Individualized Prior Learning Assessment

What is Individualized Prior Learning Assessment? 

The MS in GMAP allows for prior learning assessment for a limited number of credit hours for select components of the degree program. With the exception of the core courses (GMAP 500, 501, 502, 503, and 504) and the capstone (GMAP 590), students may fulfill up to 12 credits of program requirements through a process of Individualized Prior Learning Assessment (IPLA) based on prior experience resulting in graduate-and professional-level learning and corresponding competencies. That is, students may demonstrate prior graduate and professional level learning to fulfill the requirements in: politics and policy for atrocity prevention, tools and technologies for atrocity prevention, special topics in atrocity prevention, advanced methods for atrocity prevention, mechanisms for atrocity prevention applied research projects, or the field placement. The sources of appropriate and acceptable prior learning would differ for the different program components.

Sources of Prior Graduate and Professional Level Learning: 

Individual Prior Learning Assessment (IPLA) will evaluate the graduate and professional level learning acquired outside a traditional classroom, through licensures, volunteer work, military or professional training, in-service courses or comparable life experiences. Prior graduate and professional level learning may be obtained through the following: 

  • Work experience
  • Licenses, certifications or other credentials
  • Continuing professional education or continuing education units (CEUs) that are explicitly post-baccalaureate
  • Seminars and in-service training programs
  • Graduate level Open Education Resource courses (MOOCs, for example)
  • Documented professional research and writing project work

Criteria for Evaluating Prior Learning

While each application to receive credit for prior learning will be evaluated individually, the following general criteria will be applied. The key criteria for determining whether experiences gained through any of the above sources warrants credit within the MS in GMAP program are assessing whether it is:

  1. at an advanced (graduate and professional) level;
  2. of sufficient duration, intensity or depth; and
  3. how directly relevant it is to atrocity prevention.

For example, an individual seeking credit for the Field Placement would need to document that the experience was at a decision-making level of responsibility, lasted three (3) or more years, and was directly in the field of atrocity prevention. Similarly, a student seeking credit for the advanced methods requirement might document proficiency in a second language or in advanced quantitative methods through certifications or tests. Having lived and worked, including Peace Corps service, in a country where the official language is something other than English, having passed a language proficiency exam, or having received certifications in specific statistical software analyses packages, might provide the basis for a student to document that they have equivalent competencies for the advanced methods requirement. A student who has taken several graduate level MOOCs in political science focused on international relations and violent conflict, or who has taken multiple advanced CEUs in computer programming, may petition to receive credit based on that learning for the courses in politics and policy or in tools and technologies, respectively. A student with work experience designing historical museum exhibits about prior atrocities could request credit for the elective in special topics in atrocity prevention. A student who has conducted research and published policy reports related to atrocity prevention might request credit for the Mechanisms of Atrocity Prevention courses.

The Process for Evaluating Requests for Credits based on Prior Learning Assessment

By definition, these requests are evaluated individually and thus a detailed specification of whether and how prior learning will be granted credit is not possible to provide. Similar experiences do not necessarily result in the same learning outcomes thus individual assessments are required. The key will be to evaluate not simply the experience, but rather the associated learning and competencies. For those competencies that align with domains of the Global Learning Qualifications Framework, we define graduate level competencies as being above the upper level for undergraduate level specified within that Framework.

Students interested in receiving credit for PLA will be required to submit a dossier or portfolio justifying the basis for their request and providing documentation. The emphasis in the portfolio is not to simply describe the experience, but rather to explain and document the associated learning and competencies acquired. The request may be submitted upon admission to the program or any time prior to the start of the final semester. The request must include a clear description of the sources of prior graduate and professional level learning, and the corresponding program requirements the student thinks the learning fulfills. The burden is on the student to demonstrate knowledge and related competencies and skills through specific examples and documentation.

Each request will be evaluated by the GMAP faculty committee responsible for reviews. The committee will:

  • assess the evidence of prior learning;
  • determine which, if any, program requirements it fulfills;
  • and make a recommendation on how much credit that prior learning merits.

The Co-Directors will review the recommendations and make a final determination. A written statement of the determination will be forwarded to the Graduate School as part of the student’s official record.

To ensure consistency and integrity of the process, students who are not satisfied with the decisions may appeal through the same academic appeals process afforded for other academic disputes.

Complete the IPLA FORM