Run a pilot

There’s a lot of power in xAPI and it’s easy to think big, but the bigger your project the harder it will be to get started. Often it’s easier to start with a small pilot and build on it piece by piece rather than trying to do everything all at once.

This page gives you four practical projects for you to get started in your organization. We’ve ordered the projects based on how much programming or budget you’ll need for the pilot. The first one requires zero programming or budget, just your time; the middle two require a little programming (or you could hire somebody to do it for you) and the last one you’ll really need some budget in order to do well.

Track informal learning

90% of learning in the workplace is informal and the see it working page introduced you to a bookmarklet you can use to record your learning experiences across the internet. Your pilot project could be as simple as that: get a team of people in your organization using the bookmarklet to record their learning experiences to a shared LRS for three months. At the end, ask the team how it went and see if they learned from one another’s learning.

You can run this pilot using free resources; here’s what you need to do:

  1. Get an LRS – This can be a free or paid LRS, it doesn’t matter. You will need to make sure that all of the team is able to see the statements being sent to the LRS. If you’re feeling clever, you can achieve this either by configuring the statement viewer prototype to pull from your LRS. If not, you can use a shared LRS account with a shared username and password for the purposes of this zero budget pilot. Obviously this is terrible practice from an information security perspective so make sure your pilot doesn’t involve any sensitive information if you go down this route.
  2. Get the bookmarklet. Set up each member of the team with the bookmarklet on their browser. Make sure they all use the same LRS details but different email addresses. Test it’s working before you start the trial.
  3. Learn! Have the team use the bookmarklet over the course of three months. Encourage the team to check the statement stream every couple of days and look for interesting learning experiences recorded by other team members that they can also learn from. Encourage them to keep a record of how helpful they find the bookmarklet and any positives or negatives from the experience.
  4. Review. At the end of the three months review the project. What worked and what didn’t? Did people continue to use the bookmarklet throughout the project? Did they find it helpful to learn from one another? What could be done better?

This project will help you to gauge the appetite for tracking and sharing informal learning in your organization. If it works well, consider extending the trial and maybe investing in making the experience a little smoother or more effective for the learners based on their feedback. If it doesn’t work, have a look at some of the other pilots you could try. They are each very different applications of xAPI, so you should find one or two that suit your organization well.

Link your blend

Blended learning involves learning via multiple different channels, often using online and offline elements, multiple devices and a mix of individual and collaborative learning experiences. Blended learning is important as different knowledge, skills and abilities are best developed in different ways. A varied learning experience is also more interesting and engaging. xAPI enables you to better link up your learning experiences. So how can you do that with limited JavaScript skills, an off-the-shelf authoring tool and zero budget for a pilot?

  1. Get an LRS – This can be a free or paid LRS, it doesn’t matter. This time you don’t need your pilot participants to be able to see the data.
  2. Get an authoring tool; hopefully you already have one. Your authoring tool needs to be able to publish to xAPI and have actions features that can trigger and be triggered by JavaScript. Most of the major authoring tools meet these criteria.
  3. Design two courses that will link together. The idea is that the actions of a learner in course 1 affect the actions of a learner (maybe the same learner, maybe not) in course 2. A simple example is a simulation split across multiple courses; what you do in the first course affects the options available to you in the second course.
  4. Make sure you are happy with the default xAPI publishing options. Read Get started with xAPI in your content and try it in your authoring tool.
  5. Use xAPI to transfer data between the courses via an LRS. This guide takes you through the technical development and includes code you can copy and paste. Create two versions of the courses, one with the links and one without.
  6. Publish your courses and test thoroughly!
  7. Try your courses with two sets of learners; one group will use the linked courses and one group will use the ‘normal’ courses. Get feedback and evaluate the effectiveness of the courses between the two groups.

This pilot will help you to gauge and develop the capability of your organization to design and create these kinds of linked learning experiences. Designing blended experiences is challenging if you’ve not done so before and you may well find that whilst you appreciate the potential of the approach, either there’s no significant difference between the two groups of learners or technical glitches actually hinder the learning of the learners taking the linked courses. Don’t be discouraged if that’s the case; use the pilot to learn lessons for your next design and to iron out those technical gremlins. Keep running pilots iteratively until you’ve got an approach you’re happy with to roll out on a larger scale.

