xAPI. What is it exactly? What does it take to start leveraging xAPI? What is the basic stuff I need to even contemplate getting started? Why do this?
These are all the questions that have been haunting me on and off since the summer of 2016, when I first started hearing xAPI in conversations and seeing it show up in blogs and other publications. So, now I’m on a mission and a journey to really sort this out for myself and see what the possibilities are for learning experience design and creating truly effective learning.
My Launching off Point
Here’s where my understanding and background knowledge was coming in on this journey:
- Had something to do with being able to capture the learner’s actual experience in different learning mediums (internet, video, eLearning, etc.).
- Is different than SCORM but has some similarities.
- Was somehow connected to personalizing learning journeys.
- Heard it was a set of guidelines but not sure if it is a technology. Much confusion on this.
- Tin Can and xAPI are the same.
- xAPI statements are how you define what data you want to capture.
So, as you can see. I pretty much had no idea what the hell xAPI was.
Getting Know xAPI
I actually started to look for some simple videos and documents breaking this down for me from the very beginning. In this search, I came across some resources at HT2 labs. Turned out it’s exactly what I needed. They have a great eBook , for free, called The Learning Technology Manager’s Guide to xAPI. Exactly the jumping point I needed!
In addition, I found a MOOC they opened in 2016. It’s still open and very well designed. I have signed up and been spending my evenings moving through week 1. Even thought it’s pretty silent in there from a social learning aspect, I’m loving the platform and experience.
Finally, to really get into xAPI , I joined a cohort I came across, that is running through April. It’s sponsored by TorrenceLearning and has the goal of bringing people together to basically experiment with xAPI and a use case. I joined three weeks late, but figured “better late than never”.
What I’ve Learned So Far -Week 1
The MOOC and guide really has improved my ability to actually tell you what xAPI is. The foundation it is building for me has been quite impactful.
- I sorted out that it’s not a technology but a specification for how systems and applications store, share, and send data about a learners activity, performance, and how they actually interact with the learning. The specification is designed to create interoperability between them. Meaning you are stuck with getting data from only your LMS, but you can capture this data from other sources of learning like a webpage, a video viewed outside the LMS and even learning done in an app.
- I’ve also sorted out how the xAPi statements work. They are in the form of a triple: Actor, Verb, Object. Ex. = Mia commented on the video. Cool! Real language.
- I’ve also started to sort out the technology link confusion. The statements are part of the coding specification. And , if I understand this correctly, the code base for this data is JSON. I have a little experience building strings using JASON so that was a fun link to make in my brain.
- AND to take the untangling of the technology part further, it has become clear to me that if you want to start collecting xAPI statements you pretty much need an LRS. New word! LRS = Learning Record Store and it’s not the same as your LMS (Learning management system). Newer LMS’s may have LRS built in but most are very limited and do not allow you pull in xAPI from any system or application that is able to generate xAPI statements.
Week 1 in the Cohort:
Well, this has been a little slower in what has been accomplished so far. But frankly, that’s to be expected when you are trying to pull people together from around the world to run a case study experiment. I did participate in my first webinar with the group and joined the non-elearning, non-lms group. Basically, this group wants to run a case study experiment leveraging xAPI with systems and applications outside of traditional eLearning platforms and an LMS. We’re still trying to define our question and the scope of the project. I’ll keep you posted.
With week 1 being so fruitful, I’m really looking forward to diving deeper and maybe even getting my hands a little dirty. Come join me in the journey! Check out the HT2 labs MOOC and share your insights in the comments.