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Pathway Overview

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

In this Pathway Overview, we outline the current Pathway Work Group (PWG) proposal for a new CTDL Pathway specification. We will be in the consensus period for the proposal between the 2018 November 30 joint meeting of the PWG and the TAG and the presentations and discussion of the propsal with the other CE advisory groups on 10 January 2019. We anticipate that there will be additional refinements during the consensus period due to the additional input. PWG and TAG members wanting to comment on the propsal should see Section 8. Submit Comments for links to the PWG and TAG discussion forums.

2. Definitions and Scope

2.1 Pathway

In the context of Credential Engine, a pathway is comprised of structured sets of objectives and qualifying conditions defining points (milestones) along a route to fulfillment of a job, occupation or career. Qualifying conditions include homogeneous or heterogeneous sets of prescribed, preferred or recommended evidentiary artifacts such as competencies attained (knowledge, skills, abilities), relevant awards, other forms of recognition such as credentials earned and relevant experience.

Candidate artifact classes currently include:

  • Assessment
  • Basic
  • Competency
  • Co-Curricular Activity
  • Course
  • Credential
  • Extracurricular Activity
  • Job
  • Work Experience

† = Type of artifact not covered by the enumerated set of artifact classes

The pathway's ecosystem is generally comprised of two broad classes:

  1. Individual Learner Pathway (ILP). Pathways describing points along the personal journey a learner is pursuing or has pursued; and
  2. Organizational Pathway (OP), Pathways describing points along a prescribed or recommended route as defined by organizations, collaborations or institutions.

Credential Engine's focus is on the definition and description of OPs and not ILPs. While out of scope of the PWG, the importance of ILPs to OPs should not be underestimated or the need for close collaboration between developers of OP and ILP data models undervalued. A robust and dynamic pathways ecosystems will likely depend on ILP data, along with evolving workforce needs, to inform development of OPs. Thus, collaboration between the work of the PWG and other groups (e.g., {IMS' Comprehensive Learner Record Work Group]( is to make sure CE maximizes the potential for each class of pathway to inform and support the other.

Since the goal of the CE pathway work is to enable the representation of pathways developed by a broad array of organizations for an equally broad array of OP purposes, the following are out of scope for the CE PWG work:

  1. Determining what constitutes a best practice for designing pathways.
  2. Identifying how people/organizations should determine pathways.

2.2 Pathway Expression

A Pathway Expression is an informal notion of a machine actionable encoding of either a single Pathway or an aggregation of logically related Pathways defining alternative paths that are bound together in a single expression.

As defined, the basic building blocks of a Pathway form an (RDF) directed graph as illustrated by the following figure where we see a Pathway pointing to a Pathway Component identified as the destination milestone or root node of the pathway (e.g., a bachelor degree in nursing) and a set of preceding Pathway Components defining earlier milestones back to an origin (e.g., a high school diploma).


However, a Pathway Expression may describe more complex circumstances such as alternative paths to the same destination, or a destination may be more diverse---e.g., a career cluster or a more general destination such as programming and software development. The following figure illustrates a pathway modeling of alternative paths to the same destination.


3. Use Cases

  1. Education & Career Planning: Support students and workers search and plan for career pathways including pathway options through stackable and latticed credentials and career clusters.
  2. Credential Discovery: Find one or more types of credentials that best meet a person’s career and/or education goals along career and education pathways that provide the: a. best transfer value for credentials they have already earned; and b. potential to stack and build on other credentials.
  3. Education & Career Transitions: Identify education and career paths or progressions based on: a. degree of transfer value; and b. potential to stack and build on other credentials.
  4. Competency Analysis: Identify education and career paths in terms of the competencies that they require; a. represent current achievement of desired competencies based on competency alignments of held credentials. b. discover relevant credentials for each competency on a pathway/job profile from multiple providers.

4. Conceptual Model

The CE pathways conceptual module is comprised of six classes: Agent, Pathway, PathwayComponent, ComponentCondition, RuleSetProfile and RuleSet. These classes and the primary relationships between them are illustrated below.

2018-11-26 pathway trial

Each class is defined as follows:

Class Description
Agent Organization or person that acts or has the power to act.
Pathway Entity comprised of structured sets of objectives and qualifying conditions defining points along a route to fulfillment of a job, occupation or career. Pathway entity represents a pathway as a whole and frequently includes a reference to an instance of PathwayComponent that serves as the root or destination node of the pathway.
PathwayComponent A PathwayComponent describes an objective and its completion requirements through reference to one or more instances of ComponentCondition. PathwayComponent serves as a defined point---a milestone---along the route of a Pathway.
ComponentCondition ComponentCondition describes what must be done to complete one PathwayComponent [or part thereof] as determined by the owner of the Pathway. A ComponentCondition references a single RuleSet entity with values ascertained through application of that set of rules.
RuleSet RuleSet identifies the rules by which other PathwayComponent instances satisfy a PathwayComponent objective. In order to meet varying circumstances, there will likely be more than one recognized RuleSet. While the CE defines the RuleSet as a class, it is assumed that as rule sets emerge, they will likely be defined in a number of non-CE namespaces.
RuleSetProfile RuleSetProfile defines the application of a RuleSet to a particular ComponentCondition.

