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Posted by Tim Martin
Posted 15 September 2017
Shelly Blake-Plock announced last night via LinkedIn that he would be leading a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for IEEE LTSC (Learning Technologies Standards Committee). This is good news, as Shelly is going to carry a real load in leading that group. In his own words, Shelly describes the work in this way:
Our initial purpose is to create an IEEE technical report as a reference and implementation guide for xAPI 1.0.3. More broadly, we’ll be providing an open place for discussion among xAPI stakeholders and we’ll potentially be making recommendations about needs to support widespread use of the specification based on our activity in writing the report.
Our start point is the xAPI 1.0.3 specification. We’ll discuss all aspects of xAPI such as xAPI Profiles and the relation of xAPI to SCORM and cmi5. The end point is open-ended and in our discussion we will work to define the scope of the TAG.
My version: We’re glad the initial purpose of this group points toward standardization. IEEE stamping xAPI would encourage adoption, particularly outside of the US. It would send a positive message to the community at large that xAPI is a real and complete and adoptable thing.
My priority for this group is to remain focused on the standardization of xAPI 1.0.3, rather than evolution. Broader conversations about profiles and other things that xAPI requires (e.g. evolution of the specification and surrounding specifications) are happening in many venues, and I hope this doesn’t spread the community too thin. Instead, I hope they can successfully take the steps that help IEEE consider it for standardization. This is just step one of many in that regard.
So, thanks to Shelly for leading this. We, as Rustici Software, will be sending along one of our experts to participate as well. Ben Clark played an active role in the evolution of SCORM during the 2000s, and was the true leader on Project Tin Can, which led to the advent of xAPI. He’s pretty well informed.
If you’re the adventurous sort, Shelly has invited all comers. His LinkedIn post will point you in the right direction.
Posted by Tim Martin
Posted 6 September 2017
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks learning about some things that are happening with ADL (the governing body for SCORM and closest thing we currently have to a single steward for xAPI right now).
My first tl;dr
Wait. Even that was too long.
A better tl;dr
SCORM and xAPI are both still just fine. Use them exactly as you were planning to before you read this.
Now the long version.
The closest thing we have to news is this. ADL’s funding has been reduced substantially in the short-term. Basically, this means that ADL will make cuts on a temporary basis, and several people who have worked there over the last few years won’t be in the short term. (There are some great people considering their futures, if you’re looking for some expertise.)
ADL’s budget is included in the proper FY18 budget, at a level that is slightly smaller than prior years, but still significant ($11M+ as I read it). Supposing that comes through in February of 2018, they would hire people (familiar faces or new ones) and continue with the same or related work.
Truthfully, we can’t predict what the priorities of that organization will be in the short or long term, but we never really could. Until they say otherwise, I believe that ADL will continue to provide the infrastructure that supports xAPI and SCORM both. This includes the websites that have resources and examples. At Rustici, we have some comparable resources available, and we’ll continue to offer those. If ADL finds itself unable to do certain things at some point in the future, Rustici Software will fill the most important gaps.
Other people and organizations are stepping up and expressing their care and interest in contributing to the evolution and support of xAPI. This can be nothing other than good news. (OK, quietly, and for a small group of us, this can be a little confusing and frustrating. We have to navigate the different bodies and their respective merits. But that’s a problem for a few, not for the many. A service Rustici provides to its customers is absorbing this angst on their behalf.)
Ultimately, what we need as a vendor community and really an L&D community is consensus. We need to agree about how content and LMSs communicate at runtime, and we need to agree about how two systems talk to each other about the things people do. In the end, standards and specifications are a documented form of consensus.
Standards bodies provide some rails for reaching and documenting that consensus. I think ADL’s done a great job of this over time. For as long as there is good, consolidated, effective leadership in these communities, we greatly prefer to defer to and serve that leadership. Should ADL’s leadership wane, Rustici Software would increase our participation and influence consistent with our views on what is best for the community.
