More Musings on the Experience API

Yesterday I had a conversation with a coworker that went something like this…

riding lawn mowerSuppose I was well known for developing and building a riding lawnmower
accepted internationally as one of the best available. Now, assume that I have announced work on a new version of lawnmower to improve on the design. These improvements include such things as:

  • Improvements to the drive chain,
  • Energy from renewable sources,
  • More comfortable seating,
  • Better cutting blade.

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Again, xAPI is not Intended to Replace SCORM

Editor’s note: I started this article over a month ago, so it has now been almost two months since the meeting referred to in the first paragraph. Since that time, I have joined the team who are planning and implementing the next phase of the Experience API project. The ideas from this article are just as true as they were a month ago when I was first writing it. I hope you enjoy it.

A couple of weeks ago I attended an online meeting with Mike Rustici, of Rustici Software. The meeting was about the future of online learning now that version 1.0 of the Experience API (also known as the Tin Can API or the xAPI) has been officially released. Here is the biggest take-away that I got from that meeting.

Mike started by speaking about the myriad of functionalities that are typically bundled into a traditional Learning Management System (LMS). He showed a graphics depicting over a dozen tasks that might be performed by a modern LMS (or LCMS) and talked about how these different pieces of the total solution might be used in different parts of the company. But then he said that most of the things that a traditional LMS does can be boiled down into one of two categories, a Training Delivery System (TDS) and a Learning Record Store (LRS).

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Why we Chose the Experience API

In late April of this year a significant event happen, but you may not have even heard about it. The Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (ADL) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) officially released version 1.0 of the Experience API. You may have heard about it by its development project name, the Tin Can API, but ADL has now officially named it as the Experience API, or xAPI for short. If you did hear about this event, I’m guessing that it was not on the evening news. So, what’s the big deal, and why is Brindle Waye committing so much development effort into incorporating this new technology into its products?

What is the xAPI?

If you are aware of the xAPI, you have probably heard it described as “the successor to SCORM,” or “the future of distributed learning.” I have often commented that I disagree with these as descriptive of xAPI. The Experience API is but the first part of a much larger project that ADL has named the Training and Learning Architecture (TLA). In my opinion, it is ths larger project (the TLA) that is deserving of these monikers.

The xAPI is but an initial step towards the TLA. However, is does provide some interesting and desirable new capabilities  At the most basic level, the xAPI is a method of report events to a data store along with the ability to query that data store to retrieve this data for reporting and other uses. To use the common example, it allows me to store a statement like “Dave read The Cat in the Hat.” Then I could later write a query to return the things that Dave has read. Sounds simple enough – maybe too simple. Here are the uses we see our user getting out of this new technology and why we have committed to adopt it in our products.

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Free Training: How to Deliver Video in a Web Page

In preparation for delivering this topic at the Tallahassee TechExpo 2013, I am offering this session free, via WebEx, to a limited audience. You will be my test audience, and this will be my dress rehearsal for Thursday.

Here is a brief description of my topic:

Version 5 of HTML redefines how we deliver video embedded in a web page. Gone are the vendor supplied browser plug-ins and vendor-specific video formats. What will you do with all of those left-over QuickTime videos and Windows media player clips? Will your video play in browsers on mobile devices (iPad and Android)? The world of multimedia on the web is better with HTML5, but that improvement does not come without some bumps in the road. In this session we will not learn HTML (no programming knowledge is required), but we will prepare for users from new-agers on tablets and smart-phones to old-fogeys who are still running Internet Explorer V6.

And here is the connection information to join me today at 5PM eastern daylight time (EDT). The attendance will be limited and first-come, first-served. I will open the meeting 15 minutes before the scheduled time.

Dave Smith invites you to attend this online meeting.

Topic: Video in HTML5: Rewards and Pitfalls
Date: Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Time: 3:00 pm, Mountain Daylight Time (Denver, GMT-06:00)
Meeting Number: 576 513 637
Meeting Password: video

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To join the online meeting (Now from mobile devices!)
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1. Go to https://designacourse.webex.com/designacourse/j.php?ED=229499467&UID=0&PW=NOTUzYmVjMjkz&RT=MiM2
2. If requested, enter your name and email address.
3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: video
4. Click “Join”.

To view in other time zones or languages, please click the link:
https://designacourse.webex.com/designacourse/j.php?ED=229499467&UID=0&PW=NOTUzYmVjMjkz&ORT=MiM2

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Release of Version 1.0 of the Experience API

It’s almost here!Advanced Distributed Learning

April 26 is the official release date for the new Experience API from the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative project (ADL) within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). So, what does that mean to you?

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Is Tin Can Really the Future of Online Learning?

Edited, April 21, 2013: As I have observed the evolution of the Experience API (AKA the TinCan API), I have come to believe that it is the first steps toward the future of learning, and even other forms of online interaction and collaboration. See my comment below. Dave Smith

I have been thinking about this post for a few weeks now. I hear so much about how great Tin Can APIthe new Experience API (also know as the Tin Can API) is or will be. To this I say, I agree. The concept of providing a means of integrating disconnected learning with traditional online learning is powerful. Where I draw the line is when I also continually hear Tin Can being described as the next generation of SCORM or the future of online learning. Continue reading

Posted in Experience API, SCORM, Tin Can API | 1 Comment

Are Digital Textbooks Really Better?

Textbooks are going digital

My research shows that this has been a trend for a while now, but I just recently became aware of it through NPR and our local television stations. As a purveyor of online learning delivery, I feel that I should be all in favor of this move. However, I feel myself doubtful about the benefits of it. I am going to try and present a balanced assessment of the issue and hope that we can discuss and clarify the pros and cons.

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Do You Use PowerPoint for Instructional Design?

PowerPoint has changed

In the past, PowerPoint (one component of Microsoft’s Office product suite) has enjoyed the position of most favored tool for creating content for training delivery. It has always had its detractors, but much of the training material available today is still in or began its life in a PowerPoint presentation. Whole training products have grown up as add-ins to the PowerPoint application. But things are changing.

With the release of Office 2010, there were some significant changes in the PowerPoint product.

  • You can no longer save a slide as an HTML representation of that slide.
  • While you can create a video that contains the entire presentation, the only supported output format for this video is Windows Media Video (WMV). That is not an HTML5 friendly format.
  • You can no longer save a single slide as a video. You must save the entire presentation and break it into multiple pages with some 3rd party tool.

Given these new limitations, what are the options for creating learning content for online delivery from PowerPoint 2010?

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Hello world!

My name is Dave. I’ve been working with technology of one form or the other for over 40 years now. Yep, I’m old. I have also been creating and delivering training for many years in almost every state of the United States and a few foreign countries.

Now I am serving as the Chief Technology Officer of a learning and development company. I want to use this blog for two purposes:

  • I want to share with you my perspective about what’s going on in the area of learning technology.
  • I invite you to come along as I explore new technological territory.

As you might expect, I have dealt with several technologies in my 40+ years. My first programming language was FORTRAN. These days I am mostly involved in technologies that see use in distributed learning environments. Thus, I spent a lot of my time in HTML and Javascript as well as server-side programming technologies like PHP, JSP, and ASP (with and without .NET). But I am also very interested in higher level technologies, such as SCORM and the upcoming Tin Can API. You can expect me to express my opinions on these and other topics that directly affect how we create, deploy, deliver, manage, and track distance learning in a computer-based, network-connected world.

Also, as in the case of sharks, if you are in the technology field and you stop swimming, then you die. It is imperative that those of us who depend upon technology for a living, must continue to learn and keep up with the movement of that technology. It has been over 30 years since I made any money writing FORTRAN code. A couple of my current new fields of interest are the next generation of the SCORM standard (known today generally as the Tin Can API) and functional programming. You can expect to see an article, from time to time, on something I just learned about Learning Record Stores or the Haskell language.

I invite you to come along with me into the future of Learning and Technology

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