Learning About the Newest Way to Track Learning
Experience API has become a valuable tool to your learning development repertoire. So valuable in fact that you can’t just say e-learning development. It has allowed developers to open a new avenues to how we deliver learning content. More importantly, it opens up what kinds of learning experiences we can track.
Over time we will cover a lot of different aspects of Experience API and it’s implementation. For now, let’s start with some basic concepts about Experience API. This will help you keep it in perspective and understand where it is going.
Six Things to Know
Tin Can, xAPI, and Experience API are the Same
When the idea of creating this new standard came about through the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative, a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) was issued and Rustici Software won the award. The project was turned over for development to Rustici Software. Most software companies will give development projects a “codename” to describe it during development. Rustici called this one Project Tin Can. Part of the idea was that it would allow for two-way communication. The developers thought of the old Tin Can Telephone some of us played with as kids. Once the official name of Experience API was officially christened, too many people didn’t like having to write something that long all the time. In addition, techies like their abbreviations, nicknames, and acronyms so the shorter name of xAPI was born. So, technically, the name Tin Can is obsolete but still used in some circles. Experience API and xAPI are appropriate to use interchangeably.
ADL is Primarily Responsible for Experience API
Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) is the organization formed by the U.S. government to be responsible for the development and maintenance of standards for technology delivered learning. They are the primary organization responsible for SCORM and it’s many versions. They were the catalyst for xAPI. While it was developed by a private third-party, ADL is still primarily responsible for the maintenance of the standard.
Experience API is an Open Standard
It was part of the plan that xAPI would be open and available to all, both from a usage and a development standpoint. In fact, part of what makes xAPI so useful is that you can derive your own uses for it while still having a common base to work from. Think of technologies like Linux and PHP that have gone the same route.
Interoperability is Key
By creating a common core of communication methods and fewer restrictions than SCORM on the content of the statements, Experience API allows for a greater number of options for activity providers, data systems, and types of activities. Therefore, we now have a greater number of learning activities we can track, not just e-learning. Read a book, join a discussion group, or access an app on a smartphone and xAPI can issue statements to track it.
It Doesn’t Totally Replace SCORM
The ONE BIG THING that xAPI still doesn’t do better than SCORM is track e-learning. The majority of organizations are heavily vested now in e-learning. They have large e-learning libraries and Learning Management Systems (LMS), Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS), and Talent Management Systems (TMS). While xAPI can work within them to an extent the utilization of SCORM is still the best way to make this happen.
Eventually, e-learning itself may evolve and SCORM will no longer meet the needs of new courseware. At that time, it is likely that part of that evolution will be to embrace more of what xAPI can do for an e-learning course. Until then, SCORM is still the king of e-learning tracking and reporting.
It’s Not Done
So Experience API was developed and eventually designate a release version. But it doesn’t stop there. It was made an open standard for a reason and in order for it to remain relevant xAPI will have to continue to evolve as technology and needs change. And the entire community will be able to contribute to that.