This article was written for the April 2018 issue of TD Magazine.
The modern learning ecosystem is both amazing and overwhelming. A single organization’s learning ecosystem is likely to contain dozens of different tools and resources. Add to that the multitude of resources available on the Internet and the scope is truly staggering.
All that means an unprecedented wealth of resources is available to our organizations’ learners. And as more and more learning tools move to the cloud and make application programming interfaces (APIs) available, the potential for reporting and data-powered learning design continues to grow. But the current fractured state of the learning ecosystem presents numerous challenges, namely how to assess which tools and resources are most effective, how to optimize adoption of tools, and how to get unified reporting across all the different aspects of the ecosystem.
That’s the challenge that the Experience API (xAPI) was designed to address. xAPI is an open data specification for connecting experience data and learning tools. You can think of it kind of like the Wi-Fi standard. Wi-Fi on its own doesn’t give you anything. The point of Wi-Fi isn’t Wi-Fi itself; it’s what it lets you connect to, the information you can pull down from and push back onto the Internet. What you do with that data is the interesting part. Getting xAPI data flowing is like getting your Wi-Fi set up—it’s necessary but not the ultimate goal.
xAPI can power learning analytics that help learning and talent development departments understand learner behavior patterns, improve learning experiences, empower learