Think of learning experiences as an ocean of puzzle pieces scattered everywhere. Each of these need to be meticulously identified and linked to translate into ‘the whole picture’. In the training context, this means knowing and tracking everything that the learner does, from reading an ebook to webinars and mobile-based lessons. Eventually, the final image that reveals itself will be a comprehensive view of each individual’s performance and needs, sometimes across their entire career. As Sae Schatz, Ph.D., who serves as the Director of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative, aptly put it ‘xAPI helps us put the puzzle together’.
This attempt to routinely piece together the individual’s ‘learning puzzle’ is key to a more intuitive and agile future of learning.
To truly understand Experience API or xAPI, we need to first talk of Shareable Content Object Reference Model(SCORM) – the popular protocol that allows learning systems to speak with each other. This framework has been working quite well for most organizations. Yet something seemed to be amiss – it was limited to online learning and it didn’t have the power to capture/record most of learning instances between multiple systems and applications.
So, in 2013, the developers of SCORM released xAPI (also known as Tin Can). Considered a massive ‘upgrade’ to SCORM, this new learning standard made it possible to log every part of the learner’s journey. Every click, comment, learning interaction and activity is automatically recorded; whenever and wherever they happen.
Tom who works at company X was asked to undergo a mobile-based tutorial on CRM tools. But after the session, how does the company know if the training helped at all? Is Tom using CRM actively to manage sales activities? Is he helping new colleagues find the ‘merge opportunities’ section in the CRM?
xAPI helps answer these questions and more.
xAPI works by producing simple statements that follow a few basic grammar rules. xAPI statement features “noun, verb, object” (e.g., “Tom completed a mobile tutorial.”)” Here, noun is the learner (Tom) who can have multiple accounts (depending on the system in use) and is identified by e-mail address or OpenId. Verb describes the action (completing a course) exhibited by the learner, while object (mobile tutorial) is what the learner interacted with. Many such detailed statements let you know what e-learning content Tom has interacted with and how he fared at each step of the exercise.
Now imagine that, apart from the online tutorial on the desktop, Tom is also learning about CRM via an educational game on his phone and a video on the corporate LMS. As described above, xAPI will extract click-by-click details about how each of these courses were navigated. Next, this revolutionary open source API will record data about which parts of the course, Tom struggled with and where he breezed through – in real time. It would also extract from the CRM, updates on how Tom’s interaction with the software has changed as compared to before the training. And then, all these particulars would be stored in a learning record store (LRS), or a data storage system.
Further to this, your L&D team can use analytical tools to make sense of this big data and plan for future employee development. Such data would reveal what parts of the session, Tom needs a refresher course in and if he is putting this learning to good use.
Such a holistic view of the business repercussions of learning, was erstwhile difficult to achieve with traditional protocols. But with the help of xAPI, trainers can understand if the learning exercise delivered on its intent at all; and if not how to remedy the situation.
Most L&D professionals can be found grumbling about reporting being a “nightmare” and that they end up spending too much time on structuring and collating fragmented data from various sources. Ultimately, they barely have time to analyze the data and end up not knowing if the training efforts are worth it. Thankfully, xAPI can swoop in to alleviate most of these concerns.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by Software Advice, most users prefer xAPI (over older protocols such as SCORM and AICC) for its advanced tracking and reporting capabilities and course creation flexibility.
Source: Software Advice
As such, xAPI’s ability to meticulously track experiences and enable the personalization of content is perfectly suited for the present scenario where blended, adaptive, long-term and interactive learning experiences are growing in popularity.
On that note, let’s dive into the top 6 benefits that xAPI offers to organizations serious about achieving their L&D goals:
86% of respondents rated improvement of learning and development (L&D) as the most important issue, according to a global survey by Deloitte. And you most likely fall within that subset, convinced about the significant value-addition that xAPI brings to the ‘L&D’ table, if you have read this article thus far.
But still, for argument’s sake, let’s try to derive an answer to this article subhead with a few more questions:
If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions then it’s time to think of how to make xAPI a key part of your training design architecture.
Circling back to the Software Advice survey – only 15% of businesses claimed to use xAPI for their learning courses. This makes xAPI the “least adopted standard among the big three”.
That trend is understandable, considering xAPI is still far too new to the game.
On the other hand, in the Global Sentiment Survey in 2018, most respondents felt that xAPI was the one thing that should have been included into the consideration set. xAPI compliant learning tools such as Whatfix let you embark on this journey with no lag and let you experience the benefits of xAPI, so you can start imagining the possibilities.
So, interest for this new interoperability standard is definitely growing. It is the only standard to deliver diverse and more engaging learning scenarios, along with detailed interaction data that can immediately improve the training.
And that, right there, is the ‘hot’ & ‘new’ future of eLearning.