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.
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.
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.
For more information see Rustici Software's xAPI overview.