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.

Four easy steps to SMS / LMS integration

Debbie Scully

Debbie has direct responsibility for business development and operations at eWorks. She has seen first-hand the impact of SMS/LMS integration and gets real satisfaction out of the positive feedback she receives from clients who have chosen to make this clever move. If you are not aware of the benefits of integration, or you are thinking about it but it all seems too hard, allow Debbie to convince you of the power of this change. She even promises she will never say ‘I told you so’.

Four simple steps to an easier working life

You know you want to integrate your SMS and LMS. Why wouldn’t you, when it offers so many benefits. Integration will save you time, money and headaches by:

  • Automatically rolling over new students from the SMS into the LMS
  • Automatically enrolling students into their courses
  • Pushing student results back into the SMS from the LMS
  • Seamlessly providing evidence for auditors
  • Offering automatic sign on – one password for everything
  • Avoiding errors associated with manual data entry.

But the whole idea seems like too much hard work. At least you know how things work currently – better the devil and all that. But what if it could be done in four easy steps? eWorks employs a proven four-step process to ensure that our integration projects run smoothly and provide maximum benefit to your organisation. No really – it doesn’t need to be complicated or scary.

Credits: Arrows showing up (Blender), by FutUndBeidl

Step 1: Requirements analysis

The process starts with a detailed discussion with you (and your technical partner if necessary) to determine your specific requirements and to ensure that we have a thorough understanding of the system/s with which we will be integrating. When it comes to integration of a learning management system (LMS) and an external database (such as a student management system (SMS), human resources information system (HRIS), etc.), we will start by exploring your requirements around the automation of several elements. This step is all about ensuring as much automation as possible to reduce manual data entry and reporting for you and your colleagues. Part of this step involves a discussion about your data including:

  • users
  • courses
  • enrolments, and
  • automatic sign-on.

This will ensure that we have a full picture of your current data and configuration, and to determine how this data will be integrated with the LMS. All discussions are documented and provided to you for sign-off prior to any development work being conducted.

Step 2: Testing

Comprehensive prototyping and testing enables us to identify and rectify any potential issues prior to conducting the full integration. During this stage we will establish a testing environment and conduct sample integrations of representative data samples. Our technical experts will assess these samples in consultation with you, to ensure that both the technical and functional requirements of the integration are met. If issues are identified, multiple rounds of testing and prototyping will be conducted to ensure that we get it right. The full integration will not take place until you are happy and have signed off on the prototype.

Step 3: Full integration

Once you are happy and ready to go, a timeline is scheduled for the full integration. Depending on your requirements, integration can be scheduled to occur during a period of low usage in the LMS, and we can also conduct the integration in stages if you like (e.g. users, then courses, then enrolments.) A cut-off date is agreed upon for when data creation in the LMS is transitioned from manual to automatic, to avoid any duplicate data occurring in the LMS. Our technical team will review the integration in consultation with you, to ensure both the technical and functional requirements have been met.

Step 4: Post-delivery support and maintenance

Our integration components come with post-delivery support and maintenance as standard. During the first week following integration we will monitor your system for stable and correct performance. For the following two months fortnightly monitoring of the integration performance will be conducted. When updates are made to TrainingVC we conduct testing to ensure the performance of your integration remains stable. In this way, you can be sure that your investment in integration will provide long-term efficiency and savings.

But wait, there’s more!

In the above example, we have considered the integration of a learning management system with an external database. However, our skilled technical team are ready to assist with any other integration requirements you may have, so please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.