For the remainder of this Overview, we'll illustrate each class using snippets of JSON-LD encoding of a pathway description based on the image below of a transfer pathway for an Associate of Science Degree in Computer Science from Bakersfield College to the California State University. The pathway moves from left to right covering the four terms of a 2-year community college program. The upper half of the image represents the "core" courses for the degree. The horizontal lines between courses represents the course prerequisite linking structure.

The bottom half of the figure represents general education courses. Unlike the top half, there is no apparent prerequisite structure. Note that the bottom right node in the figure presents a set of alternative history and philosophy courses from which a student is expected to pick one. Note that several other general education components also present such alternatives. We'll address how these kinds of choices are handled below in the Section 4.4.

ccc bakersfield-1

4.1 Agent

The Pathway's model does not define any properties for the Agent class and assumes that appropriate agents defined within relevant contexts will be referenced from the Pathway entity as ownerBy the Pathway. For example, an instance of the CTDL CredentialOrganization class could use a ctdl:owns property to reference one of its pathways. In like fashion, that Pathway instance could reference its owner via ctdl:ownedBy--as illustrated in the JSON-LD code snippet in the following section.

4.2 Pathway

The Pathway class describes the pathway as a whole including (but not limited to) name and description of the pathway, reference to its owner, and identifies a root (destination) PathwayComponent where such a component is present (see discussion below in PathwayComponent).

   "@type": "Pathway",
   "@id": "",
   "name": "Associate of Science Degree: Computer Science",
   "description": "Transfer pathway for the Bakersfield College Associate of Science Degree: Computer Science to the California State University",
   "hasRootComponent": "",
   "source": "",
   "ownedBy": ""

4.3 Pathway Component

The PathwayComponent class is a superclass identifying a family of subclasses that define specific PathwayComponent sub-types. The PathwayComponent represents individual milestones along a pathway's journey. The PathwayComponents for a particular Pathway may be comprised of instances of a single subclass identified in the table below or a mix of the subclasses.

Subclass Description
AssessmentComponent Direct, indirect, formative, and summative evaluation or estimation of the nature, ability, or quality of an entity, performance, or outcome of an action.
BasicComponent General purpose entity for describing a sub-class of PathwayComponent not otherwise covered by the enumerated subclasses.
CocurricularComponent Activities, programs, and informal learning experiences such as a civic or service activity outside the classroom that supplement and complement what is being learned in the classroom.
CompetencyComponent Description of measurable or observable knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to successful performance of a person in a given context. Competency is broadly defined to include assertions of academic, professional, occupational, vocational and life goals, outcomes, and standards, however labeled.
CourseComponent Structured sequence of one or more educational activities that aims to develop a prescribed set of knowledge, competence or ability of learners.
CredentialComponent Qualification, achievement, personal or organizational quality, or aspect of an identity typically used to indicate suitability.
ExtracurricularComponent Entity describing an activity that may be offered or provided by a school, college, or other organization that may not be connected to a course or academic program.
JobComponent Entity describing a specific job or occupation.
WorkExperienceComponent Entity describing training experience a person gains while working in a specific job or occupation; frequently unpaid.

While all of the subclasses share basic descriptive properties, each has additional properties particular to the subclass. While a basic set of properties are set out in the Pathway Terms document, additional properties will be added as experience is gained describing existing pathways.

Relationships between PathwayComponents in a Pathway are of two types: (1) simple binary relationships expressed as simple assertions in RDF---e.g., PathwayComponent===prerequisite===>PathwayComponent; and (2) complex relationships expressed through use of the ComponentCondition class (see Section 4.4)--e.g., where the required condition is to pick a specified number of PathwayComponents from an array of available choices.

The following JSON-LD code snippet illustrates a PathwayComponent of the subclass CourseComponent for the course "Programming Concepts and Methology II" with a simple prerequisite assertion.

   "@type": "CourseComponent",
   "@id": "",
   "name": "Programming Concepts and Methology II",
   "creditUnitType": "",
   "creditUnitValue": 3.0,
   "courseCode": "COMP B12",
   "programTerm": "2nd Term",
   "programLevel": "Core",
   "prerequisite": ""         

A Pathway Expression may or may not define a single point of origin or destination PathwayComponent. The latter may occur where the pathway defines an aggregation of logically related Pathways defining alternative path choices that are bound together in a single pathway expression.

