Layer 3: Free the Data

Ever wonder what blackhole all of your SCORM data disappeared into? SCORM was all about allowing content to send data to an LMS. There were no requirements about how the LMS should use that data, how it should display it or how it should report on it. xAPI doesn’t include any of those system design requirements either, but there is one key difference. xAPI requires that the LRS make the data accessible.

The Experience API allows for both writing data to and reading data from an LRS. What goes in, also now comes out. LRSs can share data with reporting tools, analytics tools and even other LRSs. This capability has profound implications for the types of systems we can build and the data we can share.

Very few people love the reporting tools in their LMS. Generic reports sometimes suffice, but people want to slice and dice their data in different ways. Different verticals have different needs, different terminology and different compliance requirements. With the Experience API, it will be possible to develop sophisticated reporting tools that can pull data from any LRS. These tools could be customized for integration with specific business intelligence tools, different types of learning experiences, different industries, etc. The data is accessible to be analyzed however you see fit.

Content authors are always looking for ways to assess the effectiveness of their instruction, address deficiencies and make improvements. The only way to find areas for improvement is to understand how learners are engaging with the content itself. Without understanding what is really happening, authors are blind to deficiencies. xAPI will allow for content analytics tools to extract real usage data from an LRS and provide the information authors need to make informed decisions to improve instructional effectiveness.

In addition to allowing for system-to-system communication, the Experience API also allows statements to be reported to more than one LRS. Since there is no longer a tight coupling between the LMS and the learning experience, the asserter of the learning experience is free to send a statement to as many LRSs as it would like to.

The most interesting use of the multi-LRS reporting capability is the “personal data locker”. When a learner takes a piece of training, why is that experience only recorded in the employer’s LRS? Isn’t that learning experience relevant to the learner in other contexts and in subsequent jobs? Why doesn’t that learning experience belong to the learner? With xAPI, the learner can report his experience to his employer, but then also record the event in his “personal data locker”.

Taken to the next logical step, why isn’t every learning experience recorded to the learner’s “personal data locker” first? Let’s let the learner own his data and then decide whom to share that data with.

Could a record of your learning experiences be a more informative version of your experience than your resume?

Could publishing your learning experiences help identify you as an expert in a particular field to be sought out for advice, questions or even jobs?

Would your organization benefit from knowing everything you’ve learned as a wholistic person, not just on the job?

There are many challenges to overcome before we can fulfill this vision (both technical and political), but xAPI lays the foundation to enable all of this and more.

A little bit mind-blowing? Potentially transformative? xAPI is going to reshape our industry. But, of course, there’s more…

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