Credits for Your Prior Learning Experiences
Students come to Antioch University Seattle (AUS) with diverse educational histories and life experiences. Our BA Degree Completion – Liberal Studies program recognizes that these learning experiences are important and often times serve as the basis for student’s future academic and career goals. Through our BA program’s prior learning process, students have the opportunity to pursue academic credit for their college-level learning acquired prior to their enrollment at AUS.
To gain credit for learning derived from life and work experiences, students must document their experiential learning by writing a “priors packet” (consisting of a written narrative and corresponding Prior Learning Contract). Please view examples of completed “priors packets” under the Prior Learning Documents tab. Our students receive university credit for diverse and unique knowledge acquired through such life activities as producing documentary film, starting a small business, traveling abroad, advocating for human rights, and an array of other life experiences. Once completed, “priors packets” are matched with an expert in the field who is qualified to evaluate the learning documented. To assist in this process, our program has developed two required courses for students pursuing prior learning credits: Documenting Life Learning (1 credit) and Writing Prior Learning (2 credits).
While prior learning credits are recognized as college level equivalent, they are a quarter of the cost for regular AUS credits. Thus, prior learning can significantly reduce the overall expense of completing the degree program. Typically, students who pursue prior learning credits earn between 15 to 30 credits that can be applied to the 180 total credits needed for graduation. Students may acquire up to 45 credits through the prior learning process.
We encourage you to explore, reflect, and document – for university credit – the very important and valued college-level learning acquired from your own work and lived experiences. To gain full advantage of the prior learning process, you are encouraged to begin the documentation process early in your studies. If you have questions about the prior learning process at AUS, please contact:
Prior Learning Coordinator / Core Faculty
Prior Learning Assistant
 Students with exceptional breath and depth of previous life experience learning, and who bring a solid baseline of liberal arts competencies, may petition to include up to 60 prior learning credits, with the additional approval of the BA program director.
The BA completion program offers two courses to help students who choose to pursue credit for their life experience:
Learning From Experience: Documenting Life Learning
Adult learners bring enormous amounts of life experience with them as they enter the B.A. program. This class enables students to translate life experience into potential credit for their prior learning. Class assignments take students through the steps needed to accomplish this translation and help them integrate prior learning into their degree program. This class is required for all students who intend to document credit for life experience.
Writing Prior Learning Experience
This class is designed for students who are actively documenting life learning for college credit and provides them with the opportunity to write their documentation packages. Students learn how to organize prior learning credits into discrete disciplinary categories, write clear class titles, identify specific learning competencies, and construct coherent, articulate and comprehensive learning narratives. Students engage the necessary stages of development, receive constructive feedback on their writing and, by the end of the class, have complete prior learning packages that are ready for evaluation.
Can you tell me more about the process for documenting credit for life learning?
Some students find this process fairly straightforward, while others find it something of a challenge. It requires thinking about your life experiences in terms of what you have learned, rather than simply what happened. The emphasis is more than what you did, but also what meaning you make of that experience and whether your conceptualization and articulation of that learning reaches a college level.
Though this process is usually quite profound and positive, it is also relatively unfamiliar to most students on the first time through, so we have developed resources and support structures to guide and support you. Every student interested in documenting prior learning takes a course that explains the documentation process. Once you begin the actual documentation, you work with the prior learning coordinator to plan how you can demonstrate your learning through written and oral presentations, among other means. Experts in the fields in which you claim knowledge evaluate your presentations.
Do the Prior Learning credits I document count towards the 45 credits I need to take at Antioch as part of my degree program?
No, they do not. Prior Learning credits are considered 'transfer credits' because they are for previous life experience, so this means the prior learning credits do count toward the overall 180 credit requirement for graduation. However, the credits given for the documentation classes themselves are counted towards your minimum required 45 credits taken at Antioch.
What sorts of prior learning have students documented in the past?
Students have documented a variety of topics, ranging from raising a family to knowledge acquired in the workplace. To give you a better idea, here are a few titles for the documentation students have completed to gain credit for their life experience:
Practicum in leadership
Study of Jungian psychology
Italian language and history
Political activism in Central America
Practicum in crisis intervention
Philosophies of 17th century Europe
Environmental issues in Northeast China
Performance art as an expression of self
Publishing a novel
Native Coastal Tribes of the Northwest
Does credit for Prior Learning cost the same as a credit for a regular class?
One credit earned from Prior Learning costs approximately a quarter of the cost of a regular credit. This difference offers a huge savings for the student who chooses to document life experience through Prior Learning credits. For example, a student beginning her program of study with 90 transfer credits, choosing to document 30 Prior Learning credits as part of her plan for completing her degree, will save roughly $15,000 in tuition costs.
How many credits can I get for documenting life learning?
Most students choose to document between 20-40 credits. However you may document up to 48 credits of life experience toward your degree.
Michael Viola, PhD, Prior Learning Coordinator
Michael Viola’s research interests traverse the fields of critical pedagogy, critical theories of race, cultural studies, political economy, and transnational social movements. He is co-author of Miguel Contreras: Legacy of a Labor Leader (2009) a publication that explores the intersecting histories of the immigrant rights and the labor movements in 20th century Los Angeles.
