Layer 2: Record Any Learning Experience (Informal Learning)

What percentage of your learning experiences are delivered through formal instruction? Of that, what percentage come from e-learning courses? It’s not much.

When you want to learn something, where do you go? Is it to your LMS in search of that perfect computer based training? No, of course not. You go to Google, or to YouTube, or to Twitter, or to a peer. Sometimes you might even sign up for a class. Why then have we limited the educational experiences we can track to just formal e-learning courses?

xAPI changes all of that. Learning happens everywhere. Now we can track it in a way that many systems can understand. The fact that you are reading this page is a very relevant learning experience. With xAPI, we can record it.

Watching a Khan Academy video is a learning experience, with xAPI, we can track it.

Attending a conference session is a learning experience, with xAPI, we can track it.

Asking your social network for advice…Experience API Activities

Being mentored by an expert…

Turning in your homework…

Mentoring somebody else…

Writing a blog post…

Going to class…

Reading a book…

Tons of things we do every day….are learning experiences. With xAPI, we can track them.

xAPI allows us to start forming a complete picture of an individual’s learning experiences. What will this look like in the real world? How do you efficiently track what people are doing outside an LMS? We don’t have all of the answers yet, xAPI is too young, but we do have some interesting ideas and early applications.

There’s a xAPI bookmarklet. It puts an “I Learned This” button in your browser toolbar for recording the relevant learning events while you’re browsing the web.

Download the book scanner app (Android). It allows you to scan the barcode on a book you just read and record it as a learning experience.

There are a myriad of other ways we can passively capture learning experience data.


  • A conference session registration system that makes xAPI statements about attendees
  • A “record learning event” button in Google Calendar that makes statements for everybody invited to the event
  • A corporate intranet’s discussion board that asserts knowledge gain or experience sharing based upon activity on a relevant thread

These are just the start. We live in a world where electronic systems pervade our lives. These systems can all capture our learning experiences. (If we want them to, that is. There are plenty of security and privacy issues that need to be weighed against the value of tracking learning experiences, but that’s another article.)

There are a few key innovations built into the Experience API that make it possible to track informal learning experiences:

  • The LRS doesn’t need to know about activities ahead of time. In SCORM, content must be imported and registered with the LMS before it can be delivered and tracked. This limits what can be tracked to e-learning content that the LMS administrator has preselected, in other words, a very small subset of our learning experiences. With xAPI, the latest Khan Academy video can become a trackable learning event as soon as it is released.
  • The learning experience to be tracked doesn’t need to be originated in the LMS. In SCORM, the only way to track a learning experience was to login to an LMS, register for a preselected e-learning course and then launch it from within the LMS. In xAPI, it doesn’t matter where or when you discover and begin a learning experience, it can all be tracked. When you’re finished watching an insightful TED Talk, click on your “I Learned This” bookmarklet and your learning experience is instantly recorded.
  • The content and the asserter of a learning experience are now decoupled. In SCORM, the “thing reporting a result about a learning experience” always had to be the experience itself. You had a SCO that was both a piece of educational content and a communicator of data about the learning experience. Content had to be smart. Content had to be intentionally converted to enable SCORM functionality. xAPI removes the requirement that the communicator of data be the educational experience itself. Now we have our “I Learned This” bookmarklet as the data communicator and all of the web can be harnessed as educational content. Now we have the Tappestry mobile app and any real-world experience can be an educational event.

Good stuff, right? Tracking informal learning fills in a big piece of the puzzle. A detailed record of an individual’s learning experiences can be a huge predictor of success and key component to assessing readiness.

In and of itself, this second layer represents a significant leap for our industry. But, of course, there’s more…

Learn More