Office for Prior Learning Assessment

PLA Academic Portfolio Assessment

Academic Portfolios enable qualified students to demonstrate their college-level knowledge in writing.  This is most useful in the case where no specific exam is available.  Portfolios require that students engage in a self-reflective process regarding what they have learned through their work and life experiences, and how that learning meets specific outcomes. 

A student might complete a portfolio that meets the outcomes for: 

  • a specific course (or courses) within their major, if approved by faculty from that department. 
  • elective credits within a major, if approved by faculty from that department.  
  • a USM undergraduate Core requirement.
  • general elective credit. 

Academic portfolios include a letter of intent, a resume, a narrative and any supporting materials needed (certificates, awards, letters of recommendation, etc.) to document mastery of course learning objectives.  Students may complete portfolios for multiple courses or requirements within the same document. 

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.  Students will assemble the components of their portfolio as they complete each module, and PLA staff will provide feedback on each component. The workshop is required for all students completing academic portfolios at USM.  It is completely asynchronous, meaning students complete it on their own time.  Students will have five months from enrollment in the workshop to complete their academic portfolio work. The workshop is not tied to a specific semester, and 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. 

Getting Started

Before beginning the Academic portfolio process, students should:

  • Make an appointment with the PLA Office.  You can make this appointment directly by contacting Rusty Dolleman, Director of Prior Learning Assessment, at 207-780-5909 or  At this appointment, you’ll talk through what kind of Academic Portfolios you could do, review previous portfolio submissions, determine a faculty evaluator if necessary, and develop a timeline for completion.

  • Register for the Portfolio Development Workshop. This is a non-credit workshop that guides students through the portfolio process. This workshop is required of ALL students creating academic portfolios.

Specialized porfolio options are available for students who have completed projects with the Center for Furniture Craftmanship in Rockport, ME (for up to 15 credits).

Portfolio Submission

The documentation submitted proves a student's competence in a particular subject area. When the portfolio is complete, students submit the final product to the Office for Prior Learning Assessment.  The PLA office may require revisions for organization, grammar/mechanics, and/or completeness.  If the academic portfolio is for credit within an academic department, a faculty evaluator will make the final determination. The evaluator will use the Faculty Portfolio Evaluation Rubric Webform; this rubric is also available in paper form.

Once the evaluation is complete, students will receive an email from the Office for Prior Learning Assessment outlining the number of credits earned and the payment procedure. The fee for service is $50 per credit hour for undergraduates and $100 per credit hour for graduate students. Students can make payment by completing the Portfolio Payment Form and mailing or dropping off payment. We are able to accept check or cash in the Office for Prior Learning Assessment. The Student Financial Services offices on all three campuses are able to accept cash, check, or credit. Students wishing to mail payment can use the physical address listed on the 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, our 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