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Tin Can API will replace SCORM?

Consider a monitoring device that monitors the activities of a student or a group of students throughout their course in the classroom, while reading an electronic book on their way home, and engaging in an educational game without the need for logging into any system, even when offline. This is precisely what xAPI accomplishes. However, learners should not feel intimidated by this level of oversight as xAPI only records necessary information to enhance the learning process and make it more streamlined and effective.

An Introduction To Tin Can API

The Experience API (xAPI) is a modern and adaptable eLearning standard that was created in 2013 by the ADL initiative. Its purpose is to capture the learner’s experience in real-time, making it a highly versatile software specification. Originally known as “Project Tin Can”, the development of xAPI was driven by the desire for a more interactive and collaborative approach with the eLearning community. However, it was eventually renamed to Experience API. This new approach tackles contemporary eLearning challenges that previous standards were unable to address.

In short, Tin Can was created to allow you to track more information about the learning behavior of users than was previously available. The existing standard, SCORM, can really only track what’s happening inside an eLearning course–who takes the course, how well they do on the assessment, and things like that.

Experience API was built to expand on that and learn even more about a user’s learning behavior. Curious to know how your employees are learning about compliance policy? Want to know how many people are using the wiki you created to access operational procedures? You may want to explore the Experience API.

Want something more specific? Here’s an interesting use case: xAPI can also be configured to collect information from several LMS’s. When I spoke to Shahrazad, his company was working on a project for a major retailer to gather information from multiple LMS’s and deposit it into one central repository. They were able to use Tin Can to make this happen.

Doesn’t SCORM handle all the data I need to track learners?

In a word, no. Much of SCORM was developed before the widespread adoption of informal/exploratory learning and has a lot of drawbacks in these areas. One major drawback is that SCORM can only function when a course is viewed in a browser, and the browser must be opened from the same domain as the LMS. This may work well in an office setting, but it is not adaptable for a mobile workforce. Furthermore, accommodating these limitations on mobile devices is challenging.

The Tin Can API offers some flexibility in that it allows you to do things like track and deliver eLearning in a native application, instead of a browser. Chris Tompkins from Rustici Software explains further:

“Using the Tin Can API, you can take a more modern approach.  For example, you could build an iOS app that does not care about any of the limitations of SCORM.  You could build a game, tool, learning experience, whatever… and use the Tin Can API to communicate to any LRS that wants to collect the learner’s interactions with that app.  It’s far more flexible than SCORM.”

SCORM was really built to manage communication between a learning object (a course) and a Learning Management System (LMS). Tin Can, on the other hand, can track many other things. Let’s say you were learning about sharks and accessed your company’s wiki on hammerheads–that’s something Tin Can could potentially track. All this information would be stored in an LRS – a Learning Record Store that is unique to each user.

How xAPI Works

Application programming interface (API) is an option to exchange data between various systems, applications, websites, etc.

An xAPI specification describes a Client entity (a course, app, simulation, etc.), also called an Activity Provider, which generates xAPI statements; and an LRS Endpoint, which receives statements and stores them in a database.

An Activity Provider can take various forms such as an LMS, course, video, game, simulator, or medical device. The xAPI statement can be sent immediately or at a later time when internet connection is available. Additionally, the Activity Provider can also update the statement through Tin Can API for actions performed offline. If you have a database of learner data and need to analyze it, you can use xAPI to submit selected data objects to the LRS for the latest results.

Will Tin Can API replace SCORM?

Currently, there is a debate about whether Tin Can can fully replace SCORM, which still holds value in monitoring activity within a learning object. However, Tin Can offers additional features and reporting capabilities that are beyond the scope of what SCORM can handle.

At the moment, Experience can serve as a valuable addition to traditional LMS setups alongside SCORM. However, in the future, it has the potential to completely replace the standards set by SCORM. Shahrazad explains this by stating that while SCORM was suitable for eLearning in office environments with users at desktop computers, a more comprehensive standard is necessary now that learning methods have evolved.

Shahrazad also mentioned a noteworthy scenario where Tin Can can be used to consolidate data from multiple LMSs. He will be discussing this further at DevLearn.

Should we use the Tin Can API at our organization?

The type of data you are seeking to obtain may determine the best course of action. For smaller businesses that do not heavily utilize mobile learning or require tracking of this behavior, the current approach may suffice. However, if you have a desire to gather diverse and comprehensive data on your user base and have the ability to make decisions based on the findings, it may be worth considering utilizing Experience. Companies such as Saltbox, Float, Rustici, and other eLearning organizations that support Tin Can implementations would likely encourage you to explore the potential benefits. If you have any objections to this suggestion, please feel free to leave a comment.

If you are finding an eLearning authoring tool to create online xAPI courses for your training, SmartTutor 360 may be an ideal option. It helps create interactive quizzes, software simulations, gamification, and more. Furthermore, don’t forget to visit our websitetutorials and YouTube channel to learn more.

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