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xAPI in eLearning

xAPI & API: what are they?

This article has been written for those readers who are neither geeks nor nerds. If you have ever experienced working with software, at a specific point in your working career you may have heard the word API murmured by your co-worker or any other person in your IT department.

The Application Program Interfaces, or APIs, is generally a layer of code which is placed between two applications that enable them to “speak” to each other and interchange information, even if they were created or developed by different authors or developers or developed in different programming languages.

Most of the software producers normally develop their own APIs (Application Program Interfaces) and the respective documentation to inspire other programmers to develop some new integrations and to make them add value to their own users.

Generally, software producers are motivated to create their own software APIs and its purpose is to make sure that it does not remain a “lonely planet” and to gain the target audience.

What is xAPI?

In this article, I wanted to emphasise on the Tin Can API, which is also called the Experience API or xAPI. Basically, xAPI is a specific software interface which is being used mostly in the eLearning sector, it also enables the SCORM packages to collaborate with a Learning Management System.

Created about 10 years before by Rustici Software, xAPI enables learning content and LMS (Learning Management System) to collaborate and to store some data about user learning experience. By using this interface, the users can store data with a very simple technique: “I did this” (subject, verb, object).

By using this technique, the system can store all types of data on the activities (object) which are performed (verb) by the various users (subject) of an eLearning platform, allowing the whole system to process much faster than before.

What xAPI means for eLearning

I will assume you get some basic knowledge about SCORM. The SCORM is the most commonly used standard for delivering and packaging all the eLearning content for LMS (Learning Management Systems).

Generally, the SCORM standard was a game-changing act for online learning, however, it still lacks some basic features that can make it the all-in-one perfect solution in eLearning content. This is where the xAPI comes in, which came to close the gap between SCORM and these amazing features like:

  • Off browser learning (like native mobile learning, by using various mobile apps);
  • Cross-browser activities;
  • Enhanced platform security;
  • Tracking of a wide range of different activities like games, team-based eLearning, and IT training.

Right now, we consider all these features (which are enabled just because of the xAPI) as a standard for LMS, however, until a few years ago some things such as the use of games for learning or mobile learning, were a technically impossible.

We should say thanks to the xAPI Instructional developers who make it able to take the LMS outside the limited experience in order to develop a whole new eLearning experience for all participants.

So, is xAPI the same thing as Tin Can API?Yes, of course. The Tin Can API is the original name for the Experience API and the next generation of SCORM that ADL was searching for. Today, ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) refers to “Experience API” or xAPI for short, which was Tin Can API.

The name Experience API or xAPI is perfect for the eLearning community because its main purpose is to store the data and provide access to eLearning experiences. Experience API or xAPI also supports the cases that SCORM could not meet before easily, such as mobile IT training and the content which is accessed from outside a web browser.

Some (final) thoughts

The xAPI contributes to the improvement of your eLearning course. E-learning enjoys its growing popularity with xAPI and it made online classrooms a simple occurrence.

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