Understanding DePaul’s School for New Learning Jargon

DePaul’s School for New Learning (SNL) provides adult students opportunities to learn from experience and gain academic credit by recognizing and developing certain competencies. It should be no surprise, then, that such a unique approach to learning requires a new set of terms. This resource provides writing center tutors and fellows useful definitions for  SNL vocabulary.

 Common elements of SNL writing

Inclusion of personal experience:

Some SNL writing assignments (including research papers) may include more personal, introspective writing than traditional writing projects. In many instances for reflective papers, the writer is considered a reliable source because of his personal experiences. It is important to not restrict an SNL student’s personal input in a paper but help them equally incorporate their experiences with other forms of research and objectivity.

Creative interpretation/Open-endedness:

In many cases, SNL assignments are open to creative interpretation. For example, pretend there is a competency centered on understanding “health.” The writer could have choices to make, such as discussing mental or physical health. This open-endedness allows writers to personalize their work and challenge themselves to create a unique end product. However, some SNL learners feel uncomfortable because of loose assignment boundaries of “correct” and “wrong.” When faced with these challenges, going through pre-writing strategies could help writers balance their creative freedom while conforming to the unique aspects of a writing assignment.

Basic SNL Terms

Academic Committee:

The Academic Committee usually consists of three members: the SNL student, an SNL Faculty Mentor, and a Professional Advisor. Occasionally, a peer may act as a fourth member. All SNL students have their own academic committee. The main purpose of this committee is to guide and assist the SNL student as they work to complete their individualized program.

Advanced Project:

The Advanced Project is required for students to graduate. Students must design a document or program, create a business plan, or come up with another major endeavor that he or she intends to use in real life. Part of this project is to write about how this endeavor was, is, or will be accomplished. In many cases, the written portion of the advanced project is research-based. There is no class for the Advanced Project, and it must be completed by the student without an instructor, on her own time. This, combined with a large page requirement (usually ten to thirty pages) for the written portion, can cause anxiety for some students. 


Competencies, or Competence Statements, are requirements written as statements describing basic competence.  These competences are flexible, depending on an SNL student’s experience and preferences. “Certain competences are met by specific courses or projects; others can be satisfied by relevant transfer courses or experience” (SNL online).


The externship is experience-based learning. Much, if not all, externship learning occurs outside of the traditional classroom. The externship fulfills two competencies. One competency is already written, and the student develops the second one with the assistance of the instructor or the Academic Committee.  The nature of writing required for the externship is dependent upon the conditions set by the instructor or Academic Committee.

Focus Area:

A  focus area is similar to the traditional university major. It consists of competencies satisfied by SNL courses, relevant transfer courses, and documented college-level learning from experience.  The Advanced Project addresses learning in the SNL student’s individualized Focus Area.

SNL Acronyms

CLEP: College Level Examination Program—A testing service which offers tests that can be transferred to SNL for credit.

FAL: Foundations of Adult Learning— the foundation course required for students in the program a resource book for SNL students. The accompanying handbook is referred to by the same acronym.

GIS: Guided Independent Study—Learning experience planned and accomplished with the help of a faculty member.

ILP: Independent Learning Pursuit—Written proof of projects completed or knowledge   obtained outside of traditional college courses that complete competencies. Part of an ILP involves writing a paper that explains and demonstrates what and how the writer gained knowledge or accomplished something.

LAS: Learning Assessment Seminar– The first course requirement for students seeking undergraduate admission to the SNL program.

LP: Learning PlanThe first requirement for students seeking undergraduate admission to the SNL program.

PGAP: Professional Goal Setting and Action Plan– developed in Foundations, then reviewed and assessed in the First Committee Meeting (post Foundations)

SNL: School for New Learning

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • nicole p. says:

    This is great! Thanks for posting all the stuff from the in-service!

  • Ndwiga Gatumu says:

    This method of learning is very useful.
    Tangaza University College have very qualified lecturers for SNL.

    I recommend all Universities to introduce this approach.