Tips for Deciding Whether to Implement an xAPI Solution

Written By

Tim Martin

April 13, 2018

In “3 Guiding Principles for xAPI Evangelists,” I proposed three core truths about using xAPI to solve L&D problems:

  1. xAPI is a necessary, appropriate solution for some problems;
  2. xAPI is an insufficient, inappropriate solution for others; and
  3. The ability to discern the difference is important.

Here, I provide tips and examples to assist you in deciding whether to implement an xAPI solution.

When not to use xAPI

You’re limited to browser-based learning, and you aren’t connecting multiple systems.

Your task is to create and track compliance-based learning. Success is defined as proving that everyone in your office took and passed a course on sexual harassment prevention. If you have a browser-based LMS and a SCORM-based course, you can achieve your goal. The benefit to using SCORM and an LMS is that these tools already exist, and their value is proven. In this case, you don’t need to use xAPI because you don’t need to connect multiple, disparate systems.

Is SCORM a better choice?

Consider the MP3: Every music player from the Windows Media Player in your Gateway computer to the Music app in your iPhone X supports MP3s. Like SCORM, the MP3’s strength is its age. Everyone supports it. When you press the ubiquitous triangle-shaped button, the song plays.

The eLearning parallel: If you intend to buy only off-the-shelf learning platforms that support SCORM, you don’t need xAPI. Using xAPI in your situation could mean requiring custom integrations of your team or establishing a strategy you don’t need. Be liberal when considering your strategy, since it’s easy to overlook the time it takes to establish what you’ll track, where you’ll track it, which profiles you’ll use, and consistent meanings for multi-definition words like “fire.”

Does a custom integration already exist?

It’s true that xAPI is a good choice when you are connecting multiple systems that track human behavior, particularly in the L&D ecosystem. However, if you are using two systems outside of L&D that already have a custom integration (and neither system has existing or is developing support for xAPI), you don’t need to reinvent the wheel using xAPI. For example, you may want to connect Slack and Salesforce to save Slack conversations about a client opportunity in Salesforce. The good news for you is that Slack and Salesforce already have an integration. Using xAPI in this case could mean wasting time and money.

Examples where xAPI is a good fit

You’re connecting in-person events to online events.

You’re tasked with correlating nurses’ CPR training to their ability to save lives. The training may include a class in which participants use a CPR mannequin to simulate the resuscitation process. The training may also include an online quiz on when CPR is an appropriate procedure. Using xAPI would allow you to connect both the in-person training and the eLearning to real-world scenarios. Suddenly, you can correlate whether success in training means success in providing CPR to a patient. For an actual example of this, check out Watershed’s MedStar Health client story.

You’re using multiple learning systems that already support xAPI.

If you can purchase an off-the shelf authoring tool, LMS, coaching software, and augmented reality training platform that all already support xAPI, it’s worth considering the standard. One of the current challenges of using xAPI is that outfitting software with xAPI as a custom solution for your organization is costly in both time and money. If all of the components support xAPI and connect to the same LRS, though, you’ve created an agile ecosystem that easily allows you to add and subtract learning platforms. Need a new LMS? You can still keep your data.

Moving forward with xAPI

These examples should offer some perspective about how—or whether—to move toward adopting xAPI in your organization. Remember, if you’re deciding whether to implement an xAPI solution and need help identifying whether xAPI is a good fit, ask yourself, “Am I using multiple systems, and also tracking in-person experiences?” If the answer is yes—and xAPI is cost-effective—go forth in confidence.

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