What is xAPI?


he eLearning industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the past thirty years, evolving to offer ever more sophisticated learning experiences.

eLearning technology has worked hand-in-hand with this evolution, both enabling it and keeping up with it.

xAPI is an example of an eLearning technology that has been created to enable new approaches to learning and development, and new possibilities for data collection.

What is xAPI?

xAPI is a way to capture data about learning experiences that learners have, no matter where they are, what device they’re using, or what experience they’re having.

xAPI stands for Experience API, and was developed by ADL. It is sometimes referred to as Tin Can, after the name of the community-based project that contributed to its development. 

xAPI was developed as a successor to SCORM, the previous industry standard for packaging eLearning courses. Like SCORM, it sets a technical standard for data and the way that it is structured and collected. 

However, xAPI works very differently from SCORM. While SCORM made the LMS the start and end of every learning experience, xAPI seeks to make the LMS just one possible source of learning among many.

How does xAPI work?

There are 3 main elements of the xAPI system.

  1. Activity Provider
  2. Activity Statement
  3. Learning Record Store (LRS)

Activity providers send activity statements to Learning Record Stores. Now let's break down each of those steps.

Activity providers send activity statements to Learning Record Stores

#1 Activity Provider

An activity provider is any device, application, extension or piece of software capable of sending an Activity Statement. An activity provider could be an LMS, but it could also be a video, podcast, game, mobile app, piece of equipment or even a web browser extension.

An activity provider could be an LMS, but it could also be a video, podcast, game, mobile app, piece of equipment or even a web browser extension.

#2 Activity Statement

An activity statement is a piece of data that captures a moment of learning.

You have almost certainly seen activity statements before - on your social media account.

The activity feed of your social media accounts are full of activity statements that follow the same structure: Actor, verb, thing. E.g. “Jerry (actor) commented on (verb) your post (thing).”

 “Jerry (actor) commented on (verb) your post (thing).”

xAPI uses the same structure for it’s activity statements, such as “Mary (actor) completed (verb) the Social Media eLearning module (thing).” Each statement is a piece of data.

Activity providers can produce a large number of activity statements automatically, or may only provide a few statements at the manual direction of the learner.

#3 Learning Record Store (LRS)

With xAPI, the LRS replaces the LMS as the ultimate repository of data, as it receives activity statements from activity providers.

LRSs are much more flexible than LMSs as they can receive data from many diverse sources, not just SCORM packages. This greatly expands the potential for in-depth and segmented reporting. Users will be able to trace learning pathways to see which produced the best results, and also those that produce sub-optimal results, and tweak accordingly.

However, LRSs may not be able to slice and report on data on its own - a separate reporting and analytics tool is required for this final step, or the LRS may be incorporated into an LMS to take advantage of the reporting tools in the LMS.

An LRS may be integrated with an LMS or separate reporting and analytics tool to generate reports.

Is xAPI hard to use?

Implementing an xAPI and LRS system for your organisation can certainly present greater challenges for a business than implementing a SCORM and LMS system. SCORM and LMSs have been standard for close to two decades now, meaning that almost every authoring (course creation) tool and LMS is SCORM-compliant.

xAPI and LRSs are newer and less common, therefore not all authoring tools and LMSs are optimised for xAPI systems.

Even if the tool is optimised to publish eLearning courses and other learning experiences in an xAPI standard, such as HowToo, there may still be an additional custom work required to connect the activity provider to the LRS.

Is xAPI better than SCORM?

xAPI offers distinct advantages over SCORM. With xAPI, far more data about far more diverse learning experiences can be collected, segmented and analysed. 

xAPI also does not require a constant internet connection, unlike SCORM + LMS setups. Instead xAPI can collect activity statements while the learner is offline, and then send the statements to the LRS once the learner reconnects to the internet.

However, while xAPI represents the future of eLearning packaging and data structuring, the take up has been somewhat slow, due to the complex nature of its implementation.

This complexity means that xAPI may not be the right solution for every business. Businesses must weigh up the challenge to implement against the benefits of xAPI.

Does HowToo publish to xAPI?

Yes, HowToo courses can be published as xAPI activity providers on the Creator Plan. However, additional custom work may be required to ensure that your LRS can automatically receive the generated activity statements.

Does HowTooHub accept xAPI?

While HowTooHub is SCORM-compliant, it does not accept courses published in the xAPI standard.

Is xAPI right for me?

It’s important to carefully weigh up if xAPI is right for you. For a full comparison on the advantages and disadvantages of different methods for publishing and distributing training courses, check out our blog on how to choose the best way to share your training courses. For a quick summary, keep reading.

xAPI is ideal for businesses looking to capture data from a wide range of learning experiences and are interested in analysing large amounts of data in many segments. However, the full setup of an xAPI and LRS system can require a significant investment of time, dedication and technical expertise from the business. It may require integration with an LMS, and with a third-party reporting tool to take advantage of it’s full possibilities.

Businesses who may not have the resources to pursue this may find a SCORM and LMS setup perfect sufficient for achieving their learning goals.

Many small businesses prefer all-in-one platform solutions over xAPI and SCORM. All-in-one platforms such as HowToo Growth completely remove the step of publishing to xAPI and SCORM by allowing course creators to distribute courses within the one platform.

Got any questions? Contact our team and we’ll answer them as soon as we can.

Sep 1, 2021

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