Within the context of Skills-Based Approach, a learning path is defined as a collection of tasks needed to reach a desired skill competency over a period (what is referred to as an instance in the application). An instance might be an entire program, such as a micro-credential certification to become an accountant, computer programmer, or electrician. Or it might be a semester as part of a degree. Students upload a course schedule and related activities in and out of the classroom.
These instances are not mutually exclusive, so a student can run more than one instance concurrently. For example, I may be a high school student running an instance for required courses in a semester, one for all activities outside of the classroom, and one for my long-term career goals. It makes sense to separate: (1) required learning from non-required learning; and (2) short-term from long-term learning objectives.
Strung together by skills, instances show continuity. There is functionality to access all content and tasking related to current and past instances, so it becomes a repository for all students’ learning. You can plot all the tasking related to building and validating skills in a timeline. Being able to combine learning expectations over an extended period is one advantage Skills-Based Approach has over competing applications.
Another advantage is Skills-Based Approach simplifies everything. Everyone – students, parents, counselors, teachers, etc. – knows what they are dealing with: a skill set (albeit an expanded definition of skills to include soft skills and behaviors); related competencies (measurements of skills); and constantly cycling through four stages.
Students can track and manage all learning in one place. Working in skills and competencies effectively bridges learning expectations. Students can plan for a future career five to ten years in advance while working in short, discrete, manageable tasks. Furthermore, students pivot with their learning based on internal (success or failure building skills or changing career interests) and external (changing demand for skills or jobs) factors.
A cool feature of the Skill-Based Approach learning path is students can share and replicate them (if they give necessary permissions). Working together, students collectively might create an optimal learning plan and the sharing process might be fun. A teacher, professor, or program director can create and disseminate their own learning paths in a similar way.
As students mature and become familiar with the Skills-Based Approach interface, they take control of their learning; they become ‘self-directed learners’ and develop their own ‘personal learning network’. I wrote an article (and gave a webinar) on putting employees in the driver’s seat of their learning, and I think the same applies with high school and college students (though, perhaps with varying levels of guidance).
Being able to use one methodology / platform across education and career stages is another big plus of Skills-Based Approach. A user gets introduced to the application, figures out how it works with an ‘aha’ epiphany and then effectively uses it in different career stages.
There is growing support for personalized and adaptive learning. A feature of a Skills-Based Approach learning plan is students merging required tasks with tasks created on a student’s own initiative. It would be great to see students increase the non-required learning for their own personal and learning development, while reaching desired competencies for required learning. (And there are some intrinsic motivators being built into the Skills-Based Approach application. One of them is the accumulation of skill points and leaderboards – still under construction.)
With so many free online learning resources, like Khan Academy and MOOCs, a young, impressionable student can explore any subject or personal or professional interest and build a good foundation. Personally, I am a big supporter of self-guided learning – something I have been doing for the past seven years.