Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition (PLAR) Policy

Policy Number: SS-3100-2008
Policy Title: Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition (PLAR)
Policy Owner: Registrar
Effective Date: February, 2014
Last Revised: August 23, 2023

On this page:

  1. Purpose
  2. Application and Scope
  3. Definitions
  4. Principles
  5. Accountability and Compliance
  6. Rules
  7. Policy Revision Date
  8. Attachments
  9. Specific Links

1. Purpose

This policy articulates the College's commitment to, and standardization of, processes and procedures for the assessment and recognition of learning acquired through self directed study, work and/or other life experiences that are not recognized by formal transfer of credit processes.

2. Application and Scope

The policy applies to students who have acquired learning that is equivalent to the learning outcomes of one or more College course(s), through one or a combination of self-directed study, work and/or other life experiences that are not recognized through a formal transfer of credit processes . This policy articulates a variety of tools to help students reflect on, identify, articulate and demonstrate past learning as per the Ministry of Colleges and Universities' Tuition and Ancillary Fees Policy.

3. Definitions

“Academic Manager” is the managerial employee who performs administrative duties with oversight of academic activities in each Department or School, typically an Associate Dean. The Academic Manager may assign part or all responsibilities for discharging the duties of this policy to an alternative administrator or designate (e.g., Program Manager) as required.

"Candidate" refers to any PLAR applicant who meets all the admissions requirements for the program.

"Challenge Process" is a method of assessment, other than portfolio assessment, developed and evaluated by subject matter expert faculty to measure an individual's learning achievement against course learning outcomes. The process measures demonstrated learning through a variety of written and non-written evaluation methods for the purpose of awarding credit without requiring enrolment in a course.

"Life Experience" includes such activities as self-directed study, paid employment, voluntary and community work, training programs and other learning experiences.

"Mohawk College Community" refers to students, staff and visitors on Mohawk College campuses and/or carrying out college activities.

"Nominal Assessment Fee" is a fee that must be paid by PLAR applicants in order for their prior learning to be evaluated by a subject matter expert through a challenge process or portfolio assessment. Fees will be established and subject to increases as prescribed in the Ministry of Colleges and Universities' Tuition and Ancillary Fees Policy.

"Portfolio Assessment" is a method of assessment that involves the evaluation of an organized collection of materials developed by a student that records learning achievements and relates them to personal, educational or occupational goals, in this case, achievement of stated learning outcomes in college courses or programs.

"Portfolio Development Course" is a course in which students develop a portfolio for subsequent assessment for prior learning assessment and recognition purposes.

"Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition (PLAR)" is a process that uses a variety of tools to help students identify, articulate and demonstrate past learning acquired through independent study, work and/or life experiences that are not recognized by formal transfer of credit mechanisms.

"Residency Requirement" is the minimum percentage (25%) of credits a registered student must earn a in a program at the College to qualify for the credential associated with the program.

4. Principles

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition focuses on the evaluation of experiential learning rather than on the determination of equivalency of formal educational courses and/or programs used in the academic transfer credit process. PLAR evaluates acquired equivalent knowledge and skills that match the learning outcomes of a College course. Learning is assessed on an individual basis and credit is granted when compared to course or program learning outcomes.

5. Accountability and Compliance

5.1 Accountability Framework

This policy has been approved by the Senior Leadership Team.

5.2 Compliance

The Registrar is responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of this policy, and the procedures outlined on the College website, in collaboration with the Vice President, Academic, according to an established schedule or more frequently in response to feedback from the Mohawk College Community. The Registrar’s Office provides support and guidance on PLAR including past practices.

6. Rules

6.1 Mohawk College is committed to establishing equivalency, maintaining academic quality and consistency and adapting existing registration and grading procedures to the accreditation process consistent with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities Tuition and Ancillary Fees Minister’s Binding Policy Directive.

6.2 Policies and procedures applied to assessment, including provisions for appeal, will be fully disclosed and prominently available. All PLAR candidates will be provided with PLAR resources as appropriate orientation.

6.3 Candidates who seek education credit(s) through prior learning assessment must comply with established program admission procedures. Prior program enrolment is not a prerequisite for assessment of prior learning; however, individuals should have an academic plan and must go through the regular admission process to gain entrance to a College program.

6.4 Recognizing that students derive significant benefits from direct participation in College programming/services, each candidate must complete a minimum of 25% of their Program of Studies at the College. Candidates will be allowed to secure up to a maximum of 75% of required credits through PLAR or combined from another form of credit exemption. The 25% residency minimum is required for students to receive a College credential. Additional residency requirements will be determined in consultation with the appropriate Academic Manager.

6.4.1 All degree programs are required to follow the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB) Admission, Promotion, and Graduation Standard, Benchmark 6 and 7.

6.5 The maximum fee charged for assessment of learning within Ministry approved programs is determined by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities Tuition and Ancillary Fees Minister’s Binding Policy Directive.  All students seeking PLAR credit for a course, at the same time, through the same prior learning assessment and recognition activity will pay the same fee. PLAR fees are not reimbursed in the event of an unsuccessful PLAR challenge.

6.6 The assessment process is determined by subject matter experts in the academic area using defined learning requirements for individual course outcomes. Academic areas may designate courses as not eligible for PLAR. Apprenticeship students need to contact the Apprenticeship Branch to determine if PLAR is available to them. Consultation with the academic area could be required prior to formal acceptance as a PLAR candidate. If learning is deemed equivalent to the College course learning requirements, the grade system established for the course is used. Unsuccessful PLAR attempts are not recorded on the student's transcript.

6.7 Students who have failed credit courses, or been unsuccessful in a previous challenge, do not qualify for PLAR assessment unless one year has lapsed and evidence is provided demonstrating additional learning acquired after failing the course. The Dean/Academic Manager has the discretion to deny a PLAR request for a failed course.

7. Policy Revision Date

7.1 Revision Date

August 2028

7.2 Responsibility

The Registrar will be responsible for reviewing this policy every five years or earlier when required.

8. Attachments


PLAR Registration Form

PLAR Application Guidelines

PLAR Guidelines for Preparing a Portfolio


9. Specific Links


SS-3105-2009 Academic Appeals Policy

AS-2000-2013 Program Quality Policy

AS-2009-2017 Breadth Policy (Degrees)

Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB)