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Tin Can API, the evolution of SCORM

Tin Can API, also known as Experience API or xAPI, is generally considered to be the successor to SCORM, and expands the ability of the organizations that use it to gather data about the experiences, both offline and online, experiences that are quantifiable, trackable and shareable. Tin Can API means there is less reliance on an LMS as these experiences are stored in a Learning Record Store, or LRS. This opens up a wealth of new possibilities for organizations, allowing them to accurately measure employee development and even tie it to performance. But how does this relative newcomer differ from what is already out there?

SCORM – the precursor to Tin Can API

The Shareable Content Object Reference Model – SCORM – has been the industry standard for over 15 years and has served as the foundation for many an LMS across its lifetime. Originally developed by Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL), an initiative of the Unite States Department of Defense, SCORM was designed to standardize and modernize their training courses. It is a set of standards and specifications for developing web-based educational technology, standards developed by the ADL which had always to adhere strictly to SCROM’s requirements, these being “accessible, reusable, inoperable, and durable content and systems”. SCORM ensures that content and data that is shared across different systems all adhere to the same model. SCORM’s many versions and tweaks over the years gradually gave learning providers more and more control over how and where their content is used, allowing them to better track learner progress and set specific objectives, while also giving learning providers the ability to track the progress of their students. Interoperability was increased, and today almost every LMS and e-learning authoring tool is SCORM compliant, allowing the users of SCORM authoring tools to write content for LMSs.

Advantages of Tin Can API

Despite the obvious advantages SCORM gives an organization, its scope is somewhat outdated given how much information can now be gathered about an e-learner, both offline and online. Whereas before the tracking was limited to specific achievements – course progress, completion/incompletion, pass/fail etc. – with Tin Can API the ability to track becomes much more granular, and data can be collected a number of ways, on desktops or mobile devices and in whatever form the learning activity takes. All of this adds up to give a much clearer and deeper overall picture of a learner’s progress. Tin Can API generates “statements” in the form of noun-verb-object, and these statements are sent to an LRS (more about this below). This LRS can be integrated with an LMS, allowing Tin Can API to perform everything that a SCORM compliant LMS can do, and much, much more. Have a look at Paradiso Solutions’ Tin Can in a Nutshell for a quick overview of its features.

Some of the many benefits of Tin Can API are:

  • Tin Can API can track many different formal and informal learning experiences, not just the content hosted on an LMS.

Some of these include watching a learning video, attending a conference, writing a blog post or interacting with social media. All of these experiences are part of the learning process, and can be recorded by Tin Can API and sent to the LRS.

  • Developers can create content any way they want with Tin Can API.

They are no longer constrained by Java, and now have the freedom to create content on the platform that is suitable to them – you can find a list of companies who have adopted Tin Can API here. This gives learning managers the ability to gather data from computers and mobile devices, gaming simulations, social media and almost any other source.

  • Learning can be tracked both on and offline.

With SCORM the learner has to be logged into an LMS so that progress can be tracked. With Tin Can API data can be stored locally and then relayed back to the LRS when connected, further enhancing mobile, or M-Learning, trackability.

  • LRS data can be easily shared.

LRSs have the ability to share data with another LRS and with reporting or analytics tools. This is not only great for building a much clearer picture of an e-learner, but also allows developers to assess the effectiveness of their content and applications, helping them to optimize and address any shortcomings or deficiencies.

LMS, LRS or both?

As mentioned above an LRS is a database where e-learner data is stored in the form of noun-verb-object “statements”. For example if John attends a Tedx seminar then this would be sent by Tin Can API to the LRS as “John-attended-Tedx seminar”. With the introduction of Tin Can API there is even less reliance on the LMS to gather e-learner data, and LRS can stand alone or be built into an LMS. You don’t even need to be logged into an LMS or LRS for the information to be recorded. A standalone LRS lacks the functionality to carry out certain tasks that only an LMS can do, and so it depends on the requirements of the organizations whether or not they need an LMS, an LRS or an LMS with a built-in LRS. An LRS stores only historical data, and so lacks some capabilities:

  • Scheduling
  • Certification
  • Managing resources, facilities and instructors
  • Course delivery
  • Sequencing (determining what happens when an e-learner exits a Sharable Content Object)

If you have a whole library of courses that are not optimized for Tin Can API, then an LRS may not be the right solution for you. Likewise if you have recurring training needs (for instance industry standard licenses) then an LMS would be much better for reporting which e-learners failed to meet the requirements or when their license expires, and so on. Which solution you choose – LMS, LRS or both – depends entirely on your organization’s circumstances and requirements.

So it sounds like Tin Can is the way to go…

As I have said, what you choose should be based on your own requirements. An LMS on its own is a powerful tool for tracking e-learner progress, managing course delivery and resources and storing course material. If you have a need to regularly schedule courses or need to provide certifications, than you will definitely need an LMS. However if you often use simulations or gaming in your training, or if you wish to track e-learner progress across multiple platforms making use of tablet or smartphone responsive technology, then an LRS and Tin Can API could be just what you need.

Our Paradiso LMS supports established e-learning standards such as SCORM and AICC, as well as newer more dynamic ones like Tin Can API

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