Tin Can API: the future of eLearning?

Tin Can API (renamed as eXperience API by ADL) is a new eLearning specification which is different to all previous ones because it allows the integration of a higher number of learning experiences, both online and offline.

20140509-FernandoDiaz-TinCan01

Credits: Rustici Software

It is without doubt the best candidate to substitute our old friend SCORM 1.2 which has tried to evolve over the years with SCORM 2004 in its different editions. But as we can see in the following chart, its rate of adoption is still higher than the rest.

 

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Source: http://scorm.com/scorm-stats/

How does it work?

Tin Can API, unlike its predecessor SCORM, takes a more open view of training as a starting point, based on the fact that learning can take place anywhere and that we have to be able to register it. To do so, it defines an API which allows you to collect, send and receive “statements” in a “Learning Record Store”.

Let’s take a closer look at these two new concepts:

  • A statement is a data structure made of the following elements: subject, verb and object. Many of you might think this is too simple, but that is precisely where the power lies, as it allows us to represent anything. It also includes other optional elements such as the context and the result brought by the statement.
  • A Learning Record Store or LRS is a new system, defined by Tin Can API, which is in charge of storing and managing statements. This is undoubtedly the biggest innovation introduced by Tin Can API, generating a new intermediate system between content and the LMS which allows a complete separation of both elements. The API defines a REST communication protocol for consulting, receiving and storing statements within the LRS.

Rustici, the company responsible for defining and developing this new specification by ADL, has hit the nail on the head with this new and more modern conception. The client-server model has evolved under a SCORM “Observer” pattern into a more modern architecture with a “Visitor” pattern which allows the separation of a client as well as the use of multiple servers.

In my opinion, the key factor which helped obtain this model was the amount of time and effort placed in paying close attention to the industry, by inviting different people from key companies to participate in its definition and to comment their needs and experience. In fact, this post in their blog contains the interview I, myself, had with them in April 2011 to tell them about my experiences and concerns.

What benefits does it offer over SCORM?

The main benefits this new specification offers regarding SCORM are:

  • It allows you to learn and leave statements using any device.
  • It is not subject to the typical web browser restrictions.
  • It removes all interoperability restrictions by reducing costs and increasing application fields.
  • It is possible to track not only eLearning content. For example: games, websites, applications…
  • It collects real-world learning experiences.
  • It does not require an Internet connection.
  • It increases safety for content creators and people.
  • It is valid both for self-paced learning and for group learning.
  • It is not necessary to know in advance what a user has to learn.
  • It works both inside and outside an LMS.
  • There is no predefined data model.

In short, there are many ways of learning and many places where you might learn. Up to now it was not possible to track all this learning, but Tin Can API opens the door for us to do it.

The challenge now is to see how the market will accept this new specification and if it will make the effort to adapt to it. In my opinion, the result will depend on the creativity and the innovation of eLearning providers when using it. If they are merely going to do carry on as they were doing with SCORM, the dream will never come true. What do you think?

References:

 Netex

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Interactive Books: Future of Digital Publishing


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