE) are exams used to allow students to show their mastery of a particular course’s objectives. These exams are only used when no CLEP exam is available.
- Nationally standardized exams (e.g. CLEP, AP, and IB) may accept an unlimited number of credit hours. However, the residency requirements listed above still apply.
- College credits may only be determined and awarded upon the recommendation of appropriately qualified teaching faculty to ensure that the learning experiences fall within the regular applicable course outcomes of a course offered by NOVA.
- The student’s curriculum academic dean or designee is responsible for final determination of the use of credits in the student’s curriculum.
- No credit shall be awarded that duplicates earned course credit at NOVA, at other institutions, or other credit awarded through prior learning.
- All accepted credits for prior learning will be acknowledged and recorded on the student’s permanent record, with the transferring agency identified. No unsuccessfully attempted credit for prior learning applications or examinations results will be recorded on the student’s permanent record.
- No grades, scores or grade points will be recorded on the student’s permanent record for credits earned through credit for prior learning procedures.
- Credit awarded for prior learning is applicable only to NOVA’s curricular requirements. Students are cautioned that CPL credit may not be accepted as transfer credit by other postsecondary institutions. Please consult the transfer institution for more information on their CPL policies.
The faculty role in assessing student learning outcomes for the purpose of awarding credit for prior learning is clearly defined in the Virginia Community College System policy. To ensure that course work and learning outcomes are at the collegiate level and comparable to NOVA’s courses, discipline faculty make the decision to award credit for a type of non-traditional learning after careful review. NOVA does not award credit based on another institution’s or agency’s evaluations; all sources of credit will be evaluated based on NOVA’s policies and guidelines. College Records Office staff evaluates course equivalencies from all transcripts, including but not limited to American Council on Education (ACE) and post-secondary collegiate transcripts to determine whether the source of the learning is at least an 80 percent match to a course taught at NOVA. In situations where the CRO staff evaluates a transcript that does not have at least an 80 percent course match from the Transcript Evaluation System (TES) students are awarded elective (EEE) credit (ex. MTH EEE).
Limits on Amount of CPL Credit
There is not a formal limit on the number of credits that may be awarded through credit for prior learning, but such credit may not be used to fulfill the residency requirements for graduation. A minimum of 25% of the credit required for any NOVA degree, certificate or career studies certificate must be earned at NOVA. The amount of CPL credit awarded is regulated by the faculty in a given discipline and must abide by state law as prescribed by the state legislature, VCCS policies and SCHEV policies.
CPL Evaluation Responsibilities
The responsibility for effective evaluation of credit for prior learning is shared among many NOVA faculty and staff. The Credit for Prior Learning Committee, a subcommittee of the NOVA Curriculum Committee, formally represents the different disciplines and is responsible for the development of policies, the management of policies and the implementation of consistent college-wide CPL procedures.
Campus Level CPL Evaluation Contacts
Student Services Centers: The campus registrars and their staffs are responsible for insuring that appropriate records relating to credit for prior learning are received and processed. In cases where there are approved routine procedures for awarding credit for prior learning, registrars, transcript evaluators, and others on the Student Services staffs are empowered to record these credits on the student’s transcript. Students can submit requests for CPL credit and documentation via Student Service Centers on each campus.
Faculty and Advisors: Discipline faculty can initiate requests for new credit for prior learning opportunities to the CPL Committee and are often asked to review all policy recommendations for discipline specific CPL credit. Advisors may recommend the use of electives to meet specific discipline requirements through substitution procedures. Advisors may also recommend that elective course credit be changed to specific course credit based on supplemental course descriptions that the student has obtained from his/her previous school. Requests for substituions must be approved by the appropriate supervisor(s).
Provosts, Deans of Students and Academic Deans: All policies and procedures regarding credit for prior learning are approved by the deans and program heads that have responsibility for the specific discipline where credit for prior learning credit will be awarded. Approval from the Provost(s) and Deans is needed. Specific decisions about the qualifications of a student for graduation from a program, including the applicability of any credit awarded through credit for prior learning, are approved by the responsible academic dean(s) for the required course and the student’s program, and, if there is a conflict, by the provost.
