Office for Prior Learning Assessment

Academic Portfolio Assessment

Academic portfolios are demonstrations of college-level learning that USM students have developed through work, volunteer, or life experience. Depending on the degree plan, portfolios may be used to fulfill major, USM core, or general elective credit requirements and usually take the form of independent writing projects. In certain cases, visual or oral demonstrations may be approved by appropriate faculty and/or the PLA Director. 

Through successful portfolios, qualified students:

  • demonstrate how their learning from experience fulfills specific course or discipline learning objectives.
  • connect relevant theories or models to their practice as professionals.
  • reflect critically on how their learning has prepared them for future challenges in their chosen fields and/or 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.)

Before beginning the portfolio process, students should ask themselves the following:

  • Do the credits I want to earn fit into my degree plan?
  • Does this seem like a project I have time for given my current course load and other commitments (work, family, etc.)?
  • Have I been successful with previous self-directed projects, especially those that focused on producing college-level written work?
  • Can I apply academic or professional theories or models to what I have learned through personal experience?
  • Can I produce documentation of my learning experiences (certificates/awards/letters of recommendation, etc.)?

If you can answer “yes” to all of the above, please consult with the Office for Prior Learning Assessment to discuss if a portfolio is an option within your degree plan. 

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  The purpose of this meeting will be to familiarize students with the portfolio requirements and identify potential areas for portfolio work.

Students wishing to complete portfolios for specific major, minor, or USM Core requirements must be approved by a faculty member from the relevant academic department to begin the portfolio process. Students wishing to complete portfolios for general elective credit must be approved by the PLA Director. Not all students are approved for portfolio work at USM.

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.

The portfolio development workshop is a free, non-credit bearing, online experience designed to support students as they complete their academic portfolio, using the Brightspace learning management system. Completion of the portfolio development workshop is required for all students completing academic portfolios at USM

  • 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 relevant USM faculty member for final review.

Portfolios completed through the workshop count towards USM's residency policy.

Payment is due prior to the portfolio being submitted to the faculty evaluator. 

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 faculty evaluator may request further revisions of the portfolio and will communicate any such request directly to the student.  Once the portfolio evaluation is complete, the PLA office will post any approved 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.


The USM PLA Office is committed to helping students with documented disabilities gain equitable access to PLA processes.  Students with questions should contact the  Disability Services Center directly.


Faculty Portfolio Evaluation Webform - now found on MyUSM