Providing thought leadership

by Mirjam Neelen
Learning happens in many ways, many places and for many reasons. If we can gather insight into all these different learning experiences we can provide a learner centric approach to teaching and learning. To gain this type of insight we need a powerful, standardised and universal approach. That’s where xAPI comes in. xAPI is a specification for learning technology that allows us to track all kinds of learning activities, such as courses, mobile apps, social learning platform contributions and even offline learning experiences.
Learnovate recently completed an xAPI project with the aim, first, to determine a best practice approach to enable partners identify if they could or should adopt xAPI. Second, to provide a detailed case study which outlines how xAPI can be appropriately implemented. This resulted in a Proof of Concept which informed a “How to” guide which outlines how xAPI can be leveraged.

How xAPI works (the very basics)

The image below shows how xAPI basically works. Learning experiences happen in several places; in xAPI language all the different ‘systems’, such as the LMS and the Video repository are called activity providers (abbreviated as AP). All these disparate learning experiences can be captured in a Learning Record Store (LRS). The arrows illustrate a statement. The statement describes the learning activity. Basically any activity provider can send xAPI statements, which are then collectively stored in an LRS. Statements have three fundamental elements; actors, verbs and objects, it is important to note there is an optional fourth element, context. A basic example of a statement could be “Ben failed assessment Y“. However, statements can also can be far richer, such as “On an iPad, while offline, Ben answered a question on Quick Sales on Social Learning Platform X”. While the actor-verb-object structure is a critical basic, it is usually the context of the statement that makes it meaningful.
Like a lot of recent innovations, the technology is a tool, it is how it is used that brings benefit. In the case of xAPI it is possible to gain aggregated, rich and meaningful profiles of your learners, however in itself this is of little value. The value is in how you tailor a learner’s development based on these insights. Based on our research, the use case, and a functional test, we have the following main conclusions.

  1. You need to be clear on why you want to use xAPI.
  2. Both Learning Designers and Data Scientists need upskilling and need to collaborate closely.
  3. You need to realise that there is a steep learning curve.
  4. You need to recognise the need for growth and change management; if xAPI implementations are growing, you need to manage the data to ensure that it remains meaningful.

To be continued…