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Friday, March 6, 2015

Experience API: Tech Dream or Admin Nightmare?

Awhile back I added "tin can?" to my potential article topics and surprisingly this week it came up in conversation at my regular job. So naturally I went on the hunt to teach myself.  I decided to share my findings and hopefully give you some new or different information. For the longest time I've skipped over articles on Experience API because I wasn't completely sure what it was or how I could use it. 

Why not at least have a good idea so I don't sound like a newb in conversations, right? 

What is Tin Can?

Experience API (also known as Tin Can, Tin Can API and xAPI) is an elearning language (Application Program Interface (API)) that allows learning content (courses, articles, video, social sharing and more) across multiple channels (social platforms, mobile devices, computers, books) and learning systems (preferably a Learning Record Store (LRS)) to speak to each other and record learning activities (watching, playing, approving, searching, sharing, listening, reading, writing, thinking, building). 

If you're already in the eLearning field you'll notice some similarities in comparison to SCORM. 

But, the language speaks in a simple syntax of Noun - Verb - Object (usually referred to as "I did this") instead of predefined tags like name, score, and pass/fail. So complex tasks like writing a blog post can become a recorded and scored learning event. It opens up learning experiences to easily include social learning, web based training, instructor lead training, mentoring, just in time learning and informal learning into a program with tracking and reporting. To top it all off, it talks across most devices and platforms and you don't even have to be connected to the internet.

In an article from eLearning Industries (linked below) the comparison was made that Scorm is to Tin Can as DVDs are to Netflix.  Love that analogy!

 What can an Experience API do that SCORM can't?

  • It can take your learning outside of the LMS such as web pages, videos or into documents
  • It records even if your learner switches platforms
  • It can track games, simulations, team based and real world performance
  • It tracks how you're doing on a plan or in regards to a certain goal
  • It listens and records multiple commands instead of just one
  • It doesn't require constant internet connection
  • It recognizes mobile applications
  • It supports advanced technology like gyroscoping, swiping, and geo-caching
  • It speaks and transfers data from one LRS to another making the idea of a personal learning transcript across companies and jobs possible
  • It tracks even when not connected to an LMS
Wow, that's a lot of relevant power!

 How do you use it?

You'll need content that can be published to Tin Can (Lecorta - Yep, Articulate Storyline - Yes sir or ma'am, Captivate - Right indeedy) and a software that can collect and read the API like a LRS. That's just for starters. Then you can add in all your other types of learning activities into the LRS for communication and tracking.

So, what's the catch?

What can't Tin Can do?

Tin Can requires interpretation of each communication which can be time consuming. Because of the ability to customize it requires planning and discipline when deciding what data is accepted and used. This means a company should hire someone with a decent amount of knowledge and experience (or willing to learning quickly) to implement a smooth process. It also allows for self reporting which can lose validity or truthfulness when reporting. 

Ok, I see the (or woman) hours

Who should use API?

If you're familiar with trends and statistics in Learning then you'll know that:

Informal makes up 75% of training plans
More than one third of the world's workplace will be mobile by the end of the year
Just in time learning is on the rise
11 out of 20 companies use a cloud based LMS
Microlearning is on the rise
Learning professionals are asking for big data
Learners want personalized training

Anyone using a diverse training program that uses more then two of these trends should consider implementing an Experience API and LRS. Each item listed above links in with a direct impact by switching. But be prepared for the work of building up the training and being able to consitently record the training. Your company will also need an organized and dedicated employee to manage and streamline the API as well. As technology advances and LRS's become able to create, send and interpret the communications using standardized practices the down fall will diminish.

Is Experience APIs the Future?

Maybe. It all sounds great on paper so it's adoption not spreading like wild fire has to say something. From what I've been able to gather the start up is hard and the struggles are real. Companies that choose to adopt an Experience API are adding it as a complimentary way to track what SCORM and a traditional LMS can report instead of choosing to replace.


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