Posted by Tim Martin
Posted 20 July 2017
Just a little editor’s note for everyone. You may notice that this site now redirects you more aggressively toward its experienceapi.com representation. In 2015, we heavily revised this website and established that, when it came to using xAPI vs. Tin Can, “We call it whatever you call it.” Our goal was to provide resources and advice to people in the way they were looking for it. If they wanted to use “Experience API,” that’s what we’d use. If they wanted to use “Tin Can,” we were on board.
Both in real life and here on the website, we’re pushing a little harder toward xAPI at this point. We’re never going to yell at someone who says Tin Can, but we may just refer to it as xAPI. You’ll also see that we’ve changed all of the references to be explicitly xAPI rather than Tin Can. I promise, we’ve done something more than just “find and replace”, but if you happen upon a place where we missed a Tin Can reference, feel free to let us know. The one caveat is that we’re keeping historical references to “Project Tin Can,” the origin of the Experience API.
We’ll also be updating our prototypes to the new language. As anyone who writes code can appreciate, changing code doesn’t happen overnight, so it will take some time.
Posted by Tim Martin
Posted 14 February 2017
Today we’re excited to announce support for a new specification in SCORM Cloud- cmi5, which is something that doesn’t happen all that often in its history. Along with making cmi5 support readily available in SCORM Cloud, we’ve also added support for cmi5 to some of our other products including SCORM Engine and SCORM Driver.
Obviously, supporting a variety of specifications is a huge part of what we do well at Rustici Software. More than anything, though, I think it’s important for us to be conscious of, and to explain well to all of you, when and why we add support for a particular specification.
So, what is cmi5?
cmi5 is technically a profile of xAPI which means it piggy backs on top of things already well defined in xAPI, but adds specificity in others. For cmi5, this means that certain xAPI statements are required, and launch is handled in a very specific way.
For me, it’s the launch piece that’s so important. From xAPI’s advent years ago, there have been issues with launching content. In the earliest days, we at Rustici Software defined a very simple launch specification that several content vendors picked up on. It was good enough for the time being, but it wasn’t really good enough in practice.
So, over the last couple of years, many people including Bill McDonald (as Chair of the working group) and Art Werkenthin and others at RISC have put a lot of energy into considering how their AICC work could be applied to launch in the xAPI world. The result is that we have a good solution for launching content via xAPI.
Why it matters
Years ago, as we at Rustici Software and others around us started evangelizing xAPI, we made some mistakes. We talked about all of the things that could be enabled by xAPI, the things for which it was necessary but not sufficient. Over the last year or two, we’ve really started to fill in the gaps to make it sufficient as well. And while launch isn’t the dreamiest of capabilities for which xAPI is a solution, it is absolutely fundamental.
If content launch is ultimately going to transition from SCORM to xAPI, cmi5’s support for launch will be a requirement. And further, so many other activities actually benefit from having a well defined, implemented, and adopted specification for launch. So for now, we’re excited to share that Cloud now offers vendors and others a great place to test cmi5 based launchable activities. We hope this helps spur the development of many xAPI/cmi5 adopters.
Posted by Tim Martin
Posted 2 February 2016
Welcome to week one of the post-acquisition Rustici Software world. I just thought I’d take a moment here to discuss one of the reasons we agreed to sell Rustici Software to LTG, because it’s not all about the money.
Mike and I were seeking investment funding for Watershed, but we really weren’t on the lookout for anything related to Rustici Software. It was a profitable business, I know very well how to run it, and we have several sets of work that give us cause for optimism. LTG, however, saw the value in both Watershed from an investment point of view and Rustici Software from a market and profitability point of view.
After LTG’s first visit, Mike and I asked ourselves two questions.
Throughout the negotiations, due diligence, and these two long days as an LTG company 😉 we’ve consistently believed that we could do both of those things and still do. LTG is not an LMS provider like some of our prior suitors have been. We always used to worry that an acquisition of that sort might include aggressive interactions with our customers. With LTG, we’re going to continue to be agnostic, supportive of the standards, and generally the same company we always have been. We’re excited about it, and excited about continuing to support our customers and the industry in general in exactly the same way.