Technology & Learning

WHY LEARNING LEADERS SHOULD CARE ABOUT xAPI

This year marks its 20th anniversary of the SCORM standard. Even so, SCORM Version 1.2 is still the dominant standard for formal learning, for most organizational learning technologists.  Lots of effort was spent advancing the standard to the SCORM 2004 version but, by this time, the 1.2 version was so entrenched for web based courses, it became the standard format authored.

If companies wanted to utilize the latest simulations, games, social media and mobility in their learning solutions, it would need to be outside of the SCORM paradigm.

Today, companies deal with a lot of data that often resides in a variety of places within the organization.  One reason for this is, in order to satisfy a short term need, new systems or applications are set up across the organization to support the initiative.   But the L&D team has no way to transfer completion data from one system to another without  IT support.

Adding in another system or another manual process just gives rise to more headaches and more work arounds.

Developing a 3- year plan to get control of learning data should be top of the ‘to do’ list for every L&D department.

Without the capability that a single source of learning records can provide, L&D professionals have no base to test alternatives, to find what works and what doesn’t, and to determine what learning assets map directly back to end user performance. Time is of the essence. Consistent historical data is needed to start benchmarking current performance against past results. Every week that goes by where you are not normalizing the collection of learning data is another week you are letting the future lifeblood of the L&D department slip away.

xAPI: The new Learning standard

xAPI is the new learning standard that, if  followed, will provide a method for how to gather learning activity data between multiple systems. It is a modified acronym of the term “API”, or Application Programming Interface. Before the use of APIs, getting multiple systems to talk with each other required a large amount of code development and integration effort. APIs speed up this process, so basic integration between different software packages is now much easier to accomplish.

The API setup around SCORM is based on the principle that you have a standardized package of learning content you want to load onto an LMS, launch and have the capability  to measure use and completions. But learning has evolved and we’re no longer all about logging into the LMS to launch learning content. Now, we learn from micro-content, located in a wide variety of places, available when we need it.

In creating the xAPI standard, the vision was that learners could learn from any device or situation, so the standard was designed to be as flexible as possible to accommodate real-life learning experiences. This is where xAPI thrives – allowing us to understand what occurred in multiple systems and situations, in a human-readable way.

It takes two to tango

Okay, a new standard is critical but it’s only half the equation.  You also need a standard method to collect the learning results. The Learning Records Store (LRS) is the second element of the standard, with rules on how this data is stored and can be retrieved.

Need more information? Plenty of articles and case studies have been developed over the past four years. At Raytheon Professional Services, our learning consultants can provide guidance and solutions to address challenges related to xAPI.

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