Exploring the capabilities of xAPI

Haitham Gasim, the Kineo US Director of Technology has been on a quest to dig deeper into xAPI and thinking about how Kineo can implement xAPI in order to better serve our clients.

This past Spring, I participated in an educational cohort about xAPI. The purpose of the Spring 2016 xAPI cohort, hosted by Torrance Learning, was to learn more about the Experience API (xAPI). Our group, which consisted of about 10 members, was tasked with implementing an integration between a learning platform and a learning record store. All our meetings and communication took place over Google Hangouts and email correspondence. 

I’m particularly interested in how Kineo can employ xAPI capabilities within the context of a learning platform, and wanted to explore what types of information learning platforms will be able to gather and decipher from the experiences learners go through.

What is xAPI?

The Experience API (xAPI), formerly known as Tin-Can API, is a standard that allows communication between learning entities for the sake of tracking the learning experiences exhibited by the learners. xAPI came into play mainly because of the limitations that are inherent in the SCORM e-learning standard. Examples of the SCORM limitations are:

  • Only a handful set of data items could be tracked and reported back to a learning platform
  • SCORM can’t easily track content objects hosted outside the learning platform
  • SCORM can’t track or report back on informal learning activities

What xAPI provides is the means to track and report on every action, if needed, in the form of xAPI statements. An xAPI statement is comprised of three simple parts:  a actor, a verb and an activity. For example, ‘Jane Smith completed 2016 Compliance Training’ where ‘Jane Smith’ is the actor, ‘completed’ is the verb and ‘2016 Compliance Training’ is the activity.

xAPI statements get written to a Learning Record Store (LRS), which is essentially a database responsible for storing the data residing within every statement.

For more information on xAPI, be sure to read James Ballard’s post Tin Can or xAPI?

Our xAPI Cohort Project

Within our cohort group project, we built a prototype to showcase an integration between a Learning Platform, a Content Management System and an LRS. We used Moodle, Wordpress and the SCORM Cloud LRS as the LMS, CMS and LRS respectively. Learners login to the LMS and launch courses that are hosted in the CMS. Simultaneously, learners could also login to the CMS and interact with either a video or a game.

Experiences in the form of statements get written to the LRS as the learners interact with both the formal and informal learning objects. Learners are able to view the statements they generate on a dashboard in the LMS.

My Key Takeaways

xAPI provides a set of tools that could be used to address some shortcomings that are inherent in today's elearnings. Below are some insights about what I have learned:

  • xAPI has the ability to continuously measure the effectiveness of the content from a learning perspective. An example would be measuring the time learners spend on a screen and adjusting the content accordingly if, on average, the duration is deemed excessive.

  • Personalization based on learners’ history could be achieved by analyzing their performance data and selectively catering what will 'work for them' to them. xAPI creates an automatic feedback loop that will eventually render better individual and group performances through the refinement of training material to be delivered to them.

  • The infusion of micro-learning, social learning, and gamification could potentially eliminate any residual boredom factor.

  • There are considerable cost savings from a training and IT perspective. An organization’s training expenses could be significantly reduced through proper evaluation of the learners’ prior experiences. Pieces of content that were taken previously or do not pertain to the individual could be circumvented, resulting in the saving of training man hours costs for organizations.

  • Last but not least, xAPI provides full coverage of the 70:20:10 learning model, because it enables organizations to track not just formal training events, but also informal events –like reading a book – or on-the-job learning.