Technology & Learning

xAPI: NOT FOR DUMMIES

Starting the Journey

The xAPI learning concept is a simple concept of actor – verb – object: I did this.  It can be very powerful but putting this new learning standard into practice is not for “Dummies”.

The evolution from SCORM to xAPI appears logical and simple but also has to include governance standards and a plan on what to do with the data to be gathered. Picture yourself going to a State Fair and trying to decide which of the 45 different fried concoctions you want to try.  They all look interesting, and you’re curious, but want to hear some feedback before you try any of these things.

Individual learning has evolved rapidly and takes place roughly 90 percent of the time outside formal corporate learning. We’re no longer all about logging into the LMS to launch learning content. Experientially, we learn from micro-content, located by searching through a wide range of places. We use phones, videos, online forums, games and more.

xAPI has been built by learning professionals, it uses language that allows us to talk about things we do in learning – like analyzing assessment results or understanding where learners are in their journey to proficiency..

The new standard allows us to track more than course completions. Now we can track many more details, right down to individual learning elements (reading, commenting, presenting, observing) to show real world experiences.

Okay you say… I get all this stuff, now what do I do?

It comes down to four steps

Step 1: Have at least one person in your organization learn and understand this new Learning Standard.

Over the past four years, lots of webinars, sessions and materials have been developed but I will point to two good sources.

  1. ADLNET website
  2. Learning Technology’s Manager’s Guide to xAPI

The ADLNet group are the founders and maintainers of both SCORM and the newest SCORM upgrade – Experience API (xAPI).  The Guide has been developed by our partners at HT2Labs and is a great overall reference document.

Step 2: Start small and targeted with one key pain point.

Getting back to the “Fried Food” analogy, possible initiatives can look overwhelming and you need to focus on only one or two key areas to test out this new approach.

You want to think through a learning challenge in your organization where xAPI’s use would be very helpful. xAPI gives you a looser framework that allows communication between any two systems, not just between learning content and the LMS. But because of this, you are now getting into the area of interfaces and feeds, which can make most learning professionals’ eyes glaze over.  This brings us to the next step in the process.

Step 3: Make someone your guide and don’t reinvent the wheel.

After reviewing existing case studies and identifying several learning pain points, you should have a good idea for several possible initiatives to tackle. If you have not worked with xAPI and Learning Records Stores, you may want to reach out to an expert to help with this first journey.  The good news about the new xAPI standard is that it’s very flexible…. the bad news about the standard is that it’s very flexible. Which means unless you govern the learning group to start small and get initial success, you could be trying out this new approach and failing due to scope creep or new measurements for measurement sake.

It’s easier and more effective to start with a smaller project but also make sure to spend enough time thinking through your standard recipe vocabulary, what will be required and optional elements, the reports you want and how you plan to analyze along the way.  This will be your “poster child” project so you also want to document both before and after business results that tie to organizational performance.  Embracing this new technical standard will be much easier in your organization when you have your own successful case study!

Step 4: Rinse and Repeat

After you’ve completed your first successful initiative, you’ll be able to expand into other areas of your organization with more initiatives.  You’ll also modify your standards and find missing data points that will be refined over time.  Your company will start to build a richer picture of the developmental path and also identify and document the activities that are really making a difference in the proficiency of your employees.

At RPS, our learning consultants can provide guidance and solutions to address challenges related to xAPI. Contact us here!

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