Melissa Milloway

Here’s Why I Think xAPI Is The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

You know that saying, “[Insert word here] is the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Well, that's how I feel about xAPI.

This is a story about how technically executing xAPI allowed me to identify different meaningful use cases for xAPI.

The first time I heard about xAPI was in 2012 at eLearning Guild's Learning Solutions conference. My manager at the time asked me to investigate the benefits of xAPI. I remember approaching the Tin-Can/xAPI booth and thinking to myself, “This is going to be really huge.”

When I returned from the conference we talked a bit more about xAPI and even worked with some vendors who utilized it on projects.

I hadn't heard too much more about xAPI again until 2015. I was hearing a lot on business use cases and approaches to designing/planning for xAPI but nothing on how to technically execute sending statements from anywhere to an LRS.

In 2016, I met a colleague who was super into xAPI. In 30 minutes she had me sending statements to an LRS from an HTML based project. I was hooked.

We worked together to make the code we were using better and to figure out how to send statements from different types of projects. We even made an xAPI Goals board at work. We slowly started executing xAPI with more and more types of multimedia and projects. After that I started working on sending statements from personal projects. Executing and experimenting with xAPI by ourselves is what made me realize the possibilities of the specification.

xAPI is about WAY more than gathering data to see that users are applying what they learned. You will be surprised how much you can and will learn through xAPI.

Identifying Best Practices In UX/UI and Finding Bugs

One of the first times I used xAPI, there was an unintended result.

I was working on a project with HTML5 videos. I wanted to capture data on when users started the videos and completed the videos. I kept getting statements from the same users saying they started the videos. I was immediately able to find out that the videos were not buffering for some folks. I was able to address the issue with the videos because of xAPI.

xAPI will help you to identify a user's experience in your project. This can be something as simple as changing the navigation to something as complex as changing the overall method of delivery. You can make adjustments to your project based on a user's experience.

Gaining Business Insights

xAPI enables you to see how well the marketing for your learning projects is working. Say you send out a newsletter that contains a link to a brand new project. You'll easily be able to track and visualize the differences in usage for that date and the dates following.

Identifying Workflows and Learning Gaps

xAPI can be used in more than just learning projects. Say you create learning for a technical system. You can work with a product team to add in xAPI to see how people are currently using the systems and identify the gaps where a change needs to happen. Then if you find that it's an issue that learning will change you will be able to create learning to support it.

Identifying the Impact, Results, and ROI of the Project

In the example above, I talk about tracking how users are utilizing a system and then a learning team is creating learning based on the gaps. Once you have that data and learning has been deployed you can run a report on system usage again to see if there has been a behavior change. You'll also be able to tell if performance improved and if time was saved on following the newly applied processes. That means you'll be able to prove an ROI on the learning.

Measuring User Satisfaction and Discovering More

A great way to use xAPI is to collect feedback from within projects. Recently, I tested out creating forms in xAPI that can be added to Storyline projects. You don't have to use traditional forms either. One really cool example of feedback I have seen is on Khan Academy's videos. When a video completes a pop-up appears in the lower part of the video asking if it was useful. Another way to gain feedback is to place a feedback mechanism or help button on all of your projects where users can give feedback and ask questions.

Personalizing Learning

The next area that I want to dive into is getting information from an LRS to create data driven custom learning experiences for users. Personalizing learning reaches new heights with xAPI. You will be able to show users recommendations for learning based on projects that are listed as completed in your LRS. You can create leaderboards. You can give users feedback based on the choices they make, as well as show them other people's choices. The possibilities are endless for creating meaningful personalized learning experiences.

Other Thoughts

Yes, with xAPI you can track almost anything...but it's all about planning and giving you data to dive deeper to help you create the most effective and engaging learning for your customers. It's about being strategic on what data you gather because you don't want to sort through tons of meaningless data.

And, yes, there are other ways to collect data but because xAPI is a specification it means if we all follow it in the learning industry it will be easily transferrable from team to team and company to company. Following the specification will also allow us to expand upon it for the needs of our industry and beyond.

Check out my other posts on executing xAPI with Storyline

— Mel