Concept: Learning Paths

Information today can be digital, flexible, fluid; yet it is often still locked into print, IP restrictions, collections, and libraries. In the near future, information will be deconstructed and repurposed into smaller manageable bits of about 20 minutes or less of a persons time. These ‘units’ of information, by whatever name, will be placed in context, and that context is learning paths.  

Teachers engage in endless lesson plans. For each class, students purchase textbooks and other materials. They visit web sites. There are often handouts.

Learning paths aggregate all that information into one place, with a core lesson, say 15 or twenty minutes of someone’s time, an a plethora of digital assets in the margins. If the core lesson is a video, then in the margins there may be other videos, or screencasts, or PDF files and links to interactive tutorials and so on. There are undoubtedly other references and resources. A facilitated network like YouTube may feature twenty videos on the same subject, each with a slightly different perspective.

Each unit comes with one or more quizzes baked into the format. When these units are linked together they form a learning path, and the learning path can have a test at the end of it if desired.

One of the benefits is that learning paths could be collected to facilitate individual intelligences. If I struggle with math but excel in carpentry, an instructor or tutor might assemble a learning path where geometry, in particular triangles, are explored from the perspective of building. The unit might be called ‘Calculating the area of triangles’, or ‘Calculating the sum of angles’, or there may be a special unit on Pythagorean theorem.

The instructor could instantly drag units (lessons) onto personalized learning paths. She could duplicate and modify units to fit a new model she is experimenting with, or add illustrations from one unit to the next.

Continuing the analogy of our student’s geometry lessons, our instructor might discover a history unit for Pythagoras of Samos, a list of online tutors specializing in geometry, Arvind Gupta’s use of geometric toys to teach math in rural Indian villages, or a series of links that offer views of different but related disciplines; architecture, mechanical engineering, 3-d modeling are examples.

Today, tests are the foundation for certification and degrees, but in the future other methods may become more trusted. Learning paths can be integrated with learning analytics and other tools to provide user specific machine learning.

There’s so much more to the vision of learning paths; authoring, vetting, growth and renewal. What the reader may realize is that learning paths will not be limited to the classroom. Everyone, at any age, should and will be able to access them.

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