College Level CPL Evaluation Contacts
Credit for Prior Learning Committee: The Credit for Prior Learning Committee hears requests for new or revised policies and procedures for credit for prior learning and forwards its recommendations to the Curriculum Committee for approval. Items approved by the Curriculum Committee are forwarded to the Administrative Council for final approval. The Credit for Prior Learning Committee also monitors the implementation of the policies and procedures to assure consistent application throughout the College. NOVA also empowers the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Director of Curriculum Development and the Coorindator for Credit for Prior Learning to oversee CPL issues.
College Records Office: Staff at the College Records Office (CRO) certifies students for graduation. In order to do so, they must ensure that all credits, including credit for prior learning, are awarded correctly.
Recording CPL Credit
All accepted credit for prior learning will be acknowledged and recorded on the student’s permanent record, with the transferring agency or other source of credit identified. No unsuccessful attempts at credit for prior learning applications or examination results will be recorded on the student’s permanent record. No grades, scores or grade points will be recorded on the student’s permanent record for credits earned through credit for prior learning procedures. Except for PLACE portfolios and ABLE exams, for which students receive a “P” grade, the student record will show a “T” instead of an A-F grade. Students are advised to check with their transfer institution regarding implications of CPL credit reflected on a transcript.
Appeals of Credit for Prior Learning Decisions
Students who wish to request reconsideration of a credit for prior learning decision based on existing policy should make their request first to a faculty advisor. Appeals may be sent to the appropriate academic dean, who may forward them to the campus provost. Deans discuss appeals with the Associate Vice President for Academic Services. Students who wish to have new or revised credit for prior learning policies established must email a counselor or faculty advisor. The counselor/faculty advisor will forward the request to the Associate Vice President for Academic Services for review by faculty and, if the faculty support the request, the Credit for Prior Learning Committee. Students should be told that this review may take several months due to the rigor of NOVA’s credit for prior learning policy revision process.
Credit for Prior Learning Committee Duties and Role
Formerly known as the Advanced Standing Committee, the Credit for Prior Learning Committee is a subcommittee of the Curriculum Committee. It reviews all policy requests for credit for prior learning and develops recommendations for acceptance and course credit equivalencies, in conjunction with the faculty and in accordance with college policy. The Credit for Prior Learning Committee also hears requests for new or revised policies and procedures for credit for prior learning credit. Items approved by the Curriculum Committee are forwarded to the Administrative Council for final approval. The Credit for Prior Learning Committee also monitors the implementation of the policies and procedures to assure consistent application throughout the college.
The Academic Dean, Dean of Students, Counselor, Instructional Faculty and Workforce Development Representative are nominated by the College Senate. The Chief Academic Officer appoints the committee. Appointments are for staggered two-year terms. The committee consists of the following members:
- Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs
- Associate Vice President for Student Services
- Director of Curriculum Development
- Director of Military Outreach and Veteran Support Services
- Credit for Prior Learning Coordinator
- College Registrar
- Associate College Registrar
- Chair of Enrollment Services Working Group
- 1 Academic Dean
- 1 Dean of Students
- 1 Counselor
- 5 Instructional Faculty (1 IT, 1 Health Sciences, 1 Other CTE, 2 General Education Disciplines)
- 1 Workforce Development Representative
The Credit for Prior Learning Coordinator is the chair of the committee and is responsible for calling and conducting all subsequent meetings, as well as assembling the agendas. The Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs assists the chair as needed.
Procedure for Submitting Requests to Credit for Prior Learning Committee
Faculty, counselors, administrators, and students can submit CPL proposals for the followings reasons:
New CPL opportunity
Update to existing CPL
Change a CPL procedure
These proposals should be submitted to the CPL Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. The CPL Coordinator forwards proposals to the CPL Committee. Proposals should include the essential information below:
The level of need for the CPL opportunity usually supported by labor market data
Effectiveness towards the college’s mission
Responsible offices for implementation
Information on the period in which the credit is valid
Sample documentation students should submit to get the credit
Moreover, proposals for new CPL and updating existing CPL must include documentation showing how a course’s learning objectives are met through the non-traditional learning.
If the CPL Committee supports the proposal the chair of the CPL Committee forwards the proposal to the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, requesting that the proposal be placed on the agenda for a subsequent Curriculum Committee meeting. Proposals for college policy from the CPL Committee are referred by the Curriculum Committee to the Administrative Council for final disposition. If approved, the CPL Manual is updated to reflect the change for the upcoming academic year and College Records Office (CRO) is informed of the changes.