Office for Prior Learning Assessment

PLA Academic Portfolio Assessment

Academic portfolios are demonstrations of college-level learning that students have acquired outside of the traditional classroom, for credit. In successful portfolios, qualified students:

  • demonstrate how their learning aligns with specific course or discipline outcomes 
  • reflect critically on how their learning has developed
  • explain how their learning prepares them for future challenges in their chosen fields, disciplinary areas, or as citizens and community members  

The completed portfolio most often takes the form of a substantive and substantial piece of writing that includes a letter of intent, a resume, a narrative and any supporting materials (certificates, awards, letters of recommendation, etc.) needed to document fulfillment of course learning objectives. In certain cases, other types--such as visual or oral demonstrations--may be approved by appropriate faculty and/or the PLA Office. 

Students may complete portfolios for multiple courses or requirements within the same document.  Upon approval by the appropriate faculty or the PLA Director, a student may complete a portfolio that meets the outcomes for any of the following: 

  • a specific course or courses
  • elective credit within a particular department   
  • a USM undergraduate Core requirement or requirements
  • general elective credit

Specialized portfolio options are available for students who have completed projects with the Center for Furniture Craftmanship in Rockport, ME.

Getting Started

All students wanting to complete 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 help determine what portfolio options students may have, and begin the process of obtaining course outcomes and faculty approval, if necessary.
  • Review the Portfolio Template and become familiar with the portfolio requirements. 
  • Register for the Portfolio Development Workshop (see below).

The Portfolio Development Workshop 

The portfolio development workshop is a non-credit bearing series of online modules designed to support students as they complete their academic portfolios. The workshop is asynchronous, meaning students complete it on their own time. 

  • The portfolio development workshop is required for all students completing academic portfolios at USM. Students have five months from enrollment in the workshop to complete their academic portfolio work. 
  • Students assemble the components of their portfolio as they complete each module and PLA staff will provide feedback on each component.
  • 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. 

Portfolio Submission

When the portfolio is complete, students submit the final product to the PLA Office. The PLA Office may require revisions for organization, grammar/mechanics, and/or completeness. Once the revisions are complete, the PLA Office will forward the revised draft to the final evaluator for determination of credit.

  • If the portfolio is for general elective credit, the PLA Director will make the final evaluation for credit.
  • If the academic portfolio is for credit within an academic department, a faculty member from the relevant department will make the final evaluation for credit.
  • If the academic portfolio is for USM undergraduate Core credit, the Assistant Provost will make the final evaluation for credit.

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

Portfolio Payment

Once the 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

To make a portfolio payment, complete the Portfolio Payment Form and return it with payment. Payment can be made via cash, check, or credit card at either a Student Financial Services Office or the PLA Office. Students wishing to mail a payment should use the physical address listed on the payment form.

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


Student Portfolio Payment Form
Faculty Portfolio Evaluation Rubric
Faculty Portfolio Evaluation Rubric Webform
Portfolio Template 
Portfolio Development Workshop Registration Form