— Briana Taravella
Brianna Taravella 54, works as an administrative assistant at Thomas Nelson Community College in Virginia, one of Learning Counts' pilot institutions. When the news came across her desk that Thomas Nelson would be selecting five students to take the portfolio course, she decided that she had to be one of them. “I’ve been a secretary for 30 plus years now, so there should be a way for me to prove I can write a business letter so I don’t have to start all over again.” Briana ended up assembling portfolios for a total of 18 credits. She calls it “a grueling process.” For each 2 or 3-credit chunk, she had to write at least a 15-page narrative full of examples and footnotes and submit extensive supporting documentation like old transcripts and professional evaluations. She also got her supervisor to write a testimonial letter. Briana shared one of her learning narratives with the Edupunks’ Guide. In order to get credit for Business Letter Writing and Editing/Proofreading Skills, she wrote, in part: “I am requesting prior learning assessment for my experience in business letter writing and editing and proofreading. After being employed in the administrative world for over 30 years, my knowledge, understanding and application abilities have grown over the years to the point that many co-workers and superiors consider me an expert. My coworkers share their documents with me, and I edit and proofread their correspondence, flyers, brochures and manuals. In this learning narrative, I will explain my learning related to communication fundamentals, technology,various documents and editing and proofreading. The narrative is extensively footnoted and covers almost her whole career. It includes her experience with generations of communications technology. “I worked at the Watergate Hotel in the 70s when we had a Xerox machine that took up an entire room!” she says. She says going through this process has been very validating, as it’s helped her realize exactly how much she does know and allowed her to reflect on her life and career. “You really have to tap into the recesses of your mind. It’s given me a lot more confidence because I realize what I have done in my life.” Although the $500 fee for the workshop seems steep to her (the cost will be $750 if she ends up with every credit that she’s trying to get) and the software has, at times, been cumbersome to use, she is very glad to have this opportunity to “speed up the process” of her education and get credit for what she already knows. And, she will be saving money compared to earning the credits at Thomas Nelson. Briana points out that, in order to get college credit for prior learning through a portfolio, you need very strong writing skills. We’re talking about a 15-page paper for each class that you want to get credit for. You also need some tenacity to get through the process, although they are streamlining it in some ways as it gets out of the pilot phase.
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Resources Briana Used: