Office for Prior Learning Assessment

Academic Portfolio Assessment

Academic portfolios are demonstrations of college-level learning that students have acquired outside of the traditional classroom. Most often, academic portfolios take the form of independent writing projects. Through successful portfolios, qualified students:

  • demonstrate how their learning aligns with specific course or discipline outcomes/learning objectives, connecting relevant theories or other forms of conceptual knowledge to their practice as professionals  
  • reflect critically on how their learning has prepared them for future challenges in their chosen fields, disciplinary areas, and roles as citizens and community members  
  • provide documentation of their learning experiences  

A completed portfolio contains:

  • Title Page
  • Table of contents
  • Letter of Intent
  • Resume
  • Syllabi
  • Outline (optional)
  • Narrative (approximately 12-15 double-spaced pages per 3 college credits)
  • Supporting Documentation (certificates, awards, letters of recommendation etc.)

To review an outline of a portfolio please see this portfolio template.

In certain cases, visual or oral demonstrations may be approved by appropriate faculty and/or the PLA Director. 

Upcoming start dates for the mandatory portfolio development workshop are:

  • December 21, 2020
  • January 25, 2021
  • March 15, 2021
  • May 17, 2021
  • July 5, 2021

The following are some questions students should ask themselves before beginning the portfolio process:

  • How would these credits fit into my degree plan?

  • Does this seem like a project I have time for given my current work/life/school workload/schedule?

  • Have I been successful with previous self-directed projects, especially those that focused on producing college-level written work?

  • Can I apply conceptual knowledge (theories, models, etc.) through required texts and readings for specific courses or relevant texts and readings for general elective portfolios to my experience?

  • Am I able to produce documentation of my learning experiences (certificates/awards/letters of recommendation etc.)? If so, how will I obtain my supplemental documentation and how long might that take?

Asking these questions can help you determine if a prior learning portfolio may be an appropriate way to demonstrate your work/life learning.  Please consult with the Office for Prior Learning Assessment to discuss if a portfolio is an option for your academic goals. 

All students wanting to submit an academic portfolio at USM must first make an appointment with the PLA Office by calling 207-780-4663 or emailing  At this meeting, PLA Staff will: 

  • Familiarize students with the portfolio process and requirements
  • Identify potential areas for portfolio work
  • Provide students with relevant syllabi
  • Communicate the student's intent to attempt portfolio work to the relevant academic department

Students wishing to complete portfolios for specific course requirements must be approved by departmental faculty to begin the portfolio process. Students wishing to complete portfolios for general elective credits must be approved by the PLA Director.

Students who are approved to begin the portfolio process will be sent instructions on how to enroll in the required portfolio development workshop in Brightspace.

Not every student is approved for portfolio work. 

The portfolio development workshop is a free, non-credit bearing, online experience designed to support students as they complete their academic portfolio, using our learning management system. Completion of the portfolio development workshop is required for all students completing academic portfolios at USM. Each week, students assemble a component of their portfolio and PLA staff will provide feedback on that component. At the end of the workshop, students will submit a completed draft of their portfolio for PLA office review.

  • Workshop sessions run twice a semester, for seven weeks at a time.
  • Upcoming start dates for the portfolio workshop in the spring and summer of 2021 are Dec 21, Jan 25, Mar 15, May 17, and July 5.
  • The workshop is asynchronous, meaning that students will not be required to be online at any specific time.
  • The workshop will not appear on students’ transcripts as a class.
  • Enrollment in the workshop does not affect student credit loads for the purposes of determining financial aid eligibility. 

The final step of the workshop is to submit a completed draft of the full portfolio for review. The PLA office may require revisions before the portfolio can be submitted to the final evaluator. 

Payment is due prior to the portfolio being submitted to the final evaluator.  The PLA office will send/email the payment form to the student to be returned along with payment to either the PLA office or Student Financial Services. 

The fee for final assessment of a portfolio is as follows:

  • $50 per credit hour for undergraduate students
  • $100 per credit hour for graduate students

The final assessment will begin once payment has been processed by the Student Financial Services office.

The final evaluator may request further revisions of the portfolio and will communicate any such request directly to the student  Once the portfolio evaluation is complete, if approved, PLA will post the credits and send a confirmation via USM’s email to the student and student’s advisor(s).

Portfolio credit is posted with a "T" grade on student transcripts, and does not affect GPA. 

Federal financial aid cannot be used to pay for academic portfolio credits. Students interested in using military benefits or vocational rehabilitation funding to pay for portfolio credits should contact Lorrie Spaulding, Veterans Services Coordinator at for more information.

The Department of Technology uses portfolio assessment in its Applied Technical Leadership degree program, as well as in most concentrations within its Tech Management degree program. The purpose of these assessments is to evaluate and award credit for prior learning that does not directly transfer as course credit into the University.

All students completing one of the above degrees must fulfill 36 credits of Technical or Occupational Specialization. The block may be filled with a combination of transfer courses, military experience, and credits awarded through portfolio assessment, or entirely through portfolio assessment. The portfolios that students complete in order to fulfill this block are known as ITT 400 portfolios. The ITT 400 portfolio overview page can be found here or see below for a printable overview pdf.