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.

Credits: © Rawpixelimages |

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.

Engaging learners with interactive video

Matt Mason, eWorks Accredited ConsultantMatt Mason is an award winning instructional designer and the newest addition to the talented team of accredited consultants at eWorks. If you’re Interested in using interactive videos to engage your learners, Matt’s summary of the best tools available to create this powerful type of video will help you get started.

Video is a powerful learning tool…

yet it is often underutilised. Did you know that Youtube has more than one billion unique users each month and over six billion hours of video is watched during this time? The popularity of YouTube and other video sites, such as Vimeo and TED Talks, highlights how much people are engaged when consuming knowledge through video. Video provides a multi-sensory resource, where people can learn by listening, watching and sometimes reading. And now the use of video in learning is even more powerful, with the use of interactive video providing another way for users to engage and learn.

Interactive video increases the learning experience…

by providing learners with the opportunity to interact with the video content. One way that videos can be made interactive is to give learners the option to choose the small chunk of content they want to watch, then choose a path to take based on the scenario provided in the video. Quizzes can even be embedded into the video, allowing for a knowledge check to occur before progressing further. In addition to all of this, the videos play natively in modern browsers and across devices, including tablets and handhelds.

So what are the tools required to create the interactive videos?

Below is my run down on four of the best applications that I have tested so far (in no particular order):

1. Klynt

Klynt is a very straight forward, easy to use application. Users can upload a selection of their videos and, using the mind map like storyboard, can connect the videos together. Hyperlinks can then be applied to the primary screen, which links to the other videos. An example of this can be seen in the Klynt Demo. Klynt has a responsive HTML5 player that can be embedded in a browser or other applications. It also has the ability to add detailed analytics to measure the effectiveness of your video project.

Of the three applications, Klynt has the most affordable pricing option, with a free 14 day trial demo version, a lite edition for a one-time fee of $199, and the pro edition for a one-time fee of $599. Klynt also has the least amount of features, compared to the other two programs. If you are interested in checking out Klynt, you can view their range of tutorials.

2. Rapt Media

Rapt Media also has an easy to use drag-and-drop authoring platform. As with Klynt, Rapt Media allows you to link between videos, allowing users to choose their own path. A great example of this is Deloitte’s interactive recruitment video. Rapt Media has a one-click publishing function, allowing you to publish your video to multiple devices easily. Rapt Media is also cloud-based, giving you easy access to your interactive video files from any internet-enabled device.

While Rapt Media has a slicker interface and output than Klynt, it does come at a cost, with one quote I received for an entry level account starting at $550/month. There is, however, a free account from which you can start building and testing your videos. If you are interested in checking out Rapt Media, view their range of how-tos and tips.

Credits: Amphibious Landing Exercise 2013 by dvids

3. HapYak

HapYak has a large amount of features but it is not as easy to use as Klynt or Rapt Media. It also differs by linking to video files stored elsewhere, rather than uploading the video files to the application. This tool allows you to link to video files hosted on streaming sites (such as YouTube) or hosted on your own website.

It has a range of tools including the ability to build video chapters, hyperlinks in videos and the ability to draw on the video – to point out important details to learners. My favourite function of this tool is the quiz function. Multiple choice quizzes can be built into the video to pop-up over the video screen at pre-determined times, to provide an opportunity to assess understanding of the video content. The quiz results can also be integrated with an LMS. A great example of this can be seen in chapter two of Brightcove’s interactive video (nb. you will need to request a demo).

Hap Yak is also a cheaper option than Rapt Media, with a free plan (up to five interactive videos) and a professional plan of $100/month. If you are interested in checking out HapYak, view their Getting Started Guide.

4. ChatMapper

ChatMapper is an easy to use tool for creating branching dialogues and other non-linear training resources. It is built using an intuitive tree graph, with different nodes showing the branches of the dialogue. This tool can be used in the creation of interactive scenario based videos, where the users make decisions at various points. Each node can be set to branch off to another video file, or a specific time in the existing video file.

ChatMapper is a freemium product. It has a free version with limited functionality. Paid licensing options ($65 and $495) are also available. A fully functional publisher licence (incorporating 3D avatars) is also available. You can see full details of the features and pricing on the ChatMapper website.

It’s time to get started!

