00o-= eLearn Australia elearning tips: What is the Experience API or xAPI (also known as the Tin Can API)?
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Elearning tips: What is xAPI?

Quiz, book, forum post and classroom data are channeled to the LRS via the Tin Can API. The LRS sends and receives data from the LMS.

The Experience Application Programme Interface (xAPI) is an elearning standard that enables relevant digital experiences of a learner to be collected and recorded.

The learner's experiences are then stored in a central repository called a Learning Record Store (LRS).

All kinds of digital experiences (e.g. public social media interactions or work-related tasks) can be recorded via the xAPI - hence the name 'Experience API'.

The xAPI is the latest in a string of elearning standards, which have evolved since the 1990s in an attempt to improve interoperability and reusability of elearing content. The most significant of these standards has been SCORM.

The limitations of SCORM

SCORM is an elearning standard that allows elearning content to be uploaded into a Learning Management System (LMS) and can then record the learner's score and interactions with that content.

SCORM has been widely implemented but it has limitations: the largest being that it is only able to track course-oriented components of digital learning, such as quizzes, lessons or tests.

"Learners might wander outside their formal online course environment but still be completing tasks on their computers that are relevant to their learning."

How people learn, however is arguably becoming less course-oriented and more informal, social and mobile. Learners might wander outside their formal online course environment but still be completing tasks on their computers that are relevant to their learning. These experiences however are not able to recorded and acknowledged through the SCORM elearning standard.

That's why SCORM has developed into the new xAPI. The xAPI allows the learner to capture things they are doing on their computer outside of their formal course e.g. relevant interactions on social media, work-related tasks or even achieving milestones in games or simulations.

Why so many names? Should I call it the Experience API, xAPI or Tin can?

The standard was called ‘Tin Can API’ during the R&D phase - and is still the term used by many IT professionals - but is increasingly being referred to as xAPI.

Key differences between xAPI and SCORM

  • SCORM is limited to elearning and LMSs
  • xAPI can interface any software with any type of reporting system
  • xAPI is based on activity streams that track what people are doing on their computers (such as social media)
  • xAPI can track performance on work-related tasks, outputs and interacting with others
  • xAPI can track milestones in games or simulations

The differences between an LRS and an LMS

  • Learning experiences generate xAPI activity statements
  • An LRS (Learning Record Store) stores the xAPI activity statements (learning experiences) for each learner
  • An LRS can be built into LMS (Learning Management System)
  • A standalone LRS will only support xAPI tracking and reporting
  • An LMS includes functionality like content management, user management, scheduling training, providing certificates and other forms of competence recognition.

For more information see Rustici Software's xAPI overview.