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What is xAPI?

Here at Pathways we talk a lot about SCORM and reporting when we are developing eLearning modules, what standard are we going to use, if it needs to report a score, or only completion, bookmarking, etc. And for the most part, we have concluded that SCORM (or AICC in very few occasions) meet our customers requirements for reporting.

As the technology advances, also does the necessity to improve the data that we get from our training, whether it is online training with eLearning modules or videos, or other kinds of training, like workshops or one-to-one sessions and, if we look at the timeline of the development of SCORM, it’s been over 10 years since the last version of SCORM was released (4th edition of SCORM 2004).

However, with the strong presence of social media, and mobile devices, ADL felt that SCORM had come to its limits as to what reporting it could do, that’s why xAPI was developed and launched.

xAPI basically reports learners’ experiences (By means of an LRS, which stands for Learning Record Store) using very simple syntaxis. The beauty of this is that:

  • It doesn’t necessarily have to report to an LMS

  • It doesn’t need constant connectivity to the internet

  • It can be anything training related

The syntaxis that xAPI uses is very simple, and it is based on the construction of sentences that depict what the learner has just experienced, so theses sentences are built like this: noun + verb + object. One of the advantages of this, is that being such a simple syntaxis, it can be cross platform, meaning that these experiences can be shared among different kinds of software / learning platforms. As an example, if a user goes trough an eLearning course, the xAPI report would be something like: User experienced eLearning module. And if the user completes the course, the xAPI report would be: User completed eLearning module.

As a way of experimenting, I created a short quiz in Storyline and using xAPI as a wrapper, imported into SCORM cloud. Here’s the report I got after going through the quiz:

xAPI report analytics
xAPI report

As you can see in the picture above, it is very easy to read what the learning just experienced, which can help training departments get analytics report and easily pull-down necessary information, such as what questions are being more difficult for the learners. Granted the quiz I created needs to be a bit more communicative in terms of the questions IDs and such, but we can really get a grasp on the reporting capabilities of xAPI.

In comparison, I exported the same quiz using SCORM 2004 4th edition, and upload it again to SCORM cloud. After going through it again, this is the report I got:

SCORM report analytics
SCORM report

As we can see, it is so much more convoluted, hard to read, and it doesn’t necessarily contain all the info we need, and even if it does, it is so much more complex to get any useful metrics.

I can’t wait to discuss this more in depth with our client and show them what we can achieve with xAPI.


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