Portfolio Review Process for Course Substitution

The portfolio review process is available to all MS, DNP and Graduate Certificate program students who believe that they can meet the learning objectives/competencies required of a specific nursing course within their program of study without taking and completing the course in the traditional manner. The portfolio is a mechanism used to validate the acquisition of knowledge and skills congruent with course expectations and student learning outcomes. The portfolio provides objective evidence that students have acquired the content and skills through prior learning and/or practice experiences. The decision to accept the documentation provided is based on determination of the equivalency of this prior knowledge and skills that the student would be expected to demonstrate at the completion of a specific course. 

  1. The portfolio review option does not take the place of course transfer credit.
  2. Students may exercise the portfolio option for a course or courses as long as it does not interfere with other standing university or school course/credit hour policies related to progression or graduation.
  3. Graduate students seeking an MS or DNP degree in nursing must complete the number of graduate credit hours identified in the WSU Graduate Catalog for each focus area. Graduate students are allowed to earn up to 15% of their program credits by Portfolio Review. Graduate Certificate program students may not portfolio out of more than one-half of the credits for an individual program of study.
  4. Portfolio policy and procedure applies to all MS and DNP nursing courses listed for the degree.
  5. Students wishing to apply for portfolio credit for a course must:
    • Be admitted to the graduate program.
    • Be in good academic standing.
    • Demonstrate satisfactory progression toward degree or certificate program requirements.
  6. Students pursuing the portfolio option must complete the portfolio the semester before the course is to be taken for normal progression toward the degree. Students will work with the academic advisor to initiate the process (see section below on “Course with Portfolio Options”) and then negotiate with the specific course graduate faculty the plans and a deadline for submission of the portfolio to assure sufficient time for the faculty to review prior to enrolling in the course.
  7. Once the course faculty has reviewed the portfolio, the following decisions are possible:
    • Award credit for the course petitioned based on the evidence provided. The faculty must assign a grade for the course. A pass/fail option is not available for graduate credit.
    • Request additional requirements before deciding the disposition of the portfolio.
    • Deny the granting of credit because the evidence presented was not strong enough to validate the consistency of prior learning with course expectations (i.e., the materials do not provide evidence that the student can meet the course objectives for the course for which the student is applying for portfolio credit). The student must then register for and successfully complete the designated course.
    • Require the student to register for the course and complete some but not all of the requirements. This option is for students who met some, but not the majority of the course requirements.
  8. Portfolio Review decisions are forwarded by the faculty to the student’s academic advisor for appropriate action relative to program planning. The review outcome is also forwarded to the Director of the Graduate Programs in Nursing.
  9. Students enroll in and pay for the course for which the portfolio is approved and the faculty submits the grade assigned to the portfolio at the end of the semester. If credit by portfolio is denied, students enroll in the course and complete the course requirements. 

These procedures apply for MS and DNP graduate nursing courses only.

  1. Graduate students have the responsibility for contacting their academic faculty advisor who will assist the student in determining: (1) the feasibility of undergoing a portfolio review; (2) the appropriateness of the portfolio option for the respective course work; (3) faculty role in assisting the student through the portfolio review process; (4) student role and responsibility in completing the portfolio review; (5) the time frame for completing the portfolio, conducting the review, and making the decision to accept or deny the portfolio.
  2. If the student and advisor feel that portfolio is a viable option, the faculty advisor will review with and seek approval from the Graduate Faculty Committee. The faculty advisor will then work with the student to contact the corresponding course faculty member to establish the plan for the portfolio.
  3. The course faculty member will assign a grade for the portfolio.
  4. Students prepare the portfolio materials the semester before the course is required to be taken for normal progression toward the chosen degree.
  5. Students constructing a portfolio for review must put together a comprehensive document that clearly shows how the course objectives/critical learning experiences and student learning outcomes have been achieved through prior alternative experiences. This requires the preparation of a persuasive personal statement and an explanation of the written documents and evidence submitted for portfolio review. Portfolios must include:

    • A statement about how the alternative experiences contribute to their professional and personal development.
    • A statement explaining how prior learning and experience supports achievement of learning outcomes for the course for which portfolio credit is being sought.
    • A current resume’ or curriculum vita.

  6. Additional documentation that may be included to provide persuasive evidence includes but is not limited to:

    • Job descriptions.
    • Performance evaluations.
    • Documentation of participation in professionally sanctioned continuing educational programs.
    • Other recognized educational programs or offerings.
    • Government service (Military, foreign, other).
    • Course syllabi/outlines that address similar content. Only those courses that have not been applied to the fulfillment of the requirements for a previously awarded degree may be considered.
    • Published or presented scholarship related to course content and skills.
    • Summary of funded and unfunded professional investigative projects.
    • Evidence of professional activities and how activities developed/ refined skills and knowledge required in course being reviewed for portfolio credit. Examples may include designing patient-teaching information packets, producing a video tape, public speaking opportunities, participation in peer mentoring, designing a special project for nursing unit, assisting with health fair projects, working on a volunteer basis with the homeless or other groups.
    • Documentation of leadership/management skills.
    • Documentation of nursing practice skills consistent with those expected in course being reviewed for portfolio credit.
    • Letters of testimony to the acquisition of knowledge and skills required in courses being challenged.
    • Copies of certifications received and criteria met for certification.

    Please note the above does not represent an exhaustive list of acceptable documents. Students are invited to submit other supporting evidence validating the meeting of course objectives and learning outcomes through prior learning experiences.

  7. Submit the portfolio and portfolio review form to the faculty member of record for the course for which credit is desired, according to the negotiated submission date. The degree of completeness and explicitness of the portfolio reviewed will affect the time taken to complete the review process and reach a decision.

(Graduate Nursing Committee Approval 3/30/15)

The portfolio option is available for the NURS 655 and 657 practicum courses for students enrolled in the Master’s, BSN-DNP, or Graduate Certificate Nursing and Organizational Leadership (NOL) emphasis. Students who are currently in formal leadership positions (e.g., Nurse Manager, Director of Nursing, Nurse Administrator, Chief Nurse Executive) may choose to exercise the portfolio option. Generally, students in the position of nurse manager are only able to portfolio one of the three practicum credits. Students in the position of Director of Nursing, Nurse Administrator, and Chief Nurse Executive may be able to portfolio two of the three credits. The final decision of how many practicum hours a student may portfolio will be made by the course faculty.

The rationale for this guideline is to acknowledge the previous nursing leadership experience and knowledge that students who enter this program may already possess and which may demonstrate competence and expertise in the American Organization of Nurse Executives (2011) Nurse Executive Competencies and the Nursing Administration Scope and Standards of Practice (American Nurses Association, 2009). Through additional practicum experience, the student will have the opportunity to work with leaders who will assist them in any areas that may need further growth.

Throughout the didactic portions of this program, the student will have been exposed to new knowledge and a different way of thinking. The practicum will allow the student to put into practice those ideas and skills under the mentoring of an experienced preceptor. The practicum will also allow the student to experience leadership at a level higher than their current role, unless the student is already a Chief Nurse Executive (CNE), and then the student will be asked to complete the practicum with a CNE from another organization. These practicum experiences will also allow the student to network with leaders from other organizations and gain a broader perspective of the nursing leadership role.

American Nurses Association. (2009). Nursing administration: Scope and standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD: Author

The American Organization of Nurse Executives. (2011). AONE Nurse Executive Competencies. Nurse Leader, 3(1), 15-21.