A few years ago I first spoke about Experience API at the Masie conference in Orlando. I was excited by the Tin Can project and wanted to share my thoughts on how it could improve our ability to calculate return on investment. Since then, I have broadened my understanding of the topic. I recently had a conversation with Mike Rustici, who was part of the development of xAPI and sits at the helm of Watershed LRS.
One thing he said was that L&D will go through the same development that marketing has. For some reason, that stuck with me. I always think of the TV show, “Mad Men” when the word “marketing” comes to mind. Do you recall the episode where Don Draper pitches the “pass the Heinz” campaign? That’s how it worked back in the days: Dazzle them with elegant ideas, flashy images and your own charm and charisma.
If you think that is how marketing works today, think again. In today’s marketing world, it is all about conversion rates, clicks, impressions and bounce rates. Since the introduction of digital marketing, things have changed.
With that in mind, think about how L&D programs and courses have been developed throughout the past several years. Sure, we do our needs analysis and follow ID methods, but I have been in many meetings where internal developers or vendors basically pulled a “Don Draper,” with elegant arguments and pretty slides about how an initiative should be put together.
So here is the question: Will xAPI change learning from being an art to science in the same way that digital marketing did for the ad agencies? In my opinion, it might; but I think it’s fair to assume that just like artful ads never left the marketing business, innovative and creative learning content will never leave the learning space.
Experience API is the next generation of the SCORM [shareable content object reference model] format, but it is much more than that. Experience API is much more flexible than SCORM ever was. In xAPI, you can customize what is reported on, and thus you can get a lot more information about learner behavior. Further, xAPI is an open format which means it can be applied to almost anything, not just learning.
I contend that xAPI will change learning in a few key ways. First, it will provide better learner insights. By being more flexible and customizable to your particular learning initiative, you will be able to capture data about user behavior in a richer and more detailed fashion. This will give you insights that SCORM never could. Second, based on the insights from user data, you will be able to personalize the learning experience. This is particularly true if you marry the use of xAPI with adaptive learning. Third, you will be able to better understand ROI. This is perhaps the biggest change I see coming. Just like the digital marketing space now has more data about how effective their campaigns are, we will get a better opportunity to analyze the impact that our learning initiatives have. With the help of xAPI, learning record stores and effective data analysis, we might be on the cusp of a paradigm shift based on data.