xAPI Camps offer a day-long immersive experience around the Experience API. Intended to help participants understand the totality of what is possible with xAPI, the content of the camps meets the needs of beginners and experts alike.

The first official xAPI Camp took place in Orlando at the University of Central Florida in 2015. Aaron Silvers and Megan Bowe, of MakingBetter, have developed the agendas of these camps to create engaging whole-day experiences. Aaron and Megan also maintain an archive of speakers and presentations for each xAPI Camp on the Connections Forum website.

The eLearning Guild–sponsored pre-conference xAPI Camp for Learning Solutions 2017, held March 21, was the most recent of these events. Following a guest-host format devised by Making Better, Sean Putman of Learning Ninjas and Janet Laane Effron of HT2 Labs led the day. Sean and Janet are co-authors of the recent xAPI-related book Investigating Performance, which looks at the process of using xAPI from design to data collection and analytics. Sean and Janet help the reader establish a non-technical understanding of xAPI and its usage and then move on to an exploration of data types, strategy, and more. In addition to attending the camp, I interviewed Sean and Janet by phone for this article.

The day’s agenda summarized

Concerning the goal for the Learning Solutions 2017 xAPI Camp, Sean said, “Making xAPI statements is the easy part. Figuring out what to collect and how to use it is a bit more difficult.” Sean and Janet set the goal for the camp in the day’s agenda: to encourage some best-practice considerations about vocabulary and the anatomy of an xAPI statement, and to encourage purposeful, strategic use of the specification. To accomplish this, the schedule for the day alternated presentations to the large group with breakout sessions.

Opening message and current status of xAPI—Sean Putman 

Sean opened the day with some xAPI basics, discussing xAPI vocabulary and how the camp would work. (My team and I have found that the ADL-published vocabulary of Activities and Verbs is very comprehensive in getting your distance learning to report learning activity streams.)

Investigating performance—Janet Laane Effron and Sean Putman

Janet and Sean continued to set the stage for the day and to challenge the attendees with the idea that the best place to begin is with first things first. First, it is best to figure out what data you want to collect, what your strategy is, what the project goals are, and what the customer’s goals are. You need to think about what you are going to do before you do it. Second, you want to get into the xAPI statements and start to understand what they look like.

Introduction to content and data strategy—Janet Laane Effron

Janet encouraged the proper approach of an xAPI implementation with basic understanding of theory. (Theory level—content and data strategy—looking for what is observable, measurable, and actionable.) She also referred to the basics of quantitative and qualitative data, and the importance of stewardship of data.

Content and data strategy—Marty Rosenheck, CEO, Cognitive Advisors

Marty displayed a practical xAPI application, a real-world xAPI client example that described the content and data strategy with a documented process covering the beginning of a project to the end, demonstrating a production interface.

Anatomy of a statement—Sean Putman

Sean provided a high-level description of what goes into an xAPI statement and covered some of the basics that make up statements. He discussed xAPI Extensions, which allow you to add more definition (more context and meaning) to what it is you are trying to describe in xAPI.

Building statements—Anthony Altieri (@aa_altieri), owner, Omnes Solutions

Anthony showed an example of video and the xAPI statements you can get from video. He has been involved with some great work with the xAPI Video CoP (Community of Practice). He started by showing how to read the xAPI code, displaying actual xAPI statements, and he pointed out the human-readable portions of the statements. He also encouraged xAPI practitioners to check to see whether a verb has been created before just making up a new verb. He pointed out that, at the very least, practitioners should follow a best practice of having some internal understanding across training functions so that if the instructional designers in your company are all using the same verbs, you can make sure they are using them to mean the same things. Then, as if that were not enough, Anthony showed an IoT (Internet of Things) xAPI demonstration with a portable LRS (learning record store).

Morning breakout sessions

The camp broke into small groups and focused on setting up data and content strategy. The main objective for this breakout was for participants to begin thinking with the correct mindset. This sparked an impromptu afternoon session with Janet, to accommodate individuals who wanted to continue in order to make progress in defining their xAPI data and content strategies.

DISC update—Aaron Silvers, president and executive director, DISC

The DISC (Data Interoperability Standards Consortium) update was a short presentation about the xAPI Profiles working group kickoff and a call to get involved. According to Aaron:

“The work that DISC is organizing with ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) builds on over two years of research work done by ADL and the community towards tackling a complex challenge. With xAPI, there’s value beyond tracking a single interaction—there’s value in patterns of activity that can be identified as evidence of competency. To provide support to the work of generating, validating, and analyzing data, we need to make it simpler to consistently identify and follow best practices with xAPI. The tools and practices that make use of the xAPI Profiles specification will make working with xAPI far easier for far more people. I can’t be more excited for the months ahead.”

Intro to analytics—Janet Laane Effron

Going beyond participation and performance: How do we use this data so we are not just proving what we think?

Analytics—Phil Antonelli, senior learning development, Conduent

Phil presented the top 10 reasons for organizations to use xAPI, and this is the slide deck I personally want to get my hands on when it appears in the archive. As an xAPI learning technology provider, I think I aligned most with what Phil was discussing here. Highlights were the importance of measuring impact to business objectives—if you can’t connect the top line to the bottom line, then you are not able to quantify training as a value. I especially liked Phil’s comments on the optimization of analytics and reduction of data transformation from proprietary systems.

Margaret Roth, CBDO/co-founder, Yet Analytics

Margaret took us from the beginning of data visualizations in ancient diagrams all the way to the data views that Yet Analytics provides to clients. They allow for concise reporting and pattern recognition in data views. Margaret’s presentation had some great eye candy, but also provided examples of actionable, meaningful data representations.

Afternoon breakout sessions

  • Focus on creating statements and viewing output
  • Analytics using the tools you have
  • Tools output
  • How to sell xAPI in your organization
  • Getting xAPI to work with your LMS
  • Any other open questions and discussions from participants 

Working case studies

Nick Washburn, director, learning division, Riptide Software

I demonstrated work we are doing for the University of Southern California that utilizes our Learnpoints adaptive learning courseware and Storepoints learning record store (LRS). The projects feature xAPI-driven user experience, badging, including integration and xAPI reporting with open-source gaming, and reporting SCORM to LMS.

Megan Torrance, CEO, Torrance Learning

Megan gave an update on the excellent work she is doing for the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum xAPI case study. She wrote an article in Learning Solutions Magazine called “Adventures in xAPI: The Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum Project” to give an idea of the initial project work. Megan also provided an xAPI app that is worth checking out. She stressed that this is a proof of concept only, called xAPI Image and Note Capture (xINC). In my opinion, it is a cool web app prototype that begins to show ways you could share and upload images and notes with xAPI tracking.

Dave Bauer, senior director, learning technologies at MedStar SiTEL

Dave presented a case study on the powerful use of xAPI to baseline and improve performance in Code Blue training. Watershed has an overview of this case study on its website.

xAPI Camp at DevLearn 2017

These are exciting times for xAPI! I am very much looking forward to the next eLearning Guild–hosted xAPI Camp, at DevLearn 2017 in Las Vegas this coming October. An xAPI Camp is a day well spent to keep you engaged and leaning forward into the future of learning technology. Register for DevLearn by Monday, May 15, and save $250 on your registration!