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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Campus Students

Get credit towards a college or university credential for the skills and knowledge you already possess.

What is PLAR?

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) is gaining credit where credit is due; what you know does count!

Traditionally post-secondary institutions have given credit only for formal learning that occurred in their own classrooms and labs. It is a well-known fact that people gain knowledge in a variety of ways other than by taking formal courses.

PLAR is a concept that permits you to earn credit for post-secondary level knowledge regardless of where or how the learning occurred. It is a process by which you demonstrate that what you have learned is equivalent to what is being taught in a traditional post-secondary context.

You provide proof of what you have learned, and TRU evaluates your proof. If you are successful with your request, you will be awarded credit.

What are the responsibilities?

Your role

Your responsibility is to identify your learning and show that it matches the learning outcomes for a particular course or courses that form part of a program leading to a certificate, diploma, or degree that you are seeking. It is your responsibility to prove that you have learned what you claim to have learned.

TRU's role

It is the responsibility of TRU to review your request and determine if your learning is comparable to the course in question, that you have the necessary balance of theory and practice, and the required depth and breadth.

Learning doesn't happen on one particular day or in one particular way. You may have become knowledgeable and competent in areas without even realizing that what you have learned can be evaluated and credited towards an academic goal.  PLAR gives you the opportunity to make explicit the learning you have acquired and to describe this learning in ways that can be assessed for the possibility of earning course or program credit.

What are the main steps?

  1. The student identifies the course they feel equipped to challenge and connects with the department contact related to the course (i.e., course instructor or department chair), who is the Subject Matter Expert (SME).
  2. The student arranges and participates in a pre-assessment interview with the SME who will act as the TRU Assessor to discuss intentions, specific assessment procedures and timelines. The student and the Assessor collaborate to determine whether the course and student are suitable for the PLAR challenge, partially by reviewing the detailed course outline. The Assessor makes the final decision on challenge suitability.
  3. Should it be determined a PLAR challenge is suitable, the student completes the Campus Request for PLAR form and then has it signed by the TRU Assessor. The form may also require the signature of the department chair. The form then needs to be submitted to the PLAR Department, there are instructions on the form.
  4. The PLAR Department processes the request and provides the student with the applicable payment information. The fee is the tuition cost of the course (the exact amount will be confirmed by the PLAR Department). The fee is not refundable.
  5. Once the fee has been paid and the student notifies the PLAR Department, the PLAR Department contacts the student and the Assessor with instructions for moving forward with the assessment process.
  6. The student and TRU Assessor complete the assessment process, as determined by the Assessor and may involve portfolio creation, interview, skill demonstration, exam or a combination of these.
  7. The Assessor completes the Campus PLAR Assessment form and submits it to the PLAR Department.
  8. The student is notified of the evaluation results by the PLAR Manager and receives a copy of the assessment form. If the student is successful, the PLAR Department arranges for credit entry onto the student’s record and the student is notified. If the student is unsuccessful, the attempt will not be entered into the student’s record. The fee is non-refundable.
 Experience vs. learning

Learning and experience are not the same. Experience is a way of learning and people learn through experience. It is possible to have ten years of work experience but not have the equivalent amount of learning. With PLAR, credit is not awarded for experience; it is only awarded for learning. It is not what you did that counts, it is what you learned from what you have done.

Here are some examples of learning that may translate into PLAR credit:

  • non-credit courses
  • employer sponsored training
  • independent reading
  • hobbies
  • travel
  • professional development workshops
  • volunteer activities
  • community service
 Documentation and demonstration of achievement

All Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition requires evidence. The learner has the primary responsibility for preparing the evidence that learning has taken place and that it contributes to an appropriate balance of theory and practical application.   Tangible proof of competence can be provided through documentation of accomplishments or demonstration of skill and knowledge. Depending on the subject area, certain types of documentation or demonstration are more useful than others.


The purpose of exams is to measure your knowledge of the content or, the achievement of, the learning outcomes that are equivalent to those of a specific course.

  • Challenge exams are created for students who have not attended the course but who wish to demonstrate that they have achieved the course objectives. Challenge exams are designed by a course instructor.
  • Standardized exams are prepared by national organizations, are applicable to a large population and measure a specific level of achievement in a specific subject.

Course equivalencies are awarded to learners who have completed and been evaluated in programs, professional licenses, or professional certificates outside of the college or university system.  These programs and credentials are evaluated by TRU and credit may be granted if the program or credential meets the assessment criteria.


Summarize the learning gained from non-formal learning experiences. It is a collection of information that demonstrates the depth and breadth of what the learner knows and/or can do. A portfolio can be used as a "stand alone" or in combination with other methods of assessment. It provides evidence of learning. A portfolio is generally compiled and organized in a binder for assessment.

 Portfolio assisted assessment

Combines the portfolio with other examples of achievement. For example, with products, performance simulations, interviews, oral exams, and skills demonstrations:

  • Products may include a selection of fine art, computer software, poems, books, stories
  • Performances may include dance, music and theatre and may be live or video taped
  • Simulations such as role play. Useful when it is either too expensive or impractical to bring in actual products or to arrange a live performance
  • Interviews and oral exams provide a more personalized assessment which may clarify areas of learning
  • Skills demonstrations assess hands on learning such as competence in operating special equipment or conducting lab experiments

With a portfolio, learners are able to demonstrate how acquired competencies match what would have been learned from completing a formal course.

 Typical elements of a TRU portfolio
  • Cover page: name, address, phone number, title of course equivalency requested and table of contents
  • Chronological record: details of significant activities including work experience, volunteer experience, and non-formal learning
  • Statement of educational and career goals (approximately 500 words)
  • Description of competencies, knowledge and skills
  • Materials: such as job descriptions, performance appraisals, transcripts, samples of work, testimonials, certificates of attendance, previous credentials, awards and any other materials that document evidence of knowledge of the assessed subject area
  • Narrative: to convey to the assessor that the learner has acquired the knowledge applicable to the course description under assessment
 Portfolio assessment process and credit granting

Prior learning will be assessed by qualified specialists; approved by the relevant department/program, who have expertise in the area to be assessed. Credit will be based on the assessors evaluation. You may be required to complete top-up learning activities if you do not meet all of the requirements. Transcripts will be recorded according to the number of credits granted.

Assessment fees are determined by the credit requested, not by the amount of credit awarded.

 Questions to ask yourself: Are you ready for PLAR?
  • Can you clearly differentiate your learning from your experiences? Remember, it is what you have learned and know, not what you did, that counts.
  • Can you demonstrate that your learning is appropriate in level and content to the credential you seek?
  • Can you demonstrate that you currently possess the knowledge, even though your experiences may have occurred at any time?
  • Are you prepared to demonstrate the learning for which you are requesting credit so that it can be evaluated by an expert in the subject area?
  • Do you have an understanding of both the theoretical and practical applications of the subject area?
  • Does your learning have general applicability outside the specific situations in which it was acquired?
When you apply for PLAR, you are really saying: When assessing your PLAR, your assessor is asking the questions:
"I already know what is taught in this course. I do not need to take it. I would like credit for it." "Does this person already know what is taught in this course?"

"Does this person have post-secondary learning?"

"Is the level and content of that knowledge equal to what would be expected of students registered in this course?"
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