Glossary

What is xAPI (Tin Can)? Comparison xAPI vs. SCORM vs. AICC

Dive into our comprehensive guide that explores 'What is xAPI (Tin Can)?' and how it measures up against SCORM and AICC. Understand the unique benefits of each e-learning standard and make the best choice for your educational needs.

Table of Contents

In the dynamic world of e-learning, one frequently encounters numerous technical terms and acronyms, among which xAPI, SCORM, and AICC are particularly prevalent.

These three terms are fundamental e-learning standards, each playing crucial roles in shaping online learning experiences. This article will explore 'What is xAPI (Tin Can)?' and compare it with the older standards, SCORM and AICC.

Our comparative analysis aims to illuminate the unique functionalities and advantages each standard brings to the table, helping you make informed decisions on implementing e-learning technologies.

What is xAPI (Tin Can)?

Experience API (xAPI), also known as Tin Can API, is a learning technology specification that enables the collection of data about a wide range of learning experiences. Developed by Advanced Distributed Learning, xAPI provides a standard method for capturing and sharing learning data between various systems.

Unlike older specifications like SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) that are limited to tracking online learning in a Learning Management System (LMS), xAPI is capable of recording, storing, and retrieving learning experiences both online and offline across different platforms. This includes experiences such as mobile learning, simulations, virtual reality, social learning, informal learning, and more.

Project Tin Can: The Genesis of xAPI

In the sphere of e-learning, Project Tin Can marked a significant leap forward in the evolution of learning technologies. The brainchild behind Project Tin Can is the Experience API (xAPI), a learning technology specification that has revolutionized the e-learning landscape by broadening the capacity to collect data about a wide range of learning experiences. Here is the story of its creation:

In the late 2000s, the Advanced Distributed Learning initiative recognized the limitations of the existing e-learning standards like SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) and AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee). These protocols were confined to tracking online learning activities within a Learning Management System (LMS), thereby offering a restricted view of the learning journey. With the aim to overcome these constraints, ADL launched Project Tin Can in 2010.

The mission of Project Tin Can was to develop a new learning technology standard that could track a wider variety of learning experiences, both online and offline. ADL reached out to the broader e-learning community for their ideas, needs, and requirements in order to develop this new standard. The feedback was overwhelming and illuminating, reinforcing the need for a more flexible and comprehensive standard.

By 2011, Rustici Software, a leading e-learning technology company, was chosen by ADL to conduct research and development for Project Tin Can. Over the next year, Rustici Software worked closely with the learning community, gathering use cases and requirements to develop the new specification.

The result of this collaboration was the Experience API (xAPI), also known as Tin Can API. Released in 2013, xAPI represented a significant advancement in e-learning technology. Unlike previous specifications, xAPI was able to record these diverse learning experiences in a Learning Record Store (LRS), enabling a more comprehensive view of the learning journey.

Since its inception, xAPI has been widely adopted and continues to evolve, with new versions released to address emerging needs in the e-learning industry. The birth of xAPI from Project Tin Can marked a turning point in e-learning, enabling richer, more diverse, and comprehensive learning experiences, truly embodying the ethos of lifelong learning in the 21st century.

Why is xAPI Important in E-Learning?

  1. Diverse Data Collection: xAPI allows for tracking of a broad range of learning experiences, not just traditional online course completions or test scores. This includes tracking learners' interactions with videos, games, simulations, and even offline activities, providing a comprehensive picture of a learner's learning journey.
  2. Interoperability: xAPI facilitates seamless communication and data exchange between various learning platforms and systems, thus breaking down data silos and enabling a holistic view of learner data.
  3. Personalized Learning: By providing detailed, nuanced data about individual learning experiences, xAPI allows for the creation of more personalized and effective learning paths.
  4. Performance Analysis: xAPI's detailed tracking capabilities enable more thorough analysis of learning performance, thereby allowing organizations to better understand and improve their learning strategies.

xAPI vs SCORM: What is the Difference?

Source: techtarget

In the e-learning industry, two commonly used specifications for learning technologies are SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) and xAPI. Both standards have played pivotal roles in shaping digital learning experiences. However, they differ significantly in functionality and usage, and understanding these differences is crucial for choosing the right solution for your e-learning needs. Here's a comparative analysis:

SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model)

SCORM is a mature set of standards that has been used extensively in the e-learning industry. It establishes how online learning content is created, delivered, and tracked within Learning Management Systems (LMSs).

