For about 10 years, from 2005 – 2015, much of the discussion about tracking eLearning revolved around the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) and learning management systems (LMS). However, SCORM lacked granularity—it could track only basic events such as activity completions. At the same time, LMS applications were mainly intended to document outcomes for the sake of various regulatory requirements and for curriculum management, not for identifying accomplishments. As the focus of our work in enterprise and government settings moved from training activity to talent development and accomplishments, the lack of granularity presented significant problems for learning designers and managers. This led to the creation of the xAPI, or Experience Application Programming Interface.

From activity to experience

In an April, 2016 Learning Solutions article, Marc Rosenberg explained the basics of xAPI and the benefits it provides. To summarize:

  • xAPI makes it possible to record learning from many sources in a single record-keeping system
  • xAPI allows learning content to be distributed across multiple sources
  • xAPI can capture learning experiences from mobile applications, social learning, eBooks, and from games
  • xAPI does not require learning applications to launch from an LMS or to run in a browser, as SCORM does
  • xAPI does not require learning content to reside on the same server as the LMS that tracks it, as SCORM does
  • xAPI is secure, where SCORM can be hacked

Granularity, evaluation, and design

Much of the focus before 2005 was on summative evaluation of instruction. This was an objective and empirical process—what training activities were completed, were test scores and certifications passed, how many employees had met regulatory or administrative requirements? But instructional designers need to be concerned with more granular evaluation of the content and methods involved in learning, including during development and piloting as well as after implementation. This is not entirely objective and empirical, and the summative information provided by course and test completion is not sufficient to the task.

To perform the types of formative evaluation required, matched to the character of innovative approaches such as adaptive and experiential learning, xAPI is ideal. It can “look inside” the learning experiences and record them in a learning record store (see Marc Rosenberg's article, linked above).

What can you do with xAPI?

Recent articles in Learning Solutions have discussed uses of xAPI, including ones with formative applications:

  • Adding interactivity to video
  • Finding out what users learned from video
  • Tracking video interactions
  • Tracking informal and social learning
  • Using xAPI with interactive eBooks
  • Using xAPI to track use of Alexa skills and performance support
  • What's an LRS, and how do you get data back from one?

The articles, many of them written by Anthony Altieri, explain how to create and implement the code to do many of these things. However, you need to know how to write some code (JavaScript to be exact).

Find out more

At DevLearn Conference & Expo, Anthony Altieri will present a session covering the basics you need in order to implement and use the xAPI in your work as an eLearning designer. “BYOD: Using xAPI in the Real World” will give you the hands-on coding skills you need in order to:

  • Build an xAPI statement with a correct anatomy
  • Document and leverage Activity Streams
  • Send queries to get data back from your LRS
  • Apply techniques to use the data you get back from your LRS
  • Use xAPI in appropriate ways
  • Avoid trying to use xAPI in ways that will not work
  • Set up a learning record store (LRS)
  • Implement xAPI in your organization

Register for DevLearn 2019 by Friday, September 6 and save $100!