(Editor’s Note: This is the last of five articles by Steve Foreman on learning management systems.)
How much longer will the LMS remain relevant? Learning is bursting out of the classroom and becoming informal, social, and mobile. How can learning be “managed” in settings where there are no class rosters and no registrations or completions to count? To many organizations, the future of learning management systems seems unclear.
Of course, the LMS’s ability to track formal instruction is still important to many organizations, especially in areas such as compliance, safety, onboarding, and baseline skill development. But traditionally, LMS products have not been very useful in managing learning that happens in the workplace through activities such as coaching, knowledge sharing, professional networking, work assignments, and other work experiences.
In this article, I’ll explore the Experience API (xAPI) and its potential to advance our ability to manage emerging learning models that seamlessly integrate learning with working.
Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) standards: SCORM & xAPI
ADL is a standards body that began as a joint project of the US Department of Defense and the Department of Labor, and with industry participation. You may know ADL as the organization that brought us the SCORM standard.
SCORM, which is an acronym for Sharable Content Object Reference Model, is a standard specification for publishing, launching, and tracking eLearning and it remains a dominant standard in the eLearning industry. Essentially, SCORM-compliant eLearning courses can interoperate with any learning management system that also supports SCORM.
First published in 2000, they updated SCORM several times over the next decade. Many eLearning authoring tools and LMS products support the SCORM standard.
Since 2009, not much has happened with SCORM, which they designed for use with traditional eLearning design. SCORM is ill equipped to handle non-traditional learning that is informal, social, and mobile.
In 2011, Rustici Software received a contract to research and define the new standard. During its R&D phase, they called the project “Tin Can.” Released on April 26, 2013, the standard is officially named the “Experience API” and often referred to as “xAPI.”
What’s in a name?
Unfortunately, all three names (Tin Can, Experience API, and xAPI) are in use today. Having three competing names for a new technology standard is confusing. How can anyone expect the marketplace to adopt a standard when the sponsors can’t even agree on what to call it? It would be fine if the names actually were synonyms for each other. xAPI is an acronym for Experience API, so using those two interchangeably makes some sense. However, the names Tin Can and Experience API (or xAPI) represent two different concepts. “Tin Can” tends to be more relevant to the IT community, while “Experience” is more relevant to learning professionals.
It’s easy to understand the IT perspective. Some of us have played the children’s game where you connect two tin cans via a str…
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