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Deciding when to use xAPI

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Categories: Best Practices, News, Use Cases, xAPI

Posted 18 April 2018

 

hammering home xAPI

For the better part of seven years, Tim Martin, our CEO at Rustici Software, has carried his xAPI hammer around telling the story of what the standard enables. The problem with his hammering is that it has led some to consider xAPI the solution to any problem. Fear not: he has recently written two articles in Learning Solutions Magazine that provide clear strategies to help you decide when it’s best to use (or not use) xAPI.

In short, “3 Guiding Principles for xAPI Evangelists” identifies xAPI as a suitable technology when two systems talk to each other about things people do. That makes it a fit if you have multiple systems that already support xAPI, if you want to track in-person experiences or if you have multiple LRSs.

The follow up article, “Tips for Deciding Whether to Implement an xAPI Solution,” gives scenarios of when to use xAPI and when not to use xAPI. Sometimes SCORM is a better choice. Like the MP3, which works in every music app, SCORM’s strength is its age and the fact that nearly every software on the market supports it.

But we won’t steal all the secrets from Tim’s articles. Head over to Learning Solutions Magazine to get all the best tips and tricks so you know just when to use xAPI. Still uncertain? Just reach out! We’re always happy to help.

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Geeking on xAPI at Learning Solutions

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Categories: Events

Posted 7 March 2018

 

The eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions event is coming up in just a few weeks. We’re counting down the days until the show for two reasons.

The first? We’re speaking! Chris Tompkins, Director of Contracts and xAPI Evangelist, will help you identify why you’d use xAPI so that you can understand how to build an RFP that best supports your goals. “Adding xAPI to Your RFPs: Rethinking Your Process” takes place March 28 at 1:00 p.m.

Speaking of xAPI, that leads to the second reason we’re excited to attend. We’ll be heading to xAPI Camp before the show begins. We attended xAPI Camp before DevLearn last October and were pleased by the breadth of examples we saw. This camp should be no different and will give us a good chance to refresh our xAPI know-how while diving into some more recent case studies.

Heading to Learning Solutions yourself and want to meet up? Shoot us an email. We’d love to catch up.

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Last week wrapped up I/ITSEC 2017, the largest training and simulation event in the world. This year, we exhibited and talked with people about how we help solve problems around eLearning standards like xAPI and SCORM (along with the updated DoDI 1322.26). What was notable about this year, for me, was the introduction to a new term: “system of systems.” For those unfamiliar, system of systems refers to a collection of systems that are brought together to create a new, more complicated system that’s greater than the sum of its parts. System of systems is an idea used throughout organizations or softwares, but at I/ITSEC, many people were talking about it in the context of xAPI.

It’s safe to say that every DoD agency uses multiple systems for training. They may have one or multiple LMSs, AR tools, VR tools, authoring tools, content management tools, physical simulations, in-person training..the list can go on. Because of the complexity of their ecosystem, they must think strategically about how each system works within the whole. Thus, the idea of a system of systems.

What arose in conversations at I/ITSEC was how well-suited xAPI is for supporting the creation and reporting on a system of systems. xAPI is at its core a communication protocol that helps multiple, separate pieces communicate in the same way. Using xAPI, the DoD could connect experiences from in-person training to those in an LMS.

We saw some great tools that leverage modern technology for training, particularly when it comes to AR and VR. Traditionally, each of these tools would be self-contained. But with xAPI and a systems of systems approach, each of these tools can become part of a larger plan that connects disparate systems and experiences.

We look forward to learning more about how DoD agencies (or those outside the DoD too!) use xAPI to support the creation of their system of systems. If you ever have any questions about how you can do this or how we’ve helped other clients create their ecosystem, let us know. We like talking about the standards.

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Last Friday, we were excited to be involved in xAPI Party. The celebration marked the end of the xAPI Cohort run by Torrance Learning (their next Cohort starts February 1) and our Director of Products TJ Seabrooks gave a demo. Since many of the folks at the xAPI Cohort were familiar with the free LRS in SCORM Cloud, we wanted to share a story of how we helped one of our clients with a super particular xAPI problem, so TJ shared how to add attachments to an xAPI course in Lectora.

This specific example comes from a client who is large and in a highly regulated industry. Before working with us, their certificates were tied to the end of each course. If a learner were to lose the certificate, they’d have to go back, relaunch the course and redownload the certificate. They needed the ability to maintain and later present certificates for learners so that any administrator in the organization could go into the LRS, view the learners’ scores and download certificates for each learner.

Our solution was to build out a simple reporting system that let them view xAPI attachments as part of a grade book reporting system. xAPI is particularly well-suited to this solution because it is reusable: any content you author can be launched from any LMS that supports xAPI and any LRS can store and fetch the attachments. This is unlike SCORM, with which you would need to build a custom solution that only works for a single system.

Since our customer was already familiar with Lectora, we provided instructions for setting an action in a Lectora course that lets us send our own custom event when we’re finished with the course. If you don’t use Lectora, you could adapt these steps to another authoring tool that supports xAPI pretty easily (and if you’re struggling – just reach out to us).

