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 a completed portfolio please see this portfolio template.

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

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 who are approved to begin the portfolio process will be sent a link to enroll in the required portfolio development workshop. 

Not every student is approved for portfolio work. 

The portfolio development workshop is a free, non-credit bearing series of online modules designed to support students as they complete their academic portfolios.  Completion of the portfolio development workshop is required for all students completing academic portfolios at USM. Students assemble the components of their portfolio as they complete each module and PLA staff will provide feedback on each component.

  • Students have five months from enrollment in the workshop to complete their academic portfolio work.
  • The workshop is asynchronous, meaning students complete it on their own time. 
  • The workshop is not tied to a specific semester nor will it 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. 

Students submit their completed drafts to the PLA Office through the workshop. Submission of a portfolio does not guarantee the awarding of credit; credit is only awarded upon review by an appropriate faculty member and/or the PLA Director. Students may be asked to revise their drafts by both the PLA Director and/or the faculty evaluator. 

The evaluator will use the Faculty Portfolio Evaluation Rubric Webform; this rubric is also available in paper form.  

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

Once the portfolio evaluation is complete, students will receive an email from the PLA Office outlining the number of credits earned and the payment procedure. Portfolio credits are posted once payment is received. 

The fee for service is as follows:

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

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.


The following portfolios use specialized processes to show learning through course outcomes.