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Jan 2017

What are we up to with xAPI down-under?

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Shaping the future of learning


Kineo Asia Pacific recently announced a partnership with Learning Locker LRS to deliver an integrated learning platform.  In the first six months of the partnership we have been working on building a set of user cases of how we might evolve a service. The goal has been to not just say we are xAPI compliant, which we were before the partnership, but to evolve this statement into meaningful ways that organisations might wish to introduce xAPI.

  1. Sending Totara specific events as statements

The current Moodle logstore only sends core events from the Moodle platform and while this can work with Totara LMS we want to expand this to include core Totara events. This has been an enlightening way to get into xAPI development where the development of code is trivial but the understanding of a good statement is more involved. What statements have value and how might these be used are the questions we are currently working through. This lead us into the territory of advanced statement design, which is likely to feature as a key skill of the solution architect. 

Specialist Verb Vocabulary
When tracking informal and social learning contexts it may be necessary to use verbs that are beyond the traditional learning ones provided by ADL. The xAPI specification recommends using specific verbs where possible so verb mapping should be part of any solution design. Kineo have been supporting a project with students at Victoria University of Wellington, in which a specific set of verbs used in midwifery was developed to capture the rich learning moments in health care environments.

Statement Referencing - Giving Learner Feedback
Feedback is central to learning processes and so often an earlier submission will result in a received grade. A recommended approach to this is using statement references as objects for the second grading statement. For example, your first statement might read "Learner C submitted a Paper to assessment D" and your second statement might read "Teacher F graded Statement 1 as 'good'". You can then make a query for the first statement that will also return the second statement. In Totara LMS with its performance management and seminar features it is often one individual assessing another's performance for which this type of advanced statement use is crucial. Kineo have developed recipes to support this type of statement use with Totara.

Sub-statements - Implied activity
In some cases a teacher or trainer may trigger an event that implicitly or explicitly implies actions by the learner. A recommended approach to this is sub-statements where one statement also contains implied sub-statements. For example, a trainer may take group attendance in a face-to-face module which would send a statement "Trainer E marked Learner A as having attended Workshop Session B", with a sub-statement that "Learner A attended Workshop Session B". There remains ongoing discussion between ourselves and HT2 around when to use sub-statements and when to use statement referencing.

  1. Embedding a Tin Can xAPI activity in Totara

This is a straight forward case but applies where the learning content is already in a xAPI compliant format but should be launched from the LMS with the LRS credentials passed directly such that the records will appear in the correct LRS. Kineo have implemented the current launcher module for Moodle and successfully tested with several protoypes that exist for this.

  1. Connecting other systems

An LRS is primarily a way to connect systems to support learning. If you only have an LMS then it's not likely to add much value beyond existing reporting available, however once you have 2, 3 or more systems where learning is occurring then it becomes much more difficult to understand what is happening and where. Kineo US have successfully set up a demo involving WordPress, Totara and the Tin Can Golf site, while Kineo APAC are exploring social media integration with Twitter and Facebook. A challenge here is how to manage the ETL (extract, transform, and load) model without missing events or duplication.

  1. Embedding dashboards in Totara

The dashboards could be embedded anywhere but we're starting with Totara to close the loop. Kineo have already licensed High Charts and used this for other reporting. Unlike the use cases above this is the first one where the unique features of Learning Locker come into play where we can use the Aggregation API to quickly retrieve, filter, and adapt visualisation friendly data. Having course engagement dashboards that can be embedded back into the course itself is one example.

  1. Creating a journey

This is definitely a case of saving the best until last. Journeys are a key selling point of Learning Locker where these can be configured to track the state of each user's journey across multiple systems. For example as part of onboarding you might want to measure time to competence, for example, taking a sales scenario the time to competence for a new starter might be when they convert their first sale (or 5 sales in case the first as lucky). With only an LMS we would traditionally track that they did had completed 'Sales 101' and the 'increasing conversion' module and that shows competence. In the xAPI approach we can triage this with CRM data, social media, and emails to create a richer understanding. A journey in Learning Locker would track whether the learner had completed courses, followed up leads, or utilised a prominent network. This can then be integrated back into the learning environment to personalise further learning experiences or reinforce competencies.

Building an eco-system

These use cases are our first steps on our own journey towards a richer learning eco-system. As well as technical challenges it has also highlighted emerging skills and terminology required in the toolkit of a solution architect. While we've made some great first steps we also recognise there is more to go in evolving these use cases. If you're interested in trying one or more of the cases presented or have your own then contact us to find out more about how we can support a pilot with you. 

Flowchart illustrating an eco-system




Shaping the future of learning

Kineo helps the world’s leading businesses improve performance through learning and technology. We’re proud of our reputation for being flexible and innovative, and of our award-winning work with clients across the world.

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