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Collaborative eLearning: It's the Developers' Turn

by Pamela Hogle

August 22, 2017

Spotlight

by Pamela Hogle

August 22, 2017

“‘The xAPI learning cohort is a mix of people who are new to xAPI and just learning, as well as people who’ve been doing this for years and find the structure of the group and the space it provides is just what they need to keep experimenting and learning,’ said Megan Torrance, chief energy officer at TorranceLearning.”

Calling all eLearning developers.

Collaborative eLearning is no longer something you develop only for other learners. It’s your turn to master some new skills, dig into this newfangled thing called xAPI, and create a project—together with people from all over the map.

Twice a year, TorranceLearning launches a free 12-week online learning cohort. Some attendees are newbies; many are too shy to participate in any way other than lurking and asking the occasional question. Others are old hands who’ve participated in previous cohorts and who are generous with their time and knowledge. The next cohort kicks off on August 31.

“The xAPI learning cohort is a mix of people who are new to xAPI and just learning, as well as people who’ve been doing this for years and find the structure of the group and the space it provides is just what they need to keep experimenting and learning,” said Megan Torrance, chief energy officer at TorranceLearning. “Many people come to the cohort as a lone person in their organization; they’re moving ahead of their organization’s readiness for xAPI. Here they find eager collaborators to get something started and have a demo project they can take back to their organizations as a proof of concept. In other cases, intact teams have come to the cohort to provide structure and support around their project.”

The benefits of cohort learning are many. “Cohort learning brings human connection back into a learning environment that has become increasingly disconnected due to technology, a global workforce, and increasing workplace demands,” said Rich Reitter, instructional design manager at HDR, in an email conversation. “Our cohort learning groups allow for a self-sustaining learning environment where cohorts share information, provide support, resolve issues, and challenge each other without the need for continuous external motivation.”

The entire xAPI cohort meets once a week for a one-hour virtual classroom session using Adobe Connect. The early weeks offer an outstanding introduction to xAPI; later classes feature guest speakers and demos of team projects. Each weekly meeting includes introductions to and demos of tools and techniques and lots of conversation, including problem-solving and exploration with colleagues of ways to use xAPI to improve eLearning. Attendees are invited to join one (or more!) teams and create xAPI projects.

A project from the spring 2017 cohort won the Best in Show (non-vendor) prize at FocusOn Learning 2017 DemoFest. Called the “Meta” project, the prizewinner was an interactive xAPI eBook about creating interactive xAPI eBooks. Team members explored ways to integrate xAPI with eBooks so that managers could get data on when learners opened the eBooks, viewed videos or specific content, followed links, and more. Sarah Gilbert, of meLearning Solutions, had participated in a previous cohort. “This year, I had a specific project that I wanted to work on with a team. The biggest benefit was the community participation,” she said. “In a short period, we were able to successfully develop and test the project, report statements, and I have been able to apply what I learned to other projects that I've implemented since then.” Watch the Best of FocusOn Learning DemoFest Webinar to learn more. (Editor’s note: You must join The eLearning Guild to access the recording—but membership is FREE!)

Other team projects in the spring 2017 cohort included:

  • Exploring statements that various authoring tools send to an LRS
  • Creating a course that sent xAPI statements from a SCORM course and a Kaltura video using the Video Profile for xAPI
  • Analyzing the data from the Cohort’s own Slack team (because, of course, the xAPI cohort sent xAPI statements about its own efforts!)
  • Creating a budgeting game that tracks player decisions using xAPI

A long-term project continued from earlier cohorts is building a tool to provide alternate visualizations of xAPI data. Past cohorts have created an onboarding checklist that uses connected devices, a game that tracks user clicks as a way to identify UX gaps, and exploration of LMS/LRS interoperability, according to the learning cohort website. Each cohort features some projects that are in progress from previous cohorts as well as the opportunity to launch new projects.

Once teams form, members connect via Slack channels, set up their own meetings and discussions, and divide up tasks. During the weekly cohort meetings, teams provide updates on their progress—and demos.

Finally, at the end of the 12-week session, participants are invited to a daylong gathering, an “xAPI Party,” at TorranceLearning in Chelsea, Michigan, to meet, celebrate—and learn more about xAPI. “The ‘Party’ is actually a free one-day conference,” Torrance said. “About a third of the concurrent sessions at the party are demos of cohort projects. The rest are how-to, what’s-next, and case study and tools demo sessions. And we always have a ‘maker space’ project, too, so we build something in a day and demo it for everyone at the end.”

The learning cohort is free, and anyone who is interested in learning about xAPI is welcome. No experience is necessary. Registration is open for the fall 2017 cohort, which starts on August 31.

The long-term goals, according to Torrance, are to get people to use xAPI and “drive adoption in the industry.” The benefits are numerous: Network with fellow developers all over the world who are interested in xAPI-powered eLearning. Hone your xAPI skills. Create a cool project with new friends. The drawbacks? There really aren’t any. It’s free, fun, creative, and challenging.

Curious about cohorts?

Join us at DevLearn 2017 Conference & Expo, where Rich Reitter is presenting a session on cohort learning, “The Power of Many: A Cohort Learning Model,” and where you can participate in a pre-conference xAPI Camp—and dozens of other sessions and workshops. DevLearn is October 25 – 27 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Register now!


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