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Amplifying the Experience API: xAPI Camp at DevLearn 2015

Spotlight

by Michael Hruska, Nikolaus Hruska

August 6, 2015

If you are planning to attend the upcoming xAPI Camp at DevLearn in September, Aaron Silvers states, “There are lots of ways to learn about xAPI and more ways to try out ideas than ever before. As we've seen from the Seattle xAPI Camp, the time to adopt is now, and frankly, it's only going to get easier from here.” (Details at the end of this article.)

It was packed at the Seattle xAPI Camp at Amazon Headquarters on July 21, 2015. This event highlighted new use cases, implementations, collaborative exploration, and product showcases. Attendees ranged from solution providers to startups and obvious players like event sponsor Amazon. Host Mark Oehlert (manager of learning technology and networked learning at Amazon) remarked, “We want the tools to build a really rich profile of users. This technical specification will allow us to build, around our systems and learners, the ability to bring the data from these systems in incredibly powerful ways.”

Attendees gained a clear understanding of the business case and their technical options. Leslie Redd (co-founder of LearnBIG) stated, “Small companies like ours don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can tap into a community structure with technology that can accelerate us toward measurement and assessment along the continuum of experiences we deliver to people with multiple technologies.”

The future

Myra Travin, educational futurist at METAImpressions, said, “The future is already here ... the task of xAPI is to allow interpretation of meaning of the total data created by the learning ecology and provide predictability.” Bill McDonald (managing partner of Sabashiro Beach) explained that the “…xAPI will transform the design of digital learning activities because you can record ANY DATA YOU WANT. Imagine a world where a learning activity can record audio, video, and other digital documents (in addition to text data) and have them easily retrieved for analysis.”

Shelly Blake-Plock (CEO of Yet Analytics) further elaborated, “xAPI provides a foundation on which to build an organization’s Mission Control for all human capital data … a means of capturing the data of formative experience. That’s the key. What we used to think of as ‘learning data’ now becomes a vibrant form of business intelligence.”

USE CASES

Software Usage—Sean Putman (VP, learning and development, Altair Engineering) instrumented their CAD software to track usage via click patterns to find bottlenecks and diagnose software usability issues. They compare users to “expert” behavior and make recommendations based upon that gap. Their use of xAPI to assess software competencies is paving the way for many similar use cases.

Adaptive Learning Ecosystems—Michael Hruska (CEO, Problem Solutions) co-presented with Nick Washburn (director, learning division, Riptide Software) on a variety of research surrounding adaptive learning ecosystems. They are capturing data from live systems (e.g., firing ranges), simulators, and even handheld assessment tools via xAPI. Other systems with xAPI support, like the Generalized Intelligent Framework for Tutoring (GIFT—www.gifttutoring.org)—an open-source intelligent tutoring system built by the Army Research Laboratory (ARL)—are able to harvest the data and make recommendations based upon deficiencies collected across many systems. Nick Washburn said, “We have already proven the ability to mine activity streams to trigger immediate feedback or remediation using xAPI. The world is full of proprietary, disparate systems in and around education and training that can easily output xAPI, as well as their proprietary language, and so we are on the path to better learning and development.”

Teacher Education and Learning AnalyticsKirsty Kitto (Queensland University of Technology, science and engineering faculty, information ecology) said, “We have an xAPI-based platform that enables teachers to design classes and assessment items with interesting learning analytics off of that data (in real time).” Russell Duhon (CTO, Saltbox—makers of WaxLRS) stated, “A world of possibilities open up for the experienced designer who wants to do new and better things. We are constantly learning new ways to make better data and do better things with it.”

Skill Gap Closure—Ben Erlandson (CTO of the McKinsey Social Institute) is closing the skills gap for young people worldwide. He stated that “…our approach to global standardization is dependent on inherent local flexibility of disparate systems and data sources in each of our countries, for a variety of reasons it is imperative that we rely on the data standardization capabilities of a protocol or framework such as xAPI.” He is targeting 75 million unemployed, under-skilled individuals in the US, Spain, Kenya, India, and Mexico. They aim to train one million people for new jobs over the next five years. (www.generationinitiative.org).

Connecting Learning and Performance—Duncan Welder (director of client services at RISC) is bringing enterprise data into their LMS to connect learning and performance. He stated, “The open structure allows us to map performance data from multiple sources like control systems, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and/or HR information systems, and compare that to employee behavior—not just training.”

Community activities

Aaron Silvers of Connections Forum, one of the organizers of the Seattle event, said, “With more and more diverse applications of xAPI, there are also more challenges in making sense of how different communities use xAPI. Profiles defined by communities of practice and our systems of registries will need to be stronger.” Looking ahead, Aaron explained how the community has been “working with vendors to bring tools and technologies to the market that fill needed gaps in our learning and working ecosystems.”

How to get involved

The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative is continuing to support community engagement around adoption. ADL is supporting industry by hosting “recipes,” communities of practice, controlled vocabularies, and domain profiles.

If you are planning to attend the upcoming xAPI Camp at DevLearn in September, Aaron Silvers states, “There are lots of ways to learn about xAPI and more ways to try out ideas than ever before. As we've seen from the Seattle xAPI Camp, the time to adopt is now, and frankly, it's only going to get easier from here.”

Want to learn more?

The next xAPI Camp will be held in conjunction with The eLearning Guild’s DevLearn 2015 Conference & Expo (Las Vegas, September 28 – October 2).

The event proceedings from the first xAPI Bootcamp, hosted by ADL in 2015, are available on the ADL GitHub site at https://github.com/adlnet/xapi-bootcamp-2015.

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