Key Aspects of SCORM:

  1. Content Packaging: SCORM compliant courses can be easily packaged and transported between different SCORM-compliant systems.
  2. Tracking: SCORM can track details like course completion, time spent, and test scores.
  3. Limitations: SCORM's functionality is restricted within the LMS environment, and it can't track learning activities that occur outside of the LMS. Additionally, SCORM does not support mobile learning effectively.

xAPI (Experience API or Tin Can API)

xAPI is a newer specification developed to overcome SCORM's limitations. It can record a wide variety of learning experiences, both online and offline, across different platforms.

Key Aspects of xAPI:

  1. Broad Tracking: xAPI has the capacity to track a wide array of learning activities, both offline and online.
  2. Learning Record Store (LRS): xAPI requires a Learning Record Store (LRS) to store and retrieve records of learning experiences. This feature allows for the centralized collection of learning data across different systems and platforms.
  3. Interoperability: xAPI facilitates communication between various systems, enabling data exchange not just between LMSs, but also other learning platforms and systems.

In summary, while SCORM primarily focuses on delivering and tracking online learning within an LMS, xAPI provides more advanced tracking capabilities, capturing various learning experiences both inside and outside an LMS. The choice between SCORM and xAPI will depend on your specific needs, including the types of learning experiences you want to offer, the systems you need to integrate with, and the level of tracking detail you require.

xAPI vs AICC: What is the Difference?

When it comes to e-learning specifications, both xAPI and AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee) have contributed significantly to the field. Although they share commonalities in their purpose, to facilitate and streamline e-learning, there are notable differences between the two.

AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee)

As one of the earliest e-learning standards, AICC was initially developed by the aviation industry. Despite being officially disbanded in 2014, some older systems may still employ it.

Key Aspects of AICC:

  1. Interoperability: AICC allows for content to be shared across different LMSs, similar to SCORM and xAPI.
  2. Communication Protocol: AICC uses the HTTP AICC Communication Protocol (HACP) for communication between the content and LMS. Unlike SCORM, this does not require JavaScript, which can be beneficial in certain environments.
  3. Limitations: AICC lacks support for modern learning experiences such as mobile learning, offline learning, and tracking detailed learner interactions. It's considered outdated in today's rapidly evolving e-learning landscape.

xAPI (Experience API or Tin Can API)

xAPI is a modern and flexible e-learning standard, designed to overcome the limitations of previous standards such as SCORM and AICC.

Key Aspects of xAPI:

  1. Broad Tracking: xAPI can track a wide variety of learning experiences, including offline and mobile learning, simulations, games, and more. This feature is a significant advancement compared to AICC.
  2. Interoperability: xAPI allows for communication and data exchange between various systems, not just LMSs. This interoperability extends to the tracking of learning experiences across different platforms, devices, and learning environments.
  3. Learning Record Store (LRS): Unlike AICC, xAPI uses a Learning Record Store (LRS) to store, retrieve, and analyze records of learning experiences. This feature allows for the centralized collection of learning data across various systems and platforms.

In summary, while AICC was a pioneering standard for e-learning, its capabilities are limited compared to modern standards like xAPI. The xAPI's ability to capture a wide range of learning experiences across various platforms and environments makes it a more flexible and comprehensive solution for today's diverse and mobile learning scenarios. As such, the choice between AICC and xAPI will largely depend on your specific needs and the technological context in which you operate.

Conclusion

Navigating the landscape of e-learning standards such as xAPI, SCORM, and AICC can initially seem complicated. Each of these standards has uniquely contributed to the progression of e-learning, providing distinct functionalities to cater to different needs. Here's a final comparison of xAPI, SCORM, and AICC:

SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a tried-and-true, extensively adopted e-learning standard. It ensures interoperability between content and systems, allowing easy content packaging and transport. Its main limitation is its restriction to tracking activities within a Learning Management System (LMS) and its lack of effective support for mobile learning.

AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee), while considered an outdated standard, was a pioneer in its time, allowing for content interoperability across different LMSs. However, its limitations, including the lack of support for modern learning experiences like mobile learning and offline learning, have led to its phased-out usage.

xAPI (Experience API or Tin Can API) is a modern, flexible e-learning standard developed to overcome the limitations of both SCORM and AICC. It provides comprehensive tracking capabilities, recording a wide variety of learning experiences both online and offline across different platforms. With its Learning Record Store (LRS), it offers centralized data collection, allowing for detailed learning analysis.

In the end, choosing between xAPI, SCORM, or AICC depends on your specific e-learning requirements, the technologies you're currently using, and the learning experiences you aim to provide. While xAPI offers the most advanced and flexible features, SCORM may still be suitable for more traditional online courses. As for AICC, its use would typically be limited to maintaining compatibility with older systems.

Read more: Rapid Content Development (RCD)

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