Trinity Experiential Lifelong Learning (TELL) for Undergraduate Students

Trinity is one of a growing number of colleges and universities which award credit for learning acquired through non-college experience prior to entering college or returning to the pursuit of a college degree. Such learning, referred to below as prior experiential learning, may result from such activities as work experience, volunteer work, community service, travel abroad, or military or Peace Corps experience.

If you are among these adult students who have entered or returned to college, and if you are interested in receiving credit for prior experiential learning, this information is designed to assist you to maximize the amount of credit that you might receive from Trinity.

Students interested in prior learning assessment will enroll in a course, the TELL Seminar (GST 301) which is designed for students who have been accepted into the TELL program by the School of Professional Studies.

The course will focus mainly on method; during the Seminar students will conceptualize the relationship between who they are and what they have learned, and will organize materials reflecting the acquisition of expertise in a recognized field of study.

The major project of GST 301 is the preparation of one or more portfolios documenting the student’s prior learning. Faculty evaluators will evaluate this portfolio for the possible awarding of credit. Successful completion of GST 301 does not guarantee that students will receive experiential learning credit. The evaluation in the seminar will reflect the students’ ability to organize and to document material and to submit assignments on time

Preparing a portfolio is not an easy process, and if done correctly, it can be time-consuming. Despite the difficulty, there are a number of important benefits which will result, regardless of credit you might receive.

Once you have completed a portfolio, you will have a realistic understanding of your present levels of competence–in order to plan further educational activities leading toward a degree — as well as an understanding of the assessment procedure itself, so that you will be able to provide valid information to others in order to probe what you know and can do, suggest to others how they might proceed in their attempts to fairly and accurately evaluate you, and make informed judgments as to whether or not procedures that are being used by others are the best and most appropriate available.

These capabilities are especially important to you as you continue your education both formally and informally.

Rationale and Criteria

Many adult students have felt that some of their non-college experiences are equivalent to what is taught in college and that they should receive credit for those experiences toward a college degree. Colleges generally do not award credit for experience itself, however. Credit is awarded for the verifiable learning outcomes of non-college experiences: that is, if those experiences have applicability to academic learning (liberal arts).

If you are accepted in Trinity’s TELL program, you will find that the university will not award credit simply for your years of experience. You will be required to demonstrate what important competencies (knowledge, skills and/or values) you have attained as a result of your experiences.

Generally speaking, your competencies must meet certain criteria:

  • The knowledge should be publicly verifiable. You should be able to document and demonstrate to an expert in the field that you possess the knowledge.
  • The knowledge should be equivalent to college-level work in terms of quality. In general the prior knowledge and experience should be related to courses in the catalog or to the requirements for graduation.
  • The knowledge or experience should have an academic subject matter or knowledge base. Credit will not be given for manual skills nor for a narrowly prescribed routine or procedure.
  • The learning should have general applicability outside of the specific situation in which it was acquired. For example, credit will not be awarded for knowledge of specific personnel procedures and application which apply to only one company.  However, credit might be awarded for knowledge and experience in the principles of human resource management, of which personnel applications is one small component.