Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition

What is PLAR? 

PLAR is a type of assessment that is used to evaluate skills and knowledge that we learn outside of a formal learning environment. It is one of three types of assessment that post-secondary institutions use to recognize prior learning.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a broad umbrella concept which includes three types of assessment processes that are used to evaluate the knowledge, skills and attitudes that people have acquired in their lives. There are three types of learning:

  • Formal learning—credit courses and programs offered at post-secondary institutions
  • Non-formal learning—non-credit courses, on-the-job training, and professional workshops
  • Informal learning—life and work experience

The three processes for assessing and recognizing these forms of learning are

  • Transfer credit—awarding credit at one institution for courses completed at another institution (formal learning assessment).
  • Credential recognition—recognizing a completed in-province, out-of-province, or international certificate, diploma or degree (formal learning assessment).
  • Prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR)—assessing and recognizing a person’s knowledge and skills, acquired through non-formal and informal learning, in relation to a certain goal (for example, receiving credit in a post-secondary program, meeting professional licensure/certification requirements, or obtaining employment). A PLAR assessment may include one or a combination of the following:
    • Written challenge exam
    • Oral exam or interview
    • Performance assessment
    • Product assessment
    • Portfolio assessment

For more information, download the RPL Terms and Definitions Document.

Alberta’s PLAR Action Plan

In October 2008, Alberta Advanced Education released Advancing PLAR in Alberta: an Action Plan.  Since then, work has been done to implement the plan in order to increase capacity for PLAR in Alberta’s advanced education system. For more information, contact or 780-422-9021.

Additional Resources

The Alberta Council on Admissions and Transfer has led several PLAR initiatives in the province over the past several years. The following reports describe these initiatives: