The Tin Can API is a hot topic. From conferences to client calls and demos, more and more people are asking about Tin Can and how L&D can benefit from it. We’ve put together a short beginner’s guide to help you navigate the world of Tin Can compliance, understand Tin Can’s potential, and start building a business case for it.

Tin Can Experience API

Tin Can at a Glance

The Tin Can API—also known as the Experience API or xAPI—is a new standard for tracking and recording learning experiences. The current, and most popular, standard—SCORM—allows organizations to track online courses only. Tin Can gives teams the flexibility to track learning that happens both online and offline. Plus, it introduces the ability to track more than just courses. Activities can include simulations and games, group discussions, team exercises, attending a conference, or mentoring someone.

Tin Can records activity in the following format: actor, verb, object or “I did this.” An activity could look like this:

  • Suzette completed the “Overcoming Objections” eLearning.
  • Suzette role played overcoming objections with her peer mentor.
  • Suzette used open-ended questions to clarify and understand the root cause of the objection.

This activity is stored in a database called a learning record store (LRS). An LRS can be a standalone repository that talks to other LRSs and platforms. It can also be integrated into a learning management system.

Differences Between SCORM and Tin Can

In addition to a wider range of activities, the Tin Can experience API captures more information than SCORM does. SCORM only captures these details:

  • Course completion
  • Pass/fail status
  • Time it takes to complete a course
  • The final score

By contrast, Tin Can reports those things plus details like quiz and test answers. On top of that, neither a web browser nor an LMS are required for learning. Users have a lot more flexibility to do their training where and when and how they need to do it.

To get more in the weeds, check out this chart by Rustici Software that compares and contrasts SCORM and Tin Can.

Benefits of Tin Can

Tin Can opens the door to benefits like more productivity and a better understanding of training ROI.

  • Training better integrates with team member workflows. With Tin Can, people aren’t tethered to an LMS or even an Internet connection. They can learn in different places, at different times. Learning isn’t an interruption; it can happen where and when it needs to.
  • Innovation in training content. PowerPoint recordings don’t cut it anymore. Learners are on social media. They’re streaming videos from Hulu, Netflix, and other apps. Tin Can opens the door to disrupt what training content looks and feels like. Content developers can meet learners on their turf and create and present content in formats people know and enjoy.
  • Enhanced data visibility and sharing. Different LRSs can talk to each other, which opens the door to better data integration across teams and departments. Ultimately, this business intelligence can help connect training to the customer experience and business results.
  • Connect performance and training. Tin Can records different activities and experiences. As more activities and experiences are aggregated, patterns and trends emerge and help identify the training paths that lead to successful (or unsuccessful) outcomes.

Tin Can Compliant Platforms and Content

While Tin Can isn’t as mainstream as SCORM (yet), there are both training content developers and learning platforms that are already embracing the xAPI (Unboxed is one of them!). A full list of adopters is available on the Tin Can website.

Tin Can’s story is still young and we’re excited to see how the training industry will evolve because of it. If you have questions about Tin Can, give us a call or leave a message in the comments.

To see what we’re doing with Tin Can, check out our interactive workbooks and social LMS.

About the Author

Kevin Leetham


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