Planning for the xAPI - Insights From mLearnCon

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mLearnCon was a great catalyst for discussing mobile learning and the Experience API (xAPI). One notable difference this year was the change in the xAPI conversation. Learning leaders are becoming more knowledgeable about the benefits of the new learning technology standard and the conversation has evolved from “What is the xAPI?” to “How should we get started?”

My conversations generally focused on three key areas: the xAPI ecosystem, learning models, and planning.

The xAPI Ecosystem

Just like any new shiny object, there’s a life cycle. Currently the xAPI 1.0 is in the “Early Adopter” phase so the good news is that you are not behind (yet!). This means instructional design tools (e.g. ZebraZapps, Claro, Storyline) are testing against the standard for compliance, work-flow systems (e.g. SharePoint, Yammer, are being designed to generate xAPI data using Plug-In’s and APIs, and other applications (e.g. e-books, mobile games, simulations) are being xAPI-enabled. Having a high level understanding of the xAPI ecosystem was an important first step for attendees and helped frame the conversation for important topics like the learning model and planning. See my presentation here.

Learning Model

Though the xAPI was designed to overcome the technical challenges of the previous standard, a frequent by-product is that there is a need to make changes in the current learning development model. The majority of resources have traditionally been dedicated to creating and delivering formal training (the “10%”), however, the xAPI allows you to think about supporting informal learning (the 90%) at the moment of need in a Performance Support model. Our friends Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson (5 Moments of Need) of Ontuitive do a great job of framing performance support. The Experience API and performance support could not be a better match.


Some of my best conversations were spent huddled over a pad of paper with pen outlining how to plan for the xAPI. It was also the most productive and rewarding time for me at the conference. It became clear the most beneficial short term action a learning leader can take is getting started on a plan. The good news is planning for the xAPI is not all that different from planning for any other learning initiative, only better; the xAPI captures many more learning experiences for analysis & visualization and provides the tools for improved learning experience design! Linearly it looks like this:

Current Learning State > Organizational Readiness Assessment > Business Outcome Measurement > Systems Readiness Evaluation > Resource Planning > Implementation > Iteration

Assisting people through the process clarified the path ahead and provided tangible next steps for moving forward. The best part about it was the “AHA!” moment and motivation I witnessed from people to do things differently! It can be done so get started now, and here’s a first step!

What were your experiences from mLearnCon? How do you think the xAPI conversation is evolving?