Tracking wisely: what can xAPI do for you?

by Ben Miller

Since its first release in April 2013, experience API (or xAPI) has proved something of a revolution in tracking learning. It’s an invaluable way of recording data and, crucially, measuring the business impact of Learning & Development (L&D). But what is xAPI and how can you maximize its benefits for offline learning?

A photo of an elearning professional using xAPI tracking to measure business impact

xAPI is an elearning software specification which enables learning systems (like an LMS) and learning content (for example, content created with an authoring tool and distributed via a native app) to ‘talk’ to each other. This two-way communication then records and tracks all types of learning experiences and keeps them in a Learning Record Store (LRS).

While its predecessor, SCORM (the Sharable Content Object Reference Model), has provided an important tracking tool since its arrival in 2000, xAPI allows you to track a variety of systems and methods of learning – and it’s particularly effective at keeping track of mobile learning and offline learning, which were on the rise before its introduction and have grown in prevalence since.

As a way of collecting, storing and analyzing data, xAPI has the power to help you create a new learning technology architecture without encountering lots of coding and integration demands. Here are some more xAPI benefits you can take advantage of today:

1) xAPI is built by the elearning community

The thinking behind xAPI was driven by a feeling that APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) were too specific in the kind of questions they could answer, lacking a focus for learning and an agreed standard operating procedure. In 2011, partly in response to a series of white papers produced in response to a SCORM update, the US government began developing xAPI based on a dialogue with the elearning community. Tin Can API, the other name by which xAPI is sometimes known, is a nod to that ethos of listening to the people who can benefit most from truly insightful tracking – our industry.

By collaboratively deciding the language that would be used to build interfaces, its initiators ensured xAPI relays information in ways which are uniformly understandable and highly relevant to elearning. How useful is this? Think of being able to query test results or understand which aspects of a course learners visited most frequently, for instance.

2) xAPI keeps everything in one place

As learners increasingly enjoy drawing on knowledge and training from multiple devices and sources, keeping track of their progress can become a real challenge. Without a standard API, linking different systems is often a highly complex process.

Handily, xAPI allows systems to communicate with each other through the LRS, giving you a single space where all your activity records are kept. This has huge real-world benefit. When an international fashion retailer worked with gomo to upskill staff across its stores, L&D leaders, who had little previous experience of analytics, used the data to ensure employees were in a position to enhance the company’s reputation for exceptional customer service, wherever they were located.

Storing the data centrally means you can also cut down on the number of system integrations you need to make, saving a huge amount of time and effort. If you want to replace existing systems in the future, all of your learning data will be stored in the LRS, as long as it conforms to the standard operations.

A photo of an elearning professional looking at xAPI tracking as a means of measuring business impact

3) xAPI allows you to measure the learning experience in unparalleled detail

With connected systems and careful analysis, the just-in-time techniques to help your learners should become more agile and precise.

If an employee doesn’t answer enough questions correctly to pass a stage of a training assessment, for example, you could send them a customized email with tips specific to the areas they need to build their knowledge in. Or you could time your delivery of a training video to professionals so that it’s delivered just before they begin to use new equipment.

A great example of an authoring tool which allows you to exploit learning analytics and tracking techniques is gomo, which has offered L&D leaders a powerful xAPI engine ever since the launch of its third incarnation, gomo 3.0, in 2015. As well as having the opportunity to create and deliver beautiful, multi-device, HTML5 learning within their current LMS, website or mobile app, administrators can find in-depth reports on learning interactions in the gomo analytics dashboard, which receives the statistics as xAPI data.

4) xAPI allows you to measure the impact of offline learning too

If your users aren’t connected to the Internet, an app such as gomo’s native app will allow them to download a course to their smartphone or tablet, with their progress synchronized and immediately available to you once they reconnect. This guarantees that you can instantly deliver your elearning course to their preferred device and have the flexibility to keep track of their progress, no matter where they decide to learn.

You can track the entire learning experience, online and offline, and receive data rich enough to inform your learning design and allow you to measure learning impact with confidence.

The advantages of xAPI

These are just a few of the big advantages you’ll be able to enjoy with a powerful authoring tool that is xAPI-enabled, such as gomo. The possibilities look even more exciting in the future, so the sooner you start using xAPI, the sooner you’ll be able to call upon a meaningful array of data which will help you to understand your learners better. Tracking data effectively has never been easier.

Try gomo’s distribution features for yourself with a 21-day free trial today.