The Role of xAPI in Creating Powerful Learning Experiences for the Modern Workforce

eLearning as a training medium to foster learning at the workplace has been in existence for over two decades now. From early adopters who used archaic systems to set up a lesson that could be shared on one computer with an instructor to guide employees, to modern workplace learning that’s focused on xAPI-enabled mobile learning; eLearning at the workplace has traveled a long way.

Have you wondered how all eLearning programs follow a specific structure and adhere to standards despite being unique learning elements? It is all because of learning standards that were put into place to ensure consistency in designing and deploying learning solutions.

Have you wondered how all eLearning programs follow a specific structure and adhere to standards despite being unique learning elements? Click To Tweet

 

xAPI

AICC and SCORM – The Core Standards of eLearning

AICC stands for Aviation Industry CBT (Computer-Based Training) Committee. Designed specifically to cater to eLearning courseware designed for use in the aviation industry, the standards were adopted by course-providers to create eLearning content for all industries. The earlier version of these standards was designed for course content delivered via CD-ROMs. In 1998, as web-based eLearning began to find favor the standards were expanded to include Internet-Based / Web-Based Training.

SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. This was originally devised as a learning standard to facilitate easy sharing and re-use of online eLearning content for the United States Department of Defense. The SCORM API enabled easy interaction and communication between the actual online course and the LMS in which the eLearning content is deployed. Over the years, SCORM has seen various improvements and version updates. The most commonly used SCORM variants are SCORM 1.2 and SCORM 2004.

AICC and SCORM each came with their own set of limitations. As eLearning gravitated towards online delivery and synchronous learning, SCORM became more popular and AICC lost favor with companies designing and deploying eLearning solutions.

A Decisive Announcement

January 9, 2007 holds special significance in the annals of modern technology. Can you guess what happened on that day? On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs announced iPhone at the Macworld convention. On June 29, 2007, the first iPhone was released. In tandem with all the attention that the iPhones were getting, Google was playing its own game of dominance with its Android operating system and partnering with Device manufacturers to design and ship powerful devices. 2010 saw Google’s Nexus line of phones and that’s when the craze for apps shot through the roof.

Now there was one more medium to access eLearning – tablet or mobile computing devices and smartphones. SCORM was not enough to track user/learner progress. There was an urgent requirement to devise a standard/solution that would help learning administrators monitor learner progress for learners accessing learning content on mobile devices.

Project TinCan

xAPI or Experience API is the outcome of Project TinCan that started in 2010. It was originally a research project that was awarded to Rustici Software by ADL. xAPI’s remarkable growth and evolution as an eLearning specification is truly heralding a transformation in the way eLearning is being created and deployed globally. Traditional learning management systems can only capture details of learner-activities within the LMS when the learner is connected to the system. xAPI is an eLearning specification that makes it possible to collect data about the wide range of experiences a person has within online and offline training activities. xAPI’s use of a shared format for receiving and sending data makes xAPI an ideal tool for sharing learning between multiple systems and applications.

xAPI or Experience API is the outcome of Project TinCan that started in 2010. It was originally a research project that was awarded to Rustici Software by ADL. Click To Tweet

To summarize, xAPI enables learning administrators to track offline learning or learning that the learner participates in outside the core LMS/learning platform (like mobile apps or games). You could also visit the official xAPI website for more details on how this works.

Why xAPI Matters?

As stated multiple times on this blog, we have seen a steady shift in how eLearning is being consumed by the modern workforce. As people juggle busy schedules at work, relationships, and family commitments; expecting people to sit together in one room for a long training session facilitated by an instructor is proving cumbersome for organizations. Learners / employees need a solution that does not intrude upon their work-hours and allows them to learn at their convenience. This is where eLearning created specifically for mobile devices and that can be accessed via learning apps gains prominence.

Organizations around the world are taking that extra effort to create unique eLearning content that’s designed specifically to be accessed on smartphones. This is a step forward from responsive design websites accessed on mobile browsers. This is actual eLearning content designed for smartphones that can be accessed via learning apps and learning experience platforms. Here’s wherein xAPI plays a crucial role. It’s integration within learning delivery platforms and apps ensures that learner progress is tracked accurately. In an increasingly data-driven world, this is of great significance. The Learning Record Store or LRS is the heart of the xAPI system. It is a system that receives, processes, and transmits data. The LRS enables the tracking part of the learning experience and is the very basis of the xAPI system to work effectively.

The Learning Record Store or LRS is the heart of the xAPI system. It is a system that receives, processes, and transmits data. Click To Tweet

xAPI can be used for:

  • Generating Refined Learning Analytics Data
  • Creating Better Blended Learning
  • Designing Adaptive Pathways
  • Deploying Just-in-Time Performance Support Learning
  • Mentoring New Employees in an Organization
  • Fostering Team Learning
  • Propagating BYOD and Multi-device Learning
  • Filtering and Enhancing LRS to LRS communication
  • Setting Up Open Badges

Watch this video from Rustici Software to learn how TinCan/xAPI can be used:

Key Benefits of xAPI

Listing down some of the key benefits of xAPI that makes it an integral part of eLearning.

