Can Your Real World Experience Earn You College Credit?


By Warren Gramm

Prior learning assessment (PLA) is designed to help students gain college credit for knowledge gained through real life experiences. As a mentor for the College, when I consider that, I can't help but gravitate towards the many students that have had success through the music PLA credits they've earned while serving our country in the armed forces in locations throughout the world.

Many adult learners are actively engaged overseas and are at the same time demonstrating for me their music backgrounds and capabilities. I wish that more members of the armed forces bands knew that it is possible to gain college credit for what they already know!

Many students enrolled in the College's Bachelor of Arts degree program in Music are playing the music of famous composers on a daily basis. While gaining real world experience serving our country, they are also gaining valuable experience in the music field.

In my mind, there is no better way to learn about Mozart and Beethoven than by playing their music. It is important to know what a literary resource might tell you about these musical giants, but to play their compositions add a substantive personal connection.

Below, students like Reginald Hennessy, benefit from the portfolio assessment program while serving overseas. 


How has the ability to earn college credit in music while you are serving overseas enhanced your career?

Reginald: In the Army, college credit translates as promotion points. We are always looking to find ways to better ourselves to make the best of our time. We will not be in the army forever and we need to have opportunities for jobs on the outside of the army. Unfortunately (usually), music credits have to be done in house at your college. The ability to do the class online takes away the wait to get back to the states to finish our degrees.


What was the most challenging part of completing your music portfolios while serving overseas?

Reginald: Time! Balancing a full time career with going to college is hard for anyone but being overseas it seems to a bit harder. We have to be mission ready while we keep our daily work up to date on top of your personal commitments. Postal Services are slower allowing less time with the materials you need.


Besides college credit, what else did you gain from the experience?

Reginald: Knowledge, even though it’s a PLA you still learn something. As I went through the course I listened to the artist I was writing about or the time period. I learned that no music is dead, and artists are still writing in every genre or time period today. Most notable Gregorian chant with the group Gregorian: Masters of Chant. It is interesting to see their take on popular music.


The Prior Learning Assessment program has awarded credit for college level knowledge to band directors, band members, and some of the finest musicians that our nation has to offer.

While serving in the military is something that should be highly applauded in and of itself, through portfolio assessment, members of our armed forces are recognized for the great life learning experiences they have. And rightly deserve.




Written by Warren Gramm

Warren is a mentor in the Heavin School of Arts and Sciences and earned an MA from Johns Hopkins University. 


Topics: Prior Learning Assessment and Portfolio, Military and Veterans, Mentors, Areas of Study and Degree Programs