4.4 Component Condition

The ComponentCondition class "... describes what must be done to complete one PathwayComponent (or part thereof) as determined by the issuer of the Pathway". An instance of ComponentCondition must reference an instance of RuleSet defining the 'algorithm' or process to be applied by the ComponentCondition --- e.g., one RuleSet might define the constraints on picking a CourseComponent from an array of such components while another RuleSet might set a level of confidence (or other constraint) that must be met before a WorkExperienceComponent satisfies the conditions.

While a PathwayComponent may have more than one ComponentCondition, each ComponentCondition may be associated with only one RuleSet. Initially, we are using an extension of a simple, but widely applicable "count rule" ruleset (by Badgr/IMS CLR) that defines the constraints on picking a number of PathwayComponent instances that is less than or equal to an enumerated array of such components. We have extended the count rule here to also include being able to set a minimum and maximum of required components to be selected from the array (e.g., a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5 out of those available). Development of more complex RuleSets will occur as experience requires.

The following JSON-LD example code snippet illustrates an instance of CourseComponent with a ComponentCondition that uses the "count rule" to pick one PathwayComponent from an array of two such candidate (target) components. Note that the RuleSet has been identified by an example URI--uniquely identifying it globally.

   "@type": "CourseComponent",
   "@id": "",
   "programTerm": "3rd Term",
   "creditUnitValue": 3.0,
   "hasCondition": {
       "@type": "ComponentCondition",
       "description": "Selection of one course from PHIL B9 or ENGL B28",
       "hasRuleSet": {
           "@type": "RuleSetProfile",
           "ruleSetType": "",
           "countRuleType": "",
           "requiredNumber": 1
       "targetComponent": [

4.5 Rule Set and Rule Set Profile

In Section 4 above, we defined a RuleSet as an entity that "identifies the rules by which other PathwayComponent instances may satisfy a PathwayComponent objective". A RuleSetProfile identifies the particular RuleSet used by the ComponentCondition in the example above and resolves any variables in the rules to reflect the circumstances of the ComponentCondition. For example, with the "count rule"--defined in a RuleSet, you may be required to indicate the number of PathwayComponents to select from an array of PathwayComponents that satisfies the rule. It is in the RuleSetProfile that the number satisfying the rule is declared.

Example/Potential Rule Sets

1. Count Rule:

Choose a specific number of PathwayComponents ≦ the number of PathwayComponent choices in an array. A slightly more complex rule might require choosing a minimum and maximum number of PathwayComponents---e.g., with a CourseComponent, a minimum and maximum number of PathwayComponents or a number of PathwayComponents totaling a specific number of credit hours.

2. Boolean Rule:

       ((PathwayComponent-A OR (PathwayComponent-B AND PathwayComponent-C)) 
       (PathwayComponent-D OR PathwayComponent-E))

3. Weighted/Boolean Rule:

       ([PathwayComponent-A AND confidence: >0.6] AND [PathwayComponent-B AND confidence:>0.6])
       ([PathwayComponent-C AND confidence:>0.9] OR ( [PathwayComponent-D] AND [PathwayComponent-C])

5. Term Definitions

The CE Pathway's domain model is currently comprised of the following:

  • 14 CTDL classes
    • 1 existing class
    • 13 new classes
  • 41 CTDL properties
    • 10 new properties
    • 31 existing properties

A complete listing of the defined properties and classes (terms) including their definitions can be found at Pathway Terms.

6. Pathways Work Group Members

  • Jeff Bohrer, IMS Global Learning Consortium
  • Amie Bloomfield, NOCTI and Nocti Business Solutions
  • Carla Casilli, LA Counts
  • Caryn Chaden, DePaul University
  • Deb Everheart, Cengage
  • John Foster, NOCTI
  • Jonathan Furr, Education Systems Center at NIU
  • Bill Guest, Metrics Reporting, Inc.
  • Amy Heitzman, UPCEA
  • Joshua Hester, ITCC/Kaplan Professional
  • Lesley Hirsch, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development
  • Laurel Hogue, University of Central Missouri
  • Chris Houston, Capella University/IMS
  • Shawn Hulsizer, CAEL
  • Alexander Jackl, Bardic Systems, Inc.
  • Mark Leuba, IMS Global Learning Consortium
  • Ronald Mitchell Virgil Careers
  • Jane Oates, Working Nation
  • Nate Otto, Concentric Sky
  • Rodney Parks, Elon University
  • David Ramsay, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development
  • Fritz Ray, Eduworks
  • Art Recesso, University System of Georgia
  • Alma Salazar, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Samantha Sanders, Career and Technical Education
  • Gregory Sedrick, Tennessee Board of Regents
  • Mary Anne Sheahan, Vermont Talent Pipeline / Vermont Business Roundtable
  • Bob Sheets, GWU Institute of Public Policy
  • Roy Swift, workcred

7. Example Encodings

A full JSON-LD encoding of the Bakersfield College pathway used above can be found here.

8. Submit Comments

Comments on this proposal can be made through either the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Google Group forum, or the Pathway Working Group (DWG) Google Group forum.