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Getting to Know: Nicole Sheldon

March 25, 2022

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In our newest segment, "Getting to Know," we profile recent hires at CCRI and provide an in-depth look at their role at the college, their background prior to joining our community, and how their work reflects CCRI's guiding principles. Email [email protected] to nominate a co-worker. 

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is a great way for students – especially adult learners or those who took time off between high school and college – to earn college credits based on their learning experiences outside of the traditional classroom setting. That could be anything from military service and corporate training to previous work experience and college-level knowledge tests, such as CLEP (College Level Examination Program).

To help students better understand the benefits of CPL, and, most importantly, determine whether they’re eligible for such credits, the college recently hired Nicole Sheldon, a former high school counselor and Office Administrator at the University of Rhode Island, to join the Office of Admissions as its CPL Coordinator. She will be responsible for leading the rebrand from Prior Learning Assessment – another commonly-used term to describe this opportunity – to Credit for Prior Learning while helping students explore these new pathways toward completing their degree faster and more efficiently.

Today, we caught up with Nicole to get a better understanding of her role at the college and learn more about the importance of CPL for students who may meet the requirements.

Why is CCRI changing the name of this opportunity from PLA to CPL?

“It often trips people up when they hear the word ‘assessment.’ They might think they have to take a test, but that is not always the case. For example, students may earn credit for their training in the military or by putting together a specific portfolio. While this rebrand is new, PLA has been around for a while. A few other organizations have begun to use the new term, CPL, so there has been a bit of a shift. With PLA, the term at the forefront is ‘assessment,’ and to an outside student that might sound scary. The shift to CPL puts the emphasis on the benefit, which is ‘credit.’”

Who is eligible to earn credit for prior learning?

"This applies to all students currently registered and accepted into a degree program at CCRI. The prior learning must be college-level and used toward credits in your program of study. It certainly can benefit adult learners or students who’ve had a year or two off between high school and college, but it can also be an opportunity for students right out of high school. The majority of students taking advantage of CPL have not been in college for a bit, but maybe they have military training or work experience, or perhaps workplace training such as the police academy, apprenticeships, or real estate.

"CPL is recognition for learning that may have taken place outside of a traditional college setting, which, for many of our students, could include a world language. For example, if you are a native Spanish speaker and have strong Spanish language skills, you could take and pass a CLEP exam for Spanish and earn credit rather than take a Spanish course. There are a bunch of different avenues students can explore."

Why should students explore CPL?

"Earning credit for prior learning is a faster path toward getting a degree and studies show it significantly boosts motivation and degree completion. I am living proof. When I was working to become licensed as a school counselor in Vermont, they wanted me to take certain classes despite the fact I already had the experience, so I understand how frustrating that can be from a student’s perspective. I put together a portfolio with various artifacts showing evidence of my prior learning and was granted the license as a result."

Why is CPL particularly important at CCRI?  

"The diversity of our student body is a big reason why CPL is such a priority. We have many adult learners who might have the previous work experience or training necessary to earn college credit and therefore complete their degree faster. That population is also increasing due to the pandemic and the launch of our COVID Recovery Finish Scholarship, which is providing new opportunities for adult learners who are looking to continue their education or reenter the workforce in a new field."

More information on CPL is available online. Please continue to check the website for updates. Students interested in finding out whether they are eligible should contact Nicole Sheldon at [email protected].

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