Getting started with a whole new learning technology ecosystem can be intimidating. In my recent research report, 2019: The State of xAPI Adoption, I discussed how many are struggling to build the business case for moving from SCORM to an xAPI ecosystem.
The best way to learn about xAPI and discover what it can do for your organization is to jump in and create a project. Thousands of intrepid L&D professionals have done just that, building initial xAPI projects as a learning experience, to test the waters, or to convince others at their organizations to come on board.
In hopes of prodding some of the nearly half of survey respondents who expressed interest in trying xAPI to do so, we offer several examples of real life xAPI “starter projects.”
Projects for xAPI novices
Initial xAPI projects tend to follow one of three main models:
- Projects geared toward getting more or more relevant data from eLearning
- Projects geared toward gathering data from learning that occurs outside of LMS-based eLearning courses
- Projects geared toward gathering data from non-learning sources
Twice a year, hundreds of learning professionals come together for a free xAPI Learning Cohort, an entirely online experience spanning 12 weeks. These Cohorts break into teams. Each team works on a prototype xAPI project, with some teams and projects spanning multiple Cohorts. A look at the team projects offers examples of each project model. Many participants choose not to do a Cohort project, instead learning by observing until they’re ready to jump in.
Improved eLearning data
SCORM courses generally offer data on completion, possibly on time spent, and quiz scores—and little to nothing else. With xAPI, at least in principle, the sky is the limit.
eLearning authoring tools that offer xAPI support lower that limit somewhat, but there are some advantages to starting here: Your existing tools likely offer some—limited—xAPI functionality. Though they might produce limited data, you’re already familiar with them. Even better, experimenting using tools you have means you can create a proof-of-concept project without asking your managers to shell out for expensive new technology.
In the fall 2019 xAPI Learning Cohort, several teams are taking this approach. Their projects will:
- Create a library that extracts xAPI data from Adobe Captivate courses and examine the data in an LRS (a learning record store)
- Use xAPI to capture moves and choices made while learning role-playing games within an eLearning course
- Study combined LMS and LRS data from a Storyline course launched from an LMS with an integral LRS
Learning data from outside the LMS
A key promise xAPI offers is breaking down data silos across learning tools. A significant proportion of learning happens outside the LMS—in videos, collaboration tools like MS Teams, Slack and Confluence, SharePoint, classroom tools, and through use of surveys, checklists, or eBooks.
Data about these learning experiences generally is not captured or not available to L&D teams or to learners’ managers. xAPI can help out here—data from any of these sources can be a great candidate for an early project.
These projects almost always require some coding skills to get to the underlying data.
Teams in this fall 2019 Cohort have used this approach to attempt to:
- Pull xAPI data from a standard Confluence page, with the aid of a developer. Confluence is a team collaboration tool
- Pull xAPI data from the Microsoft Teams platform, using Microsoft Flow and Watershed LRS
- Explore xAPI data activity streams on media-rich HTML5 pages, seeking deeper learner experience data than traditional eLearning content offers
- Integrate xAPI into a “choose your own adventure video,” track each user’s interactions with the scenarios, and collect data on their choices
- Track learner interactions with EPUB-formatted tools, using Pebl
- Extract data from WordPress websites to better understand the user experience
- Capture learning data from Vimeo to understand what video parts are played, skipped, re-watched, or even played while the learner is multitasking
Data from non-learning sources
The most challenging early prototypes and xAPI projects tend to involve non-learning data. This can mean extracting data from game development platforms like Unity, immersive virtual reality experiences, or activity that occurs in IoT or business systems, like sales, CRM, or manufacturing platforms.
In addition to requiring coding skills, these projects also frequently depend on collaboration with other business functions or teams.
Cohort teams have used this approach to:
- Extract xAPI data from a Unity 3D game
- Generate xAPI statements from Amazon Alexa skills; the scenario they are using is an IT call center seeking data about a “broken computer”
- Create a checklist that generates an xAPI statement each time an item is completed and checked off
- Explore the Early Childhood Education (ECE) xAPI profile, which addresses daily events that occur at preschools and daycares