Capturing learning with Tin Can (xAPI)

Matt Mason, eWorks Accredited ConsultantMatt Mason is an award winning instructional designer and writes some of our most popular blogs. Here Matt considers the importance of tracking learning, and how to do this using a powerful tool – xAPI.

What is xAPI?

xApi is a powerful tool that can be used to track learning events and other data. The simplest description of how xApi works is that it captures data, or a statement. The statement consists of an actor (the learner), a verb and object – or simply put “I did this”. In essence it captures a short story of an individual’s learning events.

The feature that makes this different to other analytical tools or programs is the freedom. The simple statement structure gives you the freedom to capture almost any event. xAPI has the freedom to talk to other learning record stores and device freedom means that any enable device can send xAPI statements, even when there is only occasional connectivity.

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Capturing learning stories

Learning events or stories go beyond what has happened in a Learning Management System (LMS), rather any learning event an individual has been involved with can be captured. This could be automatically captured by performing an action or manually recording the event.

For example, we have an individual…let’s call him Billy.

  • Billy uses Tappestry, a mobile app that allows him to capture and track what he has learned and what he wants to learn about sales techniques. This data is sent to an organisation’s learning record store to measure and track these informal learning events.
  • Billy had a coaching session with his manager on closing the sale. His manager records the discussion, feedback given and future plans in an app on his phone. This session is recorded and stored in the record store.
  • Billy attended a sales master workshop. The workshop registration system captures an xAPI statement about attendees.

At a course or learning program level we can capture a range of data and tell a variety of stories:

  • For the individual learner we can examine their learning path and identify where they are struggling.
  • We can look at the course components and get a story of what is working and what isn’t.
  • We can identify the content that is providing value or how learners are interacting with different media.
  • At the course level we can see how learners are progressing or identify areas where non-completion occurs.

Putting it all together

All of this data (the xAPI statements) are recorded in a Learning Record Store (LRS), such as Learning Locker (which incidentally has a Moodle plugin). In an operational setting, dashboards can be created to provide a visual display of these xApi / Tin Can stories. Couple this with other metrics – such as sales, retention and customer service levels – and the success (or non-success) of a learning program can be measured. We can use these metrics to tell the story of high performing individuals, who have developed greater capabilities. Once the successes and non-successes have been identified then more stories can be gathered.

Consider the power of these stories. They provide:

  • The opportunity to maximize on what you are doing well, and learn from anything that didn’t quite go to plan.
  • Rich evidence of learning and engagement that could be shown to an auditor.
  • Unlimited marketing opportunities!

So, are you capturing the data you need?

Is your LMS helping you tell your stories of success? If you want to be able to tell better stories we’d love to hear from you. Contact the eWorks team today.

And if you’re interested in the more technical side of how xAPI is structured…

Why not do some further reading about the research done by Holmesglen TAFE: Beyond SCORM- New Interoperability Standards.

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