AA06: Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)

  • Policy #: AA06
  • Responsible Authority: Dean, Academic Development
  • Approval Authority: Algonquin College Executive Team
  • Executive Sponsor: Senior Vice President, Academic
  • Approval Date: 1998/01/30
  • Last Reviewed: 2016/04/13
  • Mandatory Revision Date: 2021/04/13
  • Downloadable Version: Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)

To establish a process to award college credits earned by students through recognition of work and life experience.

Students who, through work and life experience, have acquired learning that is equivalent to the learning outcomes of one or more College course(s).




Life experience

Such activities as self-directed study, paid employment, voluntary work, travel and other learning experiences


Prior learning assessment and recognition

Experiential learning

Knowledge and/or skills gained through life experience

Capstone course

Course critical to the program and not eligible for PLAR

Academic Administrator

Chair, Academic Manager, Course Chair, or Dean

Block Challenge

Request for credit at a program level


1.   Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) is based on the belief that adults may acquire college level learning through life experience such as self-directed study, paid employment, voluntary work, travel and other learning experiences. In order for this learning to be credited, it must be described or demonstrated; assessed as to its nature, extent, and depth; and deemed equivalent and current when compared to course or program learning outcomes.

2.   PLAR is to be distinguished from the transfer of academic credit process, in that PLAR focuses on the evaluation of experiential learning rather than on the determination of equivalency of formal educational courses and/or programs. In PLAR, a letter grade or credit (CR) is granted; whereas in the transfer of academic credit process an exemption (EX) is granted.

3.   PLAR is available to persons interested in pursuing a College credential, who, through work and life experience, have acquired learning that is equivalent to the course learning outcomes of one or more College course(s).

4.   To be eligible for PLAR, candidates must be 19 years of age or older, or have an Ontario Secondary School Diploma or equivalent.

5.   Students who have failed a course or been unsuccessful in a challenge within the past year (12 months) will not be permitted a PLAR challenge in the course unless they receive written permission from the Academic Administrator.

6.  Following formal acceptance as a PLAR candidate, the candidate’s prior learning is assessed by academic staff that have subject matter expertise in the area. If the prior learning is deemed equivalent to College course learning requirements, a letter grade or credit (CR) is granted. Unsuccessful PLAR attempts are not recorded on the student’s transcript.

7.   PLAR candidates will be bound by the College’s residency policy which states that, for any credential, a minimum of twenty-five percent (25%) of the hours of the program of study must be taken and successfully completed at the College. Programs may require a residency immediately prior to graduation.

8.   PLAR candidates in a bachelor’s degree may be awarded no more than fifty percent (50%) of the total number of hours of the program of study based on prior learning assessment and recognition.

9.   Normally, College courses will be available for candidates to earn credit through PLAR. In some cases, such as capstone courses or courses that are subject to external standards, programs may designate a course as one that is not eligible for PLAR.

10.  An application and remittance of fees for PLAR credit consideration must normally be submitted prior to the course start date and no later than the last date for registrants to withdraw without academic penalty. On a case-by-case basis, the Academic Administrator may approve timeline modifications under exceptional circumstances.

11.  Students who wish to challenge the General Education electives based on prior learning may challenge the theme areas. The Prior Learning Assessment Office and subject resource specialist will assess applications for credit and, where credit is recognized, assign it to the appropriate theme outlined below, and enter it on the student’s transcript as shown below:

– GED0011 Arts in Society
– GED0012 Civic Life
– GED0013 Social and Cultural Understanding
– GED0014 Personal Understanding
– GED0015 Science and Technology

12.  Candidates who receive credit for courses through PLAR must go through the regular admission process, in order to gain entrance into a College program.

13.  PLAR procedures and processes will respect current federal and provincial standards for PLAR.

14.  The general requirements for successfully challenging a course through PLAR are established by each program and published in the course outlines. Course outlines are available to PLAR candidates.

15.  Challenges are prepared by professors with subject matter expertise consistent with course learning requirements.

16.  Challenge procedures may include written, oral, or performance assessment; the development of products or combinations of any of these. The type of challenge assessment is determined by the nature of the learning being evaluated. Normally, challenge assessments are made available within four weeks after receipt of a PLAR application. Completed challenge assessments are retained by the College.

17.  Assessments for block challenge of a program are based on the program level outcomes.

18.  When candidates with extensive related experience apply for PLAR, efforts will be made to assess their prior learning against program level outcomes as opposed to specific courses learning requirements to enable them to earn credit for multiple courses.

