What Is an Experiential Learning Portfolio?

Experiential Learning PortfolioStudents who choose to return to school after spending some time in the workforce often bring with them a wealth of knowledge and professional experience. While it's great to be able to apply this practical knowledge base to some of the courses you're taking, what if you could turn this experience into credit? At Colorado Technical University, an Experiential Learning Portfolio, or ELP, may help you apply learning experience from outside the classroom toward certain credit(s) in your degree program depending on how closely your existing knowledge and skills meet course goals and outcomes.

An Experiential Learning Portfolio gives you the chance to document and demonstrate how previous non-collegiate experience, often work experience, meets the objectives of a given course. Your portfolio will be evaluated, and if it is found to meet course goals and American Council of Education (ACE) recommendations, you may be able to bypass the course.

Benefits of an Experiential Learning Portfolio

The immediate benefit of an Experiential Learning Portfolio at CTU is that you may be able to save time and money on courses that would have covered material you already know. If you're a part-time student taking only one or two courses per semester, this may help you finish your degree sooner. Students may also create an ELP with the hopes of skipping a few lower-level or "gen ed" courses in order to get to more advanced classes in their degree program quicker. Or, if you are able to take Fast Track™ exams to skip over gen eds in your program, an ELP might be an option to showcase your skills in higher level or more concentrated courses. In many cases, assembling an ELP can help you make sure your work toward a degree is focused on developing new skills and competencies, not the ones you already have.

ELP Requirements

Because an ELP corresponds to a specific course within a degree program, you will have to prepare a new one for each class you hope to get credit for. Each portfolio should be tailored clearly toward the specific goals of the course you hope to bypass—this means you'll need to either consult the CTU Course Catalog or contact the department or a CTU Prior Learning advisor to get the course goals and objectives before you can create your ELP.

Experiential learning portfolios are comprised of three main parts:

  • Resume: Be sure you have the most relevant, up-to-date version of your resume to include with your portfolio. This should clearly cover the skills and core competencies you developed during your previous experience, as well as summarizing any positions and job titles held, significant responsibilities, and professional accomplishments.

    It's also a good idea to make sure the accomplishments and experiences that correspond most directly to the course you're applying to bypass are highlighted prominently. You'll need to make references to your previous experience(s) included on your resume in other documents in the ELP, so make sure it includes any and all relevant information.
  • Narrative Essay: One of the most important parts of an ELP is the narrative essay. This is a long-form piece of writing that gives you an opportunity to explain in detail how your previous learning experience meets each specific, individual course goal/objective. You will need to include a separate section in the essay for each objective of the course(s) for which you're trying to get credit.

    For each course objective, you'll first need to summarize on a basic level how your experience is relevant to this particular goal. Be sure to make clear connections between your previous roles and responsibilities and the course objective as you understand it. You'll then need to support this by pointing to specific experience documented on your resume and/or referencing any artifacts you included with the portfolio that can help show how and where you may have met the course goals previously.
  • Artifacts: Along with your resume and narrative essay, you should include any artifacts and documents that can act as proof of your prior learning experience. This could include reports or presentations created for previous jobs, employee evaluations and recommendation, professional certifications, documentation of specific relevant training, or anything else that will help support your narrative essay. Try to include as diverse a range of documents and materials as possible.

Once you have all of this gathered, be sure to proof your ELP and make sure everything is correct. When you’re ready, submit your portfolio to the Prior Learning Assessment department for evaluation.

If you have a wide range of work experience, creating an ELP may benefit you as you work through your degree program and further your education. If you have additional questions about an ELP download our sample portfolio for help or contact an admissions advisor.