Part one of our 2-part xAPI series taught us the basics of Experience API (xAPI) including the definition and how it works between systems. This post will explore getting started with xAPI and the data that comes with it!

Do I need to build it myself? How do I get started?

Good news! If you’re an L&D professional (not a vendor), you have many options in getting xAPI enabled in your organization without doing much, if any, coding work. First, you’ll have to make sure you have a Learning Record Store where your data can be stored. There are many free and paid versions with varying capabilities.

You’ll also need to choose the tools you want to use or evaluate your existing learning tools’ capabilities. There are currently hundreds of tools, such as an LMS, social learning platforms, authoring tools, and more that are already equipped with xAPI. You simply need to ask your vendor if and how they support xAPI. In the case of existing systems that don’t support xAPI yet, you can still bring that data into an LRS using a data converter or third-party connectors.

What am I supposed to do with all this new data?

More and more organizations are using xAPI to connect learning technology products to build the learning ecosystems they need. When applications already support xAPI, integrations can be as simple as plug and play.

Once your learning systems are integrated and all your learning records are stored in one place, your data is perfectly primed for learning analytics. You can start exploring your data to get a clear picture of what’s happening in your organization. Evaluate learning programs and explore the reasons behind the most popular or successful training. And, once you’re armed with a better understanding of these programs, you can begin to positively shape and enhance your learners’ future experiences.

To learn more about xAPI, access helpful resources, and explore how other L&D practitioners are using it, visit xAPIxAPRIL.com.


Lizelle_Holstein

About the Author: Lizelle Holstein, Director of Marketing at Watershed

A huge thanks to Lizelle and our friends at Watershed for part 1 of this 2-part guest series.

The Experience API (xAPI) is a technical specification that makes it easier for learning technologies to connect to each other. Basically, it’s a rulebook for how learning tools communicate about online and offline activities of an individual or group of people.

How does xAPI work?

We like to use a USB analogy to help describe how xAPI works. Your computer is likely equipped with a USB port or two, which means you can connect certified USB peripherals to your computer to transfer files, connect devices (e.g., printer, keyboard), or even back up data. As long as your computer’s manufacturer and the USB drive manufacturer formatted their equipment according to the USB specification, the equipment will work together.

The xAPI specification works in much the same way. If tools conform to the “rules” of the xAPI specification, they can, in theory, connect to different products (e.g., LMS, social learning platforms, learning experience platforms, etc.) and automatically transfer learning records. In all cases, there’s a Learning Record Store at the center receiving, storing, and returning the data as required.

Aren’t learning and business systems already able to share data?

Not really. Previously, most learning technologies had data locked down internally, allowing the information to be extracted only via CSV, custom connectors, or the SCORM specification.

CSVs require manual reporting work, custom connectors often take lots of time and money to build, and SCORM—though useful—is limited to very basic activity data from an LMS. xAPI eliminates these constraints.

Why do systems need to connect using xAPI?

First, without a standard format, systems are siloed, or trapped on their own islands of data. With xAPI, the info is communicated between systems with statements in an actor + verb + object format (i.e., “I did this” or “Lizelle wrote a blog.”)

Think about how many different types of sentences you can build with just those three parts of speech:

  • Actor (who)
  • Verb (did)
  • Object (what)

You’re capable of communicating quite a bit more than just scores, completions, and duration, right?

This opens up many opportunities for the types and complexities of experiences you can capture and report on. Especially if you consider that learning happens everywhere—across many devices, locations, both online and in the real world.

Stay tuned for part two where we will explore how to get started with xAPI and what to do with your learning data!


lizelleAbout the Author:
Lizelle Holstein is the Marketing Director at Watershed.

 

A huge thanks to Lizelle and our friends at Watershed for part 1 of this 2-part guest series.

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