Experience API (xAPI) Technical Overview

The awesome power and flexibility of the Clear LXP all begins with its underpinning technology.

This article explores the XAPI and gives an insight into how it is being utilised to make learning more engaging, insightful, easy and clear.

The Experience API(XAPI) is an ADL-approved standard that aims to improve the current state of eLearning and solve many of its flaws.

ADL are the governing body behind SCORM that promote the Experience API as the “next generation of SCORM”.

Before the Experience API there was SCORM, SCORM was great because it provided a way for eLearning content to run on multiple learning platforms and track a learner’s progress.

The XAPI on the other hand, can run anywhere and track anything, and this means it’s not just suited for eLearning, it may have started there but we are stillonly beginning to explore where it will end.


What are some benefits?

The Experience API(Tin Can) will offer an enriched learning experience for learners. By taking away many of the technical restrictions of past technologies, content providers will be able to create more diverse activities in a wider variety of formats and mediums.

Team-based and collaborative learning

In the past, technology restrictions meant learners had to take eLearning courses individually without the possibility of collaboration from trainers or other learners. The Experience API now makes collaborative learning possible by lifting these restrictions and providing a means for tracking team-based learning.

It’s possible to produce an eLearning course that allows groups of learners to undertake the training program in conjunction over a network.

The learners then collaborate on activities together, sharing information and learning from each other. Furthermore, trainers could then enter the course themselves and comment on learner progress or leave feedback in realtime.

Offline and mobile learning

Whilst mobile learning has been possible in the past by logging into a Learning Management System with your phone’s browser, the Experience APImakes it possible to provide a more seamless and user-friendly experience for learners by developing native mobile or tablet apps that can track data directly.

Native apps can offer richer and enhanced functionality not possible through the browser, they can even work when an internet connection isn’t available.

When it comes to eLearning, the requirement of a persistent internet connection is a deal breaker for some organisations. Learners may be on the road or in a remote location where the connection is poor. Fortunately, the Experience APImakes offline learning possible by providing a means to store data locally then communicate it back automatically when a connection becomes available. Even if this isn’t an issue, richer content can be delivered offline such as interactive 3D simulations or high-definition video content.


Why use the Experience API (Tin Can) instead of SCORM?

Previously, a learning activity was a very specific object that had to be packaged a certain way and had many limits to the data it could store, and by extension, what an LMS could report about it. In the past, the most common form of learning activity was a SCORM package, and to be fully compliant the content had to be packaged in a particular format so it could be uploaded to a Learning Management System (LMS). There’s no dispute that SCORM was a major improvement over the lawless content formats that came before it, but its rigidness resulted in a number of inhibiting restrictions:

  • Courses had to be accessed through a web browser, even though learning happens everywhere.
  • Courses had to be static, meaning content changes were performed manually then re-uploaded to the system.
  • Reporting was extremely limited, with most courses only reporting a completion status and grade.

Learning activities don’t have to exist on LMS

One of the big differences between the XAPI (Tin Can) and SCORM is the separation of content from the LMS. Placing content outside of the LMS allows us to develop courses with a variety of different technologies for a large number of devices and then only report back to the LMS when necessary.

Not only will package size limitations and server side restrictions be removed, but learning activities will be able to exist on external websites, your computer’s desktop, mobile devices, even the real world! Logically, anything from reading a textbook to attending a seminar is an activity where you learn things so the XAPI (Tin Can) provides a mechanism for tracking real-world activities as well.

A comprehensive view of all learning

For businesses, this means the Experience API (Tin Can) can be used to facilitate mobile learning, record offline training, track social learning as well as all other forms of traditional eLearning that you may already be familiar with. Imagine building a comprehensive record of an employee’s training, both formal and informal, then being able to report on it as a whole.

Imagine doing this for all employees in your organisation and then aggregating the data to build a comprehensive view of the skills and experience of your workforce. You can leverage the XAPI to take advantage of this, and you can do it right now.

Job performance correlation

The Experience API (Tin Can) gets extremely powerful when you take all the learning data above and correlate it with real-world job performance data. Before it was only ever possible to track and report on the progress of an eLearning course, but the openness of the XAPI (Tin Can) standard allows all kinds of data to be placed right alongside your training history.

It’s now all too possible to identify positive learning paths that lead to higher performance, or adversely, weaknesses in a training program that aren’t producing the benefits one might hope for.


LMS vs LRS?

A Learning Management System (LMS) is a central platform for managing all the training in an organisation or educational institution. It allows an administrator to enrol learners into courses, track their progress and generate reports.

The Experience API (Tin Can) introduces the concept of a Learning Record Store (LRS), but it’s important to recognise the distinction between the two. LRS’ are not intended to replace LMS’, they are simply a subset of the LMS that handles storing & retrieving data recorded by learning activities.

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