Recent work on a Learning Path specification raises a number of questions. A learning path is principally geared towards learning objectives, using choices, constraints and conditions. Constraints could be issues like level, cost, time, effort, etc. It describes primarily formal learning as a curriculum, but can be used too for informal learning to later review a route taken to achieve a learning outcome. This hindsight can be shared with others as advice. So, in this latter case it is not used for forward planning of the own learning in the way that PDPs are used.
In a real life scenario, however, I see e.g. strong social conditions that are not normally described in official curricula. Listening to student advisors talking to prospective students and freshers, the criteria for learning paths are strikingly personality-driven: “boring”, “good”, “easy”, “fun”. No pedagogic values are applied here. Should this be described in the spec or is it made by “grown-ups”?
However, I’m still missing the convincing arguments for a LP specification. Firstly, there are, I believe, several specs around that do a similar or better job. When it comes to curriculum description the XCRI spec would come to mind. When we talk about pedagogic routing, IMS LD should be more appropriate. And, when it comes to personal background and preferences, The IMS LIP and ePortfolio spec could be used.
To benefit the learner and his realisation/instantiation of the learning, the proposed LP spec really needs to answer the question what’s the best way for a learner to work his way through existing learning opportunities to reach a certain goal. To be able to do this, we need weighting measures, pedagogical and other. It compares to a car navigator where you can choose to reach a destination in the fastest or shortest route or by avoiding motorways.
So the main question is: in which way does LP benefit the learner? How does it relate to the best way of learning?
The real challenge to learning paths is not so much describing the route to reach a certain goal or learning outcome, it lies in specifying the entry point. A learning path specification needs to include various preconditions for entry, such as previous knowledge or experience, but also motivation, expectation, and preferences.
On a more philosophical level, I ask myself, that, if a learning path is always personal and an individual instantiation, is there any point in formalising it ? Or are we looking at the creation of a “mass-production of individual learning?” Full personalisation will always remain utopia, because as we know from formal education, learning opportunities and choice are dominated by budgets and capacity rather than by pedagogic criteria.