If you want to see everything “in action,” you can check out a video of TJ’s demonstration, head over to Torrance Learning’s Adobe Connect recording. In the video demo, TJ walks you through how to add the custom JavaScript code (TinCanJS and html2canvas) to Lectora, test the course in SCORM Cloud and then retrieve the certification in our custom reporting dashboard, which shares info like score, pass/fail, launch date and assessment result.

Technical steps for sending and receiving attachments in Lectora

To include TinCanJS in the project, you need to create an HTML Extension object (Figure 1) and set the “Type” property to “Top of file scripting” (Figure 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2

Click edit (seen in Figure 2 above) and add the TinCanJS file like you would on a webpage (through a <script> tag with a relative URL). Or paste the code in between <script> tags (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Something to note: any code in an HTML Extension has to be valid HTML, so if any JS added isn’t inside a <script> tag, it will break.

Next, to create the screenshot of the page, use html2canvas. You’ll need to add the html2canvas source code the same way you did for TinCanJS. If you want to capture and send the current document, i.e. the page where you loaded the JS, pass “document.body” to the html2canvas() function. This function returns a promise, so use a .then() to process the screenshot. The parameter passed to the .then() is an HTML canvas object, so to get the content and the content-type, we have to use the canvas.toDataURL() function. The format for a DataURL is as follows:

data:[<contenttype>][;base64],<content>

Figure 4

You will need to parse this string to get the content-type and the content itself (code for parsing shown in Figure 4). The content will be the raw binary data, which is what should be placed in the content section of the attachment.

In the code shown in Figure 4, cfg is the object that contains all of the other parameters of the statement. Cfg.attachments is an array that holds all of the attachments associated with that statement. Note that the code shown in Figure 4 happens after you have set up both the LRS and the other parameters of the statement in your Javascript.

Once you send the statement, you can run queryStatements() on the LRS, which will return a StatementsResult object. When you run queryStatements(), be sure to set the “attachments” flag to “true” (shown in Figure 5). This flag lets the LRS know to return both the statements and any attachments that it has.

Figure 5

Once the StatementsResult object is returned, you can iterate through its list of statements until you find the statement that has the attachment. To download the file, you’ll need to run the following code:

var link = document.createElement(“a”);
link.download = “Test.png”;
link.href = “data:”+<attachment>.contentType+”;base64,”+<attachment>.content;
link.click();

Where <attachment> is the TinCan.Attachment object whose content you want to download. This code reconstructs the dataURL, and then uses that to download the file. One thing to note is that the file extension of “link.download” should match the filetype of the attachment (if the file is a .jpeg, it should be .jpeg, if it’s a .pdf, it should be .pdf, etc.).

Customize for your needs

This is a basic guide for creating, sending and receiving attachments inside Lectora. It can be completely customized to your needs. For example, the object passed to html2canvas() can be any HTML element, not just the entire document. Therefore, if you only wanted to print a certain <div> on the page, you can pass that element instead.

Also, the TinCanJS library is designed to make sending and receiving attachments easier for the user, so the queryStatements() function handles verifying that the right attachment content is put with the rest of its data and attached to the correct statement.

If you have any questions implementing these steps or are curious about how we can help you with xAPI in general, reach out to us. In the meantime, we’d recommend checking out the free LRS in SCORM Cloud and the xAPI Open Source libraries.

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Last week, the Department of Defense (DoD) signed the updated DoDI 1322.26 Distributed Learning (DL). The latest DoDI advises all entities within the DoD to procure eLearning technology solutions that are compliant with the SCORM or Experience API (xAPI) specifications.

This Instruction replaces the 2006 version of DoDI 1322.26, “Development, Management, and Delivery of Distributed Learning,” which mandated (as opposed to advised) the use of SCORM in all eLearning technology used by the DoD. With the updated DoDI released, DoD entities can source the right DL solution based on their requirements, as opposed to being limited by the SCORM-focused scope of the older Instruction.

So what’s all the fuss about?

The 2006 DoDI required any DL technology to be SCORM conformant. After xAPI was released in 2013, it was hard for government organizations to purchase modern products as xAPI was not supported by the existing Instruction and there was no way to verify if an xAPI solution conformed to the specification. Now, government organizations have the flexibility to procure the right technical solution based on their requirements, and a means to verify that the products conform to either SCORM or xAPI.

So why are we so excited?

We are excited because this is the culmination of a lot of work for many people at both ADL and Rustici Software. In 2015, we at Rustici were awarded a BAA from ADL to help them revise the 2006 DoDI 1322.26. You can read more about that story on the Rustici Software blog if you’d like.

So how can I find an xAPI compliant product?

Lucky for you, ADL recently launched a list of Conformant LRSs as part of their xAPI Adopter Registry. If you’re looking to procure an xAPI conformant LRS, this is a great place to start. If you’re looking for resources about xAPI conformance, check out the official xAPI reference and support resource for DoDI 1322.26.

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