Ten Questions & Answers About the Experience API

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It’s really exciting to see the level of interest in the Experience API from the L&D community. L&D professionals are extremely inquisitive and it is amazing to see how many questions there are out there that we haven’t addressed, so we’ve decided to take a stab at it. There are new questions popping up every day and we’ll be posting these on an ongoing basis on our support site. For now, here’s a list of top questions we’ve compiled:

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Q: Will a Learning Record Store (LRS) replace my Learning Management System (LMS)?

A: Probably not. The LMS provides very different functionality and value than an LRS. An LRS can be part of an LMS or it may stand-alone. There are a few LMS companies that offer an integrated LRS, but the value of an LMS mainly lies in course enrollment & management, calendar of offerings, user management, and a system of record for course-like learning experiences (things an LRS does not do). An LRS that stands alone may provide additional connectors, integrations, analyses & visualizations, or other specialized functions that your LMS/LRS may not provide. We outline “One Possible Future” on our blog that explains this “symbiotic ecosystem” in more depth.

Q: Can I test against a working Learning Record Store?

A: Yes. The two most common LRSs available today without the need for an LMS are Wax LRS & SCORM Cloud. Wax LRS is a cloud based LRS that provides analysis & visualization of all your Experience API learning data. SCORM Cloud (from Rustici Software) is a training delivery service that also provides a way to deliver eLearning and have the results stored in Experience API format. Both allow you to setup free or limited accounts so you can get started right away. There are others being developed as we speak so this ecosystem is growing!

Q: What is the Experience API (Tin Can API)?

A: The Experience API (also known as the Tin Can API or xAPI) is an eLearning software specification that allows learning content and systems to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences. The results are stored in an LRS. We’ve created a more in-depth non-technical white paper on the topic for L&D professionals that you can download here.

Q: Should an Experience API compliant Learning Management System also act as a Learning Record Store?

A: It depends. There are a couple of ways an LMS can be “Experience API compliant.” An LMS may generate Experience API data (based on user activity or experiences - see LearnDash Use Case) for storage in an LRS or it may include an LRS to aggregate Experience API data from different activity providers (including data from within the LMS).

Q: Are Learning Record Stores available in the cloud or installed on-premise?

A: Both. An LRS can reside in the cloud (web-based or hosted) or it can be deployed on your own servers (installed or on-premise). There are benefits and challenges to both models. An on-premise LRS provides the highest level of control but requires internal IT resources to setup and maintain (servers, memory, storage) including upgrades and support for newer versions of the Experience API. A cloud (or web-based) LRS resides on managed infrastructure so it is most scalable and requires the least IT resources, but organizations may be less comfortable with storing internal data in the cloud.

Make sure to check your LRS provider’s privacy policy to learn about how they manage & share your data. See our super readable Privacy Policy as an example (where you own your data with Wax LRS).

Q: How can I build learning experiences to talk to a Learning Record Store?

A: There are lots of ways but it depends on what your goals are. 1) For formal training, you can use an Experience API authoring tool like Claro, iSpring, Captivate, Lectora, or Storyline and publish the course in “Tin Can” format. 2) You can use social, gaming, simulation, or informal learning tools that are Experience API enabled from various vendors (Knowledge Guru, ZebraZapps, Tappestry, Curatr, plus many more). 3) You can develop your own Experience API enabled activities based on your needs from internal tools in your organization like SharePoint, project management software, Yammer, Jive, or Salesforce.com (even performance management software).

If you choose the 3rd route, you’ll need some basic software development expertise in partnership with L&D design (instructional, content, delivery). Essentially, any system that is Experience API enabled needs to have the ability to generate and send “statements” about an event to an LRS. In any case, it is important to carefully plan and design the experiences based on your desired outcomes to track what’s important.

Q: How do I build & launch courses from an authoring tool in Experience API format?

A: All the current major authoring tools provide the ability to publish courses in “Tin Can” format (similar to publishing in SCORM or AICC). Once you do that you will need to launch the course from an LMS or content management system like WordPress (see the Grassblade WordPress plugin as an example). In most cases, you will need to configure an LRS to send the results to.

Q: Does a learner need to be connected to the internet for the Learning Record Store to track results?

A: No, an LRS can receive results from a learning activity provider at any time. This requires that the activity or application sending the Experience API data to the LRS provides a mechanism to temporarily store offline results and send it once an internet connection exists. Additionally, many other forms of offline learning can be reported by an individual or mentor/coach/trainer/manager and captured in some online system.

Q: Which Learning Record Store vendors have the best reporting interface?

A: Wax LRS (shameless plug but its also true). Really, we haven’t seen specific examples of an LRS vendor with any reporting or analytics. You will always have a need for specific and custom reporting but there are some extremely interesting insights you can gain from an analysis platform like Wax LRS. Wax LRS provides some high level analyses about popular activities, timelines, score distributions, geo-analyses (location based), social influencer analytics, learner profiles, question analysis and more. You can learn more about analysis and the big questions we are attempting to help you answer using the Experience API.

When we have rich information (like the data contained in an LRS) about how people are learning and what they are doing, we can automatically distill key insights and present them in a unified and browsable dashboard.

Q: Where can I learn more about the Experience API, Learning Record Stores, and xAPI design?

A: There are a number of resources available online. We recommend you start with the Experience API Basics white paper. We also offer blog posts, use cases, development services, webinars, documentation, and workshops here.

You can join the ADL adopters and specification Google groups for specific answers to your questions, there’s a new ADL xAPI Design group that’s open to the community, and more resources are available from the ADL and Rustici Software.

We hope this helps. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us or visit our support site and resources page for more information.

What burning questions do you have about the Experience API? Drop them in the comments below!

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