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Jun 2016

Tin Can or xAPI?

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Shaping the future of learning

Either – they mean the same thing. Tin Can API was the working name and the Experience API (xAPI) is the official release title, however Tin Can got a lot of traction so people use them interchangeably.

What is it?

Tin Can xAPI is a standard for describing experiences that is based on a noun-verb-object triplet, such as “James posted to the forum”.

At the technical level a richer set of meta-data is captured to support this statement such as the date and time, the system that generated it, the credentials of the user, and perhaps the content of the post.

However the API is nothing more than a way of defining a statement in a specified format that offers*:

  • Statement freedom 
    the structure can record almost any activity
  • History freedom
    experiences can follow you from one organisation to another
  • Device freedom
    any enabled device can send Tin Can API statements
  • Workflow freedom
    tracking learning events doesn’t have to start or end in an LMS.

How do I use it?

In order to use the API you must have at least two components: (1) a Learning Record Store (LRS) to store received statements; and (2) a device capable of producing Tin Can xAPI statements. Content authoring tools or platforms that publish that they are xAPI compliant are likely to fall into the latter category, which without the LRS are not useful.

You will probably also want an analytics or reporting interface connected to the LRS in order to get insights from the data. Another application may be using the LRS to generate badges or certificates.

What can it capture?

Just about anything you can record. These can be generated from digital systems or can be entered into learning logs or other capture forms manually. Capturing the big formal learning experiences are pretty easy and the LMS and SCORM have been doing this for some time. Capturing more of the informal and the social learning experiences is something that is now a possibility, as is capturing more nuances within learning interactions. 

This blog was previously published on prior to Nine Lanterns being acquired by City & Guilds in October 2015. 



Shaping the future of learning

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