Understanding xAPI and its Importance in Modern eLearning Design and Deployment


Modern eLearning that we see today has gone through tremendous transformation. From my simple animated presentations put on CDs and sold along with a printed workbook for practice to simulated immersive learning environments involving role-play and tracking of learner behavior, modern eLearning design is a completely different ball-game altogether. In our series of blogs on learning technologies and design, we shall look at the learning standard or framework known as xAPI and study its impact on the design and delivery of digital learning solutions at the modern workplace. The blog will also offer a quick refresher on the two older learning standards AICC and SCORM.


A Quick Introduction to Learning Standards

When one looks at eLearning standards or frameworks there are three different standards to consider. These are:

  • AICC

  • SCORM

  • xAPI


AICC

AICC is a set of standards created by the Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee. The committee formed in 1988 to standardize the training solutions created for airline workers. The committee disbanded in 2014 and there will be no further updates to the AICC standards. Old-timers in the eLearning industry feel that AICC is simple and secure and still aim to create eLearning content that is compliant with the AICC standards. The AICC Document Archive available on GitHub offers a wealth of information on AICC and how it can be used to deploy eLearning content.


SCORM

SCORM stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. This standard was developed by the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative as an alternative to AICC. AICC primarily focused on learning solutions packaged onto floppy disks and CDs. The growth of the Internet as a reliable medium completely changed the way eLearning solutions were offered and SCORM was standardized to meet the compliance aspects rising out of using the Internet as a medium to deliver eLearning. SCORM 1.2 is the most widely used standard.


The standard compliance ensures that the LMS running the eLearning program is able to render the digital learning solution properly without any lag and to run as it is designed to work. Visit this webpage to learn more about SCORM.


xAPI

XAPI was released in October 2013. Also known by the names Project TinCan and Experience API; it is a modern learning standard that improves upon the features of SCORM and addresses its limitations. The primary benefit of xAPI is that it is able to capture learner behavior and present analytics on the content accessed by the learner outside the core LMS or LXP. To simplify and understand this statement better, please read the scenario below.


Jenny has been assigned an eLearning course by her manager. Jenny is a new campus recruit and she has been hired for the role of a front-office assistant to help the main receptionist at a luxury hotel. Jenny is to take up a course on the hotel’s internal LMS on customer relations and etiquette. She has signed into the LMS and is taking the course. Suddenly she comes across an unfamiliar term in the program. She wants to understand the term better, so she minimizes the LMS window, opens up a new tab on the laptop’s browser and keys in the unfamiliar term, and learns its meaning. With xAPI this action will also be tracked.


This introductory video offers a quick insight into how xAPI is different :


Understanding How xAPI Works?

The previous section described how xAPI differs from AICC and SCORM. Now let us understand how xAPI works. To familiarize ourselves with the technical aspects of xAPI, there are two terms which we should know:

  • xAPI Statements

  • Learning Record Store or LRS

What is an xAPI Statement?

Simple xAPI statements take the general form of “[actor] [verb] [object]”. These labels coincide with the field names on a statement object. To understand this in detail, if you are a developer or would like to learn more about the xAPI statement format and structure, then please visit this webpage.


What is the LRS?

The Learning Record Store or LRS is where the xAPI statement is stored and determines how the statement will communicate with the LMS or LXP and the rest of the digital learning solution. It is a database that stores all relevant xAPI data. The popular LRS solutions available are Watershed, Veracity, and Yet Analytics. In this video by eLearning expert Devlin Peck, viewers get an insight into what the LRS does:


Benefits of Using xAPI

Though xAPI has been around for some time now, the number of people willing to invest in using xAPI to design and deploy digital learning experiences has not been as huge as SCORM, though this is changing. LMS admins and corporate decision-makers still feel that they can manage without xAPI. Additionally, the forced break in business due to the pandemic has also had a significant impact in the L&D plans of major organizations. The next few years are going to be quite crucial for xAPI adoption as corporate learning and training evolves and moves away from tried and tested traditional learning models. With remote working and learning and hybrid working models gaining prominence, the use-case and requirements for xAPI are steadily increasing. Some benefits of using xAPI are:

  • Future-proofing the digital learning solution

  • Enhanced analysis of learner behavior

  • Customized dashboards and analytics that provide better information

Conclusion

At S4Carlisle, we work with the best tools and solutions to create digital learning experiences that are tailored to your requirements. If you are looking for an xAPI-compliant eLearning solution or would like to update opt for a modern learning platform that offers the benefit of an in-built LRS. Please write to sales@s4carlisle.com and we will help you make the right decision.