19.  PLAR candidates must fulfill assessment requirements within three (3) months of an application.

20.  Candidates have the right to appeal the PLAR assessment.

21.  The fee schedule for PLAR services is established by Algonquin as per the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and will apply on an annual basis, and is published on the PLAR website. The fees cover:
– delivery of assessment;
– evaluation of assessment(s);
– evaluation of a portfolio and oral interview, if required;
– support for an independent learning contract, as required.

22.  PLAR fees are in addition to tuition. PLAR fees are not reimbursed in the event of an unsuccessful PLAR challenge.  







Orientation, Advising and Acceptance to PLAR




When seeking prior learning assessment, contact the PLAR Office or via email: plar@algonquincollege.com




Assess the eligibility of the candidate to challenge a course(s) using PLAR.


PLAR Office


Direct candidate to self-serve course outline retrieval to allow candidate to gain access to current course outline(s) for review.



PLAR Office


If the candidate is eligible to use PLAR to challenge a course(s),

a.  orient the candidate to PLAR policies and procedures;
b.  assist with relevant application/registration procedure(s);
c.   contact the appropriate academic department to arrange specific assessment process.


PLAR Office


Pay fee for a PLAR assessment to the Registrar’s Office so that assessment can proceed. Fee should be remitted prior to the course start date and by no later than the date to withdraw without academic penalty, unless an exception to this timeline has been approved by the Academic Administrator.




 If the candidate is using PLAR to challenge program level outcomes:
a. meet with candidate to assess life experiences against desired credential;
b. develop an educational plan and advise candidate regarding PLAR challenge and recommended pathway to achieve credential.


or Course


If requesting credits for a program level, present extensive relevant experience and learning, which normally includes a combination of:
·   a portfolio;
·   an interview with a panel of subject matter experts;
·   performance assessment(s).





Demonstration and Documentation of Prior Learning




Provide challenge assessment(s) to the PLAR Office within four (4) weeks after having been notified of a PLAR application.




Administer challenge assessment(s) at the candidate’s convenience, but no later than three (3) months after having received the PLAR application.


PLAR Office


If a portfolio is used for PLAR, address the requirements identified in the Portfolio Guidelines, available from the PLAR Office.




Assessment and Evaluation of Prior Learning




Appoint a professor, who is supported by the PLAR Office, as assessor to conduct the PLAR assessment. 




Complete the initial PLAR assessment within two (2) weeks of receiving the completed test, portfolio or other evidence of learning.




Transcribe the successful PLAR credits with either a letter grade or a “CR” (credit) designation.




Assess PLAR applications for General Education course credit and assign a grade of CR next to the General Education theme number being matched:

·   GED0011   Arts in Society
·   GED0012   Civic Life
·   GED0013   Social and Cultural Understanding
·   GED0014   Personal Understanding
·   GED0015   Science and Technology


Gen Ed


Notify the applicant and the Registrar’s Office of the PLAR results.


PLAR Office


Keep a formal record of the assessment process and the results for five (5) years. These are made available to the candidate upon request.


PLAR Office


If a PLAR candidate is not successful, at his/her discretion, ask the candidate to complete additional assessments to meet the learning requirements.




Appeal Process




Request an appeal of the PLAR assessment results in writing to the PLAR Office within ten (10) working days of the mailing of the assessment results. The candidate will outline the reasons why an appeal is warranted. A PLAR Appeal fee will be applied, which will be refunded, if the decision is changed in the applicant’s favour.




Upon receiving a written request for an appeal, within five (5) working days, convene an PLAR Appeal Committee, consisting of:
·   an academic administrator;
·   a professor, who has not been the applicant’s advisor or assessor and who is knowledgeable of the relevant program/course;
·   a person with knowledge of PLAR processes.


PLAR Office


Schedule a PLAR Appeal Committee meeting within ten (10) working days of receiving the request of an appeal and notify the applicant and the assessor(s).


PLAR Office


Invite the applicant and the assessor(s) to attend the Appeal Committee meeting and present their views in turn.   The deliberations of the Committee will take place in-camera.


PLAR Appeal


Render its decisions in writing to the applicant within ten (10) working days of the Appeal Committee meeting.  The results of the Appeal are final and binding on all parties and will be noted in the students file.


PLAR Appeal


AA04     Admissions
AA05     Advanced Standing
AA14      Grading System
AA35     Confidentiality of Student Records
AA08     Course Load
AA10      Transfer of Academic Credit (External)
AA11       Registration
AA27     General Education Courses

College PLAR website

Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities