PLA Faculty & Evaluator Information

Faculty are crucial to the development and delivery of any PLA Credit System because they are the subject matter experts who are best able to determine if a student’s learning is equivalent to established course competencies.

Colorado’s Community Colleges rely on well-trained and experienced faculty to ensure that students are supported for their prior learning while being held to a standard that ensures their continuing success.

The methods students may use to demonstrate learning to earn PLA Credit are: Standardized tests, Challenge Exams, Published Guides, Portfolios, and Faculty Evaluated Industry Credit. To learn more about each of these methods continue below.

This means that, in the Colorado Community College System, we acknowledge:

  • That learning occurs both within formal education settings and the community at large.
  • That PLA Credit is an excellent way to accelerate your program of study and to support your work to complete a credential.
  • That it is important to know your academic goals before your learning is evaluated for credit.
  • That credit awarded for prior learning will represent the attainment of college-level skills and be considered equivalent to learning obtained in traditional classroom settings

Standardized Tests
CCCS accepts five national standardized tests for PLA Credit: CLEP, AP, IB, DSST and UExcel. Many of the cut scores for these exams are determined by the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) through the Academic and General Education Councils and approved through the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Tests and crosswalks included on the CDHE state list are guaranteed to transfer from two to four-year public colleges in Colorado. Standardized tests that are not included on the CDHE state list may also be accepted for credit at CCCS colleges. Those that have been evaluated by CCCS faculty and determined to be equivalent to CCNS courses are included on the CCCS PLA Credit Crosswalk Matrix.

Download the current version of the CCCS PLA Credit Crosswalk Matrix to see which course credit will be awarded for Standardized tests. The CDHE Exam Cut Scores for Colorado Public Colleges & Universities for GT Pathways General Education Credit. These crosswalks are also in the PLA Credit Crosswalk Matrix and marked with GT Pathways descriptors (ex. CO1.) Credit earned through this method, and on this list, are guaranteed to transfer to any public two or four-year institution in Colorado. Information about CLEP, AP, IB and DSST Exams and Course Guides are available on the CDHE PLA website.
Challenge Exams
Institutional Challenge Exams are faculty-developed tests. They assess a student’s mastery of the competencies required for the CCCNS course being challenged. Challenge Exams are typically the equivalent of a comprehensive final exam and may include a skills demonstration. Challenge exams are distinct from Portfolios in that they ONLY require an exam and demonstration and do not require the student to document work or other learning experience.

A student must pass with a “C” grade or better to receive PLA-Credit through a challenge exam. The only exception to this is that some technical or licensure accrediting bodies may require a “B” grade or better for certification.

Determination of PLA-Credit eligibility in this instance should be endorsed by a discipline faculty member or Dept. Chair.

Lists of many of the exams that have been developed are available by college, in the PLA Credit Dashboard to help students and other colleges locate testing opportunities.

Steps and Procedures:

Colleges have established procedures for Challenge Exams to track and support the student’s process from application through evaluation.

Students should be advised as to which test(s) are available that will satisfy the requirements of their chosen program of study. Only credits within a student’s declared program may be transcribed.

Students will pay the Challenge Exam fee according to the PLA Credit Cost and institutional procedures.

Students will arrange for the test in accordance with institutional procedures.

The completed exam will be returned to the appropriate faculty member for evaluation. The faculty member will determine if the student has earned PLA Credit (“C” level work or better), contact the student with the results, and, if the student earned a “C” or better, submit appropriate documents to the records office. If the student does not pass the exam, no entry will be made in the student’s academic record.

The Faculty Evaluator will keep the exam and a copy of the completed Challenge Exam form for one year or in accordance with institutional records retention requirements. Students have the right to view the graded exam but faculty members will retain the completed test.

Colleges have a developed set of guidelines for allowing re-testing including the use of different versions of the test and an established period of time for further preparation prior to re-test. Students who are eligible to re-take an exam must pay the appropriate fees for each attempt, regardless of outcomes.

All PLA credits are transferable among all CCCS institutions as applicable to the degree or certificate requirements of the receiving institution (SP 9-42).

Published Guides

Steps and Procedures:

The advisor, transcript evaluator or faculty member should first check the PLA-Credit Matrix or the PLA Credit Dashboard to identify training and/or credentials that have been previously evaluated for CCNS course crosswalks. The process for submitting a course crosswalk to the PLA Credit Matrix is described in the PLA Credit Manual Appendix B: Matrices.

By including crosswalks in the PLA Credit Matrix, we hope to keep subject matter experts from duplicating their efforts, but inclusion in the PLA Credit Matrix is not a requirement for awarding credit.

Students may submit ACE or CCRS transcripts for review. Students without official transcripts who have earned an eligible credential or completed evaluated training are required to submit appropriate supporting documentation.

Institutions may evaluate Published Guide recommendations to determine appropriate crosswalks to CCNS courses if the training or credential has not been previously cross-walked to a CCNS course. Credit recommendations are to be evaluated by subject matter experts to determine appropriate CCNS equivalencies prior to awarding PLA Credit for the course.

In the case where partial course credit is demonstrated, faculty can opt to move the student to a Portfolio process to further demonstrate learning that may meet the CCNS equivalency requirements.


Knowledge and skills acquired through work and lifelong learning may be evaluated and validated through a formal portfolio assessment process.

A portfolio is a formal academic framework that students use to align their learning against the competencies/learning outcomes of a course or courses. It also provides documentation or evidence to support the student’s request for credit. Each course for which portfolio credit is requested must be in the CCNS and must be part of the student’s certificate or degree requirements.

There are two primary types of portfolios: those designed to challenge Major or General Education courses and those designed to challenge Applied Sciences or Career and Technical Education courses.

The Major or GE portfolio requires students to demonstrate learning through a narrative form supported by documentation or verifiable artifacts specific to the course content. Applied Skills portfolios are designed to assess workplace learning and require students to demonstrate mastery of the applied skills in addition to a more abbreviated narrative describing their learning. Applied Skills Portfolios may also require employer recommendations or industry certifications as appropriate. See the PLA Credit Appendix E: Sample Forms for sample portfolios.

Preparation and content of the portfolio are the responsibility of the student. Each institution will have resources available to assist the student in following the established procedures. Once a student has prepared the portfolio, s/he must submit it for assessment. A faculty member or other subject matter expert will evaluate the portfolio and determine if the student has provided sufficient documentation to demonstrate attainment of the learning outcomes and/or met the competencies of the course at the level of a “C” or better.

It is recommended that Faculty Assessors receive professional development in assessing portfolios. It is also recommended that the department develops rubrics associated with challenged courses to ensure grading equity and to better document the students’ skills evaluation.

The Portfolio section of the PLA Manual describes the portfolio development process, minimum requirements for content, the types of documentation that may be submitted or required and suggested steps for supporting students through the development process.

Faculty Evaluated Industry Credit
CCCS institutions may evaluate non-collegiate instructional programs that result in industry certifications, professional licensure, apprenticeship completion, and other workplace skills development. Faculty subject matter experts will identify appropriate crosswalks to CCNS courses.

Best practice suggests that institutions reach out to local industry to identify training and certification practices that might be eligible for PLA-Credit evaluation. Established crosswalks identified in the PLA Credit Matrix (link) can be used as incentives for businesses and for their employees to enroll in college to further their education.

The process of conducting evaluations is not prescribed in policy; institutions are free to develop their own practices in connection with local industry partners. Guidance for building this practice is available through ACE and CAEL.

Evaluated CCNS credit crosswalks based on faculty recommendations should be submitted for inclusion in the PLA-Credit Matrix. Inclusion in the PLA-Credit Matrix is designed to minimize duplication of effort by subject matter experts; it is not a requirement for awarding credit.

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