College of Business & Economics

COBE now offering credit for prior learning experience

Published on Feb. 09, 2024
Ashland University

It has been a collaborative effort among Ashland University departments.

The College of Business & Economics (COBE) and eAshland have worked together to allow prospective COBE students to earn credit for prior learning experience, known as Prior Learning Assessment (PLA).

“We’ve always had a lot of PLA available for our Criminal Justice program and for CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) testing. So, we have a lot of PLA opportunities, but these are geared toward specific (COBE) programs,” said Shawn Orr, dean of eAshland, formerly known as the College of Online and Adult Studies, which offers non-traditional learning for all ages.

“This is a faculty-led process supported by eAshland,” stressed Orr.

This PLA process is part of eAshland’s research and development collaborative goal to support the growth of programs at AU, added Orr.

“We want to help the business programs increase enrollment,” Orr said. “One of the ways to increase enrollment, especially in the MBA and undergrad programs, is to look at industry-recognized certifications.”

When Kristy Tipton, eAshland staff member whose job includes doing feasibility studies for new programs and new initiatives like PLA for COBE, first reached out to Daniel Fox, COBE dean, and Lance Kaltenbaugh, COBE associate dean, about offering prior learning credit, she said they were excited about its possibilities.

“At COBE, we’re willing to try anything when it involves student initiative,” Kaltenbaugh said.

So far, Kaltenbaugh said COBE is happy with how the PLA process has gone and expects it to bring positive results. It will be evaluated at the end of each academic year to keep improving it, Kaltenbaugh added.

“It’s great for us for recruitment purposes, bringing in a different type of student that we normally would not have looked at only because we didn’t do the work ahead of time,” Kaltenbaugh said. “That was really the restriction. Once you do the work, you open the door.

“PLA will eventually be here for all institutions. I think we are just a little ahead of the game,” Kaltenbaugh added. “A lot of that has been collaboration and partnership: building great relationships.”

Using the ACE (American Council on Education), which already has evaluated numerous credentials and makes recommendations on how many credits they are worth in what general area, as a guide, as well as researching what other colleges were doing with PLA, Tipton developed some PLA suggestions for COBE.

Kaltenbaugh met individually with COBE faculty members in each discipline to discuss PLA options and get their direction regarding what certifications or licensures should be counted for prior learning credit. The faculty recommendations were then presented to COBE’s Dean’s Council, which includes all the chairs of the departments.

After COBE came up with standards, the recommendations were sent to the University PLA Committee for reviews, and the AU Registrar Office was informed. The final PLA options were made available about a month ago and then added to the university’s website under Academics/College of Business & Economics/Earn Credit for Prior Learning.  

While it will be beneficial for both undergraduate and graduate students, MBA students may find the most benefit.

“If you are a Society for Human Resources Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP credential), you get nine credits right off the bat,” Tipton said. “That’s really going to shorten the time it takes to complete an MBA.

“Ohio is one of the highest states for students who started a degree but never finished,” added Tipton. “So, this is an effort to bring in those adult learners who have some credentials but no degree. It’s also, hopefully, a motivator for adult students who have full-time jobs, families and other commitments.”

Orr stressed that the credit isn’t for experiences, so someone doesn’t get credit for just being an accountant - unless they have earned a CPA certification.

If the goal of a course is to earn a certain certification and that certification has been identified as part of the PLA process, then a prospective student who already has that credential will automatically receive the credit for that class without having to take it or go through a Prior Learning Portfolio Assessment process, added Orr.

“My goal is to get more things automatically approved (university-wide) instead of through a portfolio to encourage more transfer students and adult learners to attend the university,” Orr said.