He is also co-editor of Hip-Hop(e): The Cultural Practice and Critical Pedagogy of International Hip-Hop (2012). Viola is currently working on a research project that explores the historical and contemporary contributions of Filipino/a Americans to critical theory and global social movements. He joined the core faculty of Antioch University, Seattle in 2012.
Elizabeth Burke, MA, Adjunct Faculty
Elizabeth Burke is a skilled professional with 25 years of project management, business, strategic planning, coaching, facilitating and consulting experience. She holds a Whole Systems Design masters degree from Antioch University Seattle and CPA and LMP licenses. She has been teaching prior learning and digital storytelling classes at Antioch University Seattle for over four years and brings a wide range of experience to teaching from work in corporate, educational and non-profit environments and as an individual business owner. This breadth of experience allows her greater flexibility as she connects with each individual learner. Fields of Expertise: Project Management, Management, Accounting, Sustainable Business, Systems Design, Sports Coaching, Massage & Bodywork, Teaching.
Christopher Skaggs, BA, Prior Learning Program Assistant
Christopher Skaggs is a graduate from Antioch Seattle's BA in Liberal Studies Program with a focus on psychology, where he also received credit for his life learning for subjects such as Small Business Management and Music Entertainment Practicum. He continues to pursue a graduate degree and a career in couple and family therapy.
With more than twenty five years of overall office and clerical experience, Christopher manages the organization and documentation that helps keep the Prior Learning Program at Antioch Seattle strong and rich. Further, Christopher's joy in his work and in the relationships he creates and nurtures with students as well as evaluators further contribute to the warmth and depth of Antioch Seattle's Prior Learning Program.
The decision to include credit for life experience in your program typically is made with your core faculty adviser, although you also may wish to consult with the prior learning coordinator.
Early in the quarter after registering for your prior learning credits and enrolling in your course, you are assigned expert evaluators. You contact your evaluators and meet with them to review your prior learning. Once an evaluator is satisfied you have demonstrated the learnings, he or she writes a narrative evaluation recommending you be granted the requested credits.
Michelle McKinney, BFA, University of Washington; MFA, Rhode Island School of Design; Prior Learning Evaluator. Fields of Expertise: Fine Art, Sculpture, Light Metals, Jewelry, Crafts, Intuitive Arts, Shamanism, Family & Systemic Constellations, Retail & Natural Foods/Nutrition.
Elisebeth Vander Weil, MA, Eastern Washington University; PhD, Gonzaga University; Prior Learning Evaluator. Fields of Expertise: Fear, Team Development, Organizational Behaviors & Change, Andragogy, Research (Qualitative, Action), Conflict Resolution, Leadership, American Literature, Academic/Creative Writing, Cultural Dialogue.
Jim Starkey, BA, University of Washington; MA University of Washington; MA, Antioch University Seattle; Prior Learning Evaluator. Fields of Expertise: Native Issues, English, Social Sciences, Curriculum Development, Published Author, Military.
Charles Morrison, BA University of Missouri; MA University of Missouri; Prior Learning Evaluator. Fields of Expertise: Buddhism, Ethics, History, Constitutional Law, Writing, Yoga, Philosophy, Comparative Religion, Leadership, Psychology, Sociology, Intellectual History, Nutrition.
Betti Clipsham, MA Antioch University Seattle; Prior Learning Evaluator. Fields of Expertise: Human Resources Management, Teaching Human Resources and Leadership.
Lawrence B. Ebegsole, LMHCA, BA Antioch University San Francisco; MA Antioch University Seattle; Prior Learning Evaluator. Fields of Expertise: Poetry in Counseling, Case Management, Poetry for Social Advocacy, Counseling in Community Mental Health, Human Rights Theory in Global Studies; Community Psychology, Critique and Advocacy for Access/Availability of Healthcare and Mental Health, Humanities.
Robert Hayden, BA Washington State University; MA University of California, Irvine; PhD University of California, Irvine; Prior Learning Evaluator. Fields of Expertise: Multicultural Studies, Asian-American Studies, Filipino-American Studies, Community Activism, Human Rights, Labor Issues, Eco-Justice, Privilege and Power in the U. S., Japanese-American Internment/Concentration Camp Experience, Forest Steward.
Dreama Blankenbeckler, MA Goddard College; Prior Learning Evaluator. Fields of Expertise: Disability Advocacy, Special Education, Art Therapy, Art Education, Art Processes, Outdoor Education, Literacy, Creative Therapies With Elders, ESL, Human Development, Counseling, Social Media Marketing, Quality Systems.
Stephanie Malone, BS Ohio University; MA Ohio University; Prior Learning Evaluator. Fields of Expertise: Video Production, Film Studies, Documentaries, Media Management, Non-Profit Management, Community Engagement, Education Technology, Early Childhood Education, Social Media Marketing and Engagement.
Susanne Sturm, BA Ohio Wesleyan University; MA Whitworth College; Prior Learning Evaluator. Fields of Expertise: Trauma, Recovery, Group Work and Facilitation, Family Systems, Loss and Grief, Fiction, Creative non-fiction, Academic Writing.