Informal Learning

A research study by Anna Dollerup Lind Larsen of Aalborg University, Copenhagen is quite informative and insightful. Titled – ‘Informal Learning at Work the thesis shows that informal learning continues to play a significant role in the dissemination of knowledge at work. Not everything is learnt from the mandatory program deployed on the company LMS. People learn from videos on YouTube, analyzing code from repositories like GitHub, or reading eBooks. xAPI ensures that informal learning is tracked.

No Internet? No Worries

This is one of the biggest advantages of using xAPI. It does not require 24/7 Internet connectivity. A learner can complete the learning activity offline, the activity statement will be recorded and stored to the Learning Record Store (LRS) when Internet connectivity resumes. In developing countries, where full-scale data connectivity is still a pipe-dream; this is a big-big deal.

True Mobile Learning

When we talk about ‘True Mobile Learning’ we are not talking about responsive websites or screens that scale down automatically. xAPI does not need a dedicated ‘Web Browser’ to run courses. Learning Designers can design and deploy eLearning courses for smartphone users through dedicated mobile apps.

As learning apps continue to become more powerful and interactive, xAPI will play a key role in hastening the transition of workplace learning from the LMS to the LXP and dedicated mobile learning apps.

As learning apps continue to become more powerful and interactive, xAPI will play a key role in hastening the transition of workplace learning from the LMS to the LXP and dedicated mobile learning apps. Click To Tweet

Tracking Learner Progress

xAPI is designed to track learner progress across different scenarios. So, whether you choose to integrate blended learning, simulations, puzzling assessments, or interesting games within your eLearning program, xAPI will help you track learner progress with ease. To add on, all this will happen in real-time. So, as and when a learner completes any specific task, the data will get added to the LRS and the learning administrator will have valuable data.

This will help provide information to build course recommendation engines, which will recommend new programs to learners. xAPI is like a magic genie that keeps offering gifts to learners, learning experience designers, and course administrators. The future is all about data and personalized learning paths that are catered to the needs and skills of each individual learner. xAPI offers full control to learning administrators and companies to track learner progress across different stages of learning.

Industry Case Studies

The TryxAPI website is a good resource to learn about the implementation of xAPI by different organizations. AT&T Inc. is a leading American telecommunications giant with over 2,43,000 employees working across diverse locations. Updates to the Employee Code Course to streamline the experience and support mobile saved 670,562 production hours and 160,380 employee course hours. This case study details how AT&T used xAPI to track learner progress and ensure that all employees completed the compliance training program.

The Network, Inc. is a leading provider of Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC) services. With a clientele that includes the top names in the Fortune 500 List, the organization caters to over 27 million employees globally. At any given time, a typical communication and training program for a large client would mean deploying training in 30 languages to over 60,000 users. Successful worldwide deployments to several large clients of The Network were completed in over twenty different languages. This case study describes how xAPI played a key role in helping The Network, Inc. deploy a mobile learning solution with integrated data-tracking capabilities.

 

Our Own Experience

Origin was tasked by a leading food and beverage giant with a global presence to come up with a solution that would help track employee learning and progress across all their offices. The project had multiple layers to it; involving content creation, design, deployment, and the all-important tracking and analytics function. A large repository of content is managed and hosted outside the client LMS. The successful completion of the project helped the F&B giant cut down its global training times and costs by up to 50% and reported faster onboarding and training completion times. This translated into huge savings for the L&D and Recruitment teams of the F&B giant.

Deterrents in Adopting xAPI

xAPI is still considered to be a niche area and organizations are wondering if it will deliver value in switching to xAPI-compliant systems. Added to this the high initial costs of hiring trained staff to design, test, and deploy such XAPI-compliant/based learning solutions are proving to be a minor deterrent. It comes down to the demand-supply chain as well. As more organizations and training providers demand xAPI-compliant products, eLearning organizations will wake up to the demand and switch to xAPI with rapid speed.

As more organizations and training providers demand xAPI-compliant products, eLearning organizations will wake up to the demand and switch to xAPI with rapid speed. Click To Tweet

What to Consider when Adopting xAPI?

  • Do I need to track learner progress?
  • Will my learning solution work both offline and online?
  • Will my target audience access learning through the core LMS or through learning apps?
  • Will I need to build a course recommendation engine?
  • What value-additions can I offer to my clients by investing in an xAPI-compliant learning system?

If you are in the business of eLearning and want to stay ahead of your competitors, then it will be wise for you to invest in xAPI-compliant learning solutions. We saw the limitations of SCORM and AICC. As eLearning transitions more towards learning apps and LXPs, it is essential that you focus on building xAPI-compliant learning systems. It may seem like a major investment now, in terms of hiring the right candidates and putting all the requisite hardware and software in place; but trust my words xAPI will become the mandatory norm in eLearning much sooner than expected. If your organization plans to build a new LXP or a learning app, then xAPI will be a key part of your product’s design architecture. So be prepared for the future – get onboard the xAPI train.

Origin_xAPI

Get Ready for the Future of eLearning

The next couple of years will see the bulk of corporate learning and training shift entirely to mobile learning devices and apps and xAPI will be the standard that helps track learner analytics. It is a throwback to the times when ‘SCORM-compliance’ was a mandatory requirement for eLearning. Looking at the way things are headed with increasing investments in mobile learning apps; ‘xAPI-compliance’ will become a mandatory requirement for eLearning solutions.

Further Resources:

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