Multi-device onboarding

One of the biggest challenges of starting with a new company is finding your way around and learning who’s who and where they sit. Online programmes are not ideal for conveying this information, so we often give new hires a guided tour on their first day. Of course, this is quickly forgotten amongst the reams of other information they’re bombarded with. What if we could support new hires with a blended programme that spreads their tour throughout their first week as they work through the rest of the onboarding material you’ve prepared. Could we give them mobile missions to go and find Sue in Accounts and chat to her about the finance information they’ve been learning about on their computer? After speaking to Sue, the learner can scan a QR code on her desk to mark that part of the onboarding complete.

This pilot is really a specialized version of the previous one with a twist. Again, you can do this with limited JavaScript skills, an off the shelf authoring tool and zero budget. It is a little more complex in terms of the steps you have to follow, so consider hiring somebody to help with this if it seems too much.

  1. Get an LRS – This can be a free or paid LRS, it doesn’t matter. This time you don’t need your pilot participants to be able to see the data.
  2. Get an authoring tool; hopefully you already have one. Your authoring tool needs to be able to publish to xAPI and have actions features that can trigger and be triggered by JavaScript. It also needs to be able to create both desktop and mobile courses. Most of the major authoring tools meet these criteria.
  3. Design your desktop and mobile courses. Your desktop course should prepare the learner with the knowledge and skills they should have prior to visiting a certain location or person as part of their onboarding. The mobile course should simply include instructions on how to find the person or location they’re supposed to go to. You’ll also create a third “course” that’s accessed by scanning a QR code at the target location and simply reports that the learner made it; let’s call this the task-completed course.
  4. Create QR codes for the mobile and task-completed courses. Google’s URL shortener service is the simplest way to do this: Creating the QRs codes means that you’ll need to know the URLs used to launch the courses. This might be a page on your LMS, or it might be a launch page you create (see the prototypes for an example).
  5. Make sure your learners have a QR scanner app on their phone. There are lots of free apps available for all the major operating systems; if you’re feeling snazzy you could create your own app, but there’s no need to do so for a pilot.
  6. Put the QR code for the mobile course within the desktop course at the point where you want the learner to go to that location. The idea is that the learner will scan the code to get the instructions on where to go and how to get there.
  7. Print the QR code for the task-completed course and stick it up somewhere at the location the learner has to go to. The learner will scan this code after completing their task to activate this course.
  8. Follow this tutorial to get the task-complete course to send a custom xAPI statement and have the desktop course check for that statement. Once the learner has completed the task, the desktop course will see the statement and unlock the rest of the course, perhaps including a short quiz to consolidate their real world learning.
  9. Test the course and try it with some learners. Does it work? Is it helpful?

This example allows you to create a fairly innovative learning experience. A custom mobile app with location tracking could make this experience smoother for the learner, but would cost considerably more. Once you’ve completed this pilot with a single location to visit, consider using this approach with other parts of the onboarding and other training experiences.

Learning Analytics

One of the key applications of xAPI is learning analytics: comparing training and performance data to discover the effectiveness of training on performance. If done right, a learning analytics pilot will give you actionable insights and evidence of impact that you can use to make the business case for a larger budget project in your organization.  Running a learning analytics pilot will require some budget as you’ll need access to a learning analytics platform.

The kinds of questions organizations are using learning analytics to answer are:

  • How effective are different types of learning experience at improving business metrics such as sales?
  • What type of learning do employees prefer?
  • Are more expensive training programmes worth the investment?
  • What are the gaps in our training?
  • Are performance support programmes effective?
  • What skills do employees need to succeed?

See Analytics design for the step you’ll take in designing learning analytics. Your learning analytics platform vendor should guide you through the process and help you to keep your scope small and focused for an initial pilot.

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An LRS pilot is a great way to start getting learning analytics in your organization.
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