Interactive video is an excellent way to engage your learners and make learning enjoyable. And it can also be fun and interesting for you, the designer. So enjoy playing with interactive video, and drop me a line to let me know which application you prefer and why.

Six easy design tips for your e-learning projects

Matt Mason, eWorks Accredited ConsultantMatt Mason is an award winning instructional designer and the newest addition to the talented team of accredited consultants at eWorks. With a vision to improve the quality of learning and development, Matt is passionate about innovative content development. Today Matt shares his top design tips for e-learning projects.

New and shiny isn’t everything

Yes I admit it, I am one of those people that loves it when a new update comes out on the latest piece of software, or when a new online product is created that will make my online experience a little easier. My personal preference is to research the latest trend then to sit and watch TV. I look around at people who don’t love technology and I want to tell them how much they are missing out on. However, I do understand that just because someone uses the latest and greatest technology, doesn’t necessarily mean that the product at the end is any better. One of my favourite quotations about technology and tools is:

Even though it is shiny, it still needs to have substance.

Getting the design right

I have been developing e-learning for many years now. I still remember creating some of my first online resources with Macromedia Dreamweaver and screen recording with Captivate CS3, and I remember when PowerPoint became popular. Everyone thought it was fantastic and presentations had objects flying in and out, words zooming in one letter at a time, and many other distractions that had you shaking your head. I learnt very quickly that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

The priority for people new to e-learning is figuring out the programmes not the principles for designing with them. This isn’t just a dilemma for new e-learning developers but the industry as a whole. We can all get caught up in the latest shiny thing and design with a programme in mind rather than what we are trying to achieve. I might get a tad too excited when I learn about a new system, but I consider myself an instructional designer before an e-learning developer. Get the design right and it doesn’t matter what programme you use.


Top design tips for your e-learning projects

Here are some of the basic design principles I use when putting together an e-learning project:

  1. Don’t forget the reason you are designing your e-learning in the first place. Improving the performance of the learner should be your number one priority. Spend some time with a pen and notepad and consider what you want your learner to be able to do by designing your e-learning without considering the limitations of your programme. You can always think of alternatives later rather than limit your thinking at this point.
  2. Consider ways to evaluate what your learners have learnt. Try and think beyond multiple choice questions. Multiple choice is an easy option because e-learning development software makes it easy to design. There were plenty of other ways people evaluated in face-to-face sessions before the invention of e-learning, consider how these could apply in the online world. Things like participation, critical thinking, and contributions were all factors that ultimately told the trainers that their learners were engaged. This can be measured in e-learning, you just need to open your mind. Also, consider how you can gather the evaluation. e-learning programmes have a rich and vast collection of data that can be used. What data are you collecting and why?
  3. One of the best things about e-learning compared to face-to-face is consistency. You might have the best material, but if the trainer isn’t that good, the entire course will be affected. E- learning makes the user experience consistent and much more guided. You are in control of what they are going to learn, it’s much more than just the content. Your ability to entertain, excite, engage will influence how and what they learn. Be passionate about giving your learners an experience – not just content that they could probably source on a company page or the internet.
  4. Use stories. Do you remember how, in a face-to-face session after the trainer presented a bunch of theories and text, they would tell you about an example of how that theory was applied in a situation and was successful? After the story you were able to understand the context of what you were learning. We forget this simple principle in e-learning time and time again. Developers get so caught up in the content that they forget how people make connections and learn.
  5. Make sure you are using relevant materials and examples. I remember developing a workplace health and safety module once for personal trainers. I was told to use the generic workplace health and safety material that used hospital examples and context. It was the same general information that would be required regardless of the workplace, but I knew the learners would be completing the module and thinking to themselves, this information does not apply to me, I just need to get though it and pass the test. Would you prefer your personal trainer to pass the test or actually think that WHS is relevant to him or her?
  6. If you’re bored as you are designing your e-learning then so will your learners be. People can only look at a computer screen for so long and retain a certain amount of information. We know this in face-to-face sessions, which is why it is always so important to give learners breaks and activities and plan for each session to be no longer than 20 minutes long. Apply the same principles to your e-learning and make sure it is bite sized.

Need a hand?

Matt is very happy to offer some advice if you are struggling to pull it all together.