Lifelong Learning Assessment

The Lifelong Learning Assessment (LLA) at Grand Canyon University allows you to earn up to eight general education or elective credits based on one or more essays that demonstrate the mastery of already acquired college-level knowledge. This may be an excellent option for you if you are seeking your undergraduate degree later in life and may already possess valuable experiences that equate to college credits. For more information about the LLA, speak with your university counselor, contact us at [email protected] or review our list of frequently asked questions.

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About the Lifelong Learning Assessment

The LLA begins with successful completion of ENG-135. For the course, you have the opportunity to earn four credits, plus an additional eight credits for your essays. Each essay is submitted with documentation that validates your experiences. Examples of documentation include but are not limited to:

  • Job evaluations from employers
  • Government documents
  • Newspaper accounts
  • Police reports
  • Affidavits from community leaders

Step 1: Topic Approval

To facilitate writing an LLA paper that aligns your prior learning experiences with college-level learning, refer to the topic description list. You should select the topic that best matches your experience and then write an essay based on the subtopics from the respective topic.

Credit is not awarded for experience alone but for the learning that followed the experience. For success, you must have firsthand experience in the subtopic chosen and should have several years of direct experience. In other words, this is not an independent study to help you gain new knowledge, but instead serves as an opportunity to reward you for already acquired mastery of college-level knowledge in a specific subject area based on a life experience.

Topic Approval

Begin your LLA journey by completing the topic approval form. Your name, student ID and email allow us to respond to your requests quickly. A short sentence or two about your experience in the topic area is all we need to start evaluating your request.

Submit Topic for Approval

Step 2: ENG-135 Course Description

All students who wish to submit an LLA paper must first attend ENG-135. This is a writing-intensive course focused on preparing you to write personal and professional life learning essays. The Kolb model of experiential learning is presented, which is a way for you to learn a systematic manner to evaluate and reflect your personal experience, form generalizations and theories from that experience and test the learning in new situations.

This course also incorporates writing skills, brainstorming activities, critical thinking and outlining, as well as selected readings from published memoirs that you may use as models of how personal experience is used as a powerful foundation for compelling writing.

Topics for the course are:

  • Understanding the Kolb model
  • Building an essay
  • Organizing ideas into the Kolb model
  • Getting an LLA paper started
  • Fine-tuning your paper
  • Proofreading techniques

Step 3: Preparing a Lifelong Learning Assessment Paper

To maintain academic integrity and the high standards of excellence here at GCU, the Office of Student Success has implemented regulations and standards by which you must complete your LLA paper.

All materials submitted with the LLA paper are subject to verification. This includes, but is not limited to, phone calls and interviews with individuals who are able to verify your life experiences, requests for additional evidence such as certificates and analysis of all documentation by plagiarism checking software.

In the event that academic dishonesty is discovered or suspected, you will have all due process rights according to university policies. View the University Policy Handbook for more information.

Be sure to use the LLA template as your guide for typing your paper. Any papers not submitted in this format will not be evaluated.

Depending on the number of credits you request (either two credits or four credits), you will cycle through each of Kolb's four stages as you write about the required number of subtopics:

  • Concrete experience (learning experience)
  • Observations and reflections
  • Generalizations
  • Applications


2 Credits 4 Credits

Minimum Page Length

10 pages of content 20 pages of content

Subtopic Requirement

3 subtopics All 6 subtopics

References Amount

At least 2 scholarly references At least 4 scholarly references

You must include the following documentation for your paper to be accepted and evaluated. Documentation is provided at the time essays are submitted for evaluation. The documentation should be relevant to your personal experience within the topic area. These documents help evaluators assess the significance of a personal event as they appraise the learning experience.

1 Official Document 

  • Issued by governmental or corporate entities (e.g. Social Security Administration, IRS, Red Cross, etc.)
  • Examples: Birth certificate, marriage certificate, pay stubs, medical documents, special operators licenses


2 Community Sources

  • Provided or validated by clergy, police, educators, news sources
  • Examples: Newspapers excerpts, publications, reports, accounts, links to news accounts, videos


3 Third Party Testimonials

  • Accounts from colleagues, eye witnesses, coworkers, peers, other credible adults
  • Examples: Affidavits, personal photographs with affidavits attached

Review the Topic Description List to see if there are any matches to your personal experiences. You will write the LLA paper to demonstrate that you have knowledge and experience equivalent to college-level learning related to the subtopics associated with the topic you chose.

LLA papers are evaluated using three specific criteria, outlined below. This helps to ensure that essays are properly reviewed and credit is given when appropriate.  

1. Knowledge and Experience
The evaluator examines your essay to see that it contains both knowledge and experience. Your experience provides a frame of reference for your knowledge. The LLA essay cannot be only an interesting experience, nor can it be a term paper that presents only ideas and principles but never mentions your experience. Furthermore, there must be an obvious relationship in the essay between knowledge and experience.

2. Evidence of Comprehension and Mental Processing
Evaluators look for evidence of comprehension of the learning experience. The evaluator is looking for evidence that you have interacted with the knowledge and gained an understanding of it. There must be an obvious connection that led to greater knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge. This interaction may take the form of explaining the subject, analyzing it, rearranging it or combining it with other knowledge on the subject.

3. College-Level Learning 
GCU recognizes that there are many useful and valuable areas of knowledge not taught within the college system. Certain valuable industrial or commercial knowledge is only taught within industry and highly personal learning is only a product of life experience. The purpose of evaluation is not to attempt to credit all learning but to credit only the subject areas normally studied within a college setting.

Lifelong Learning Assessment Paper Submission Checklist

Before submitting your paper, please ensure you have met the following requirements:

  1. Your paper is in the correct format of the LLA templates that are provided.
  2. Your paper meets the length requirement for the credits you are applying to receive (10 pages for two credits or 20 pages for four credits).
  3. You have included documentation that shows your experience in the topic area you have chosen (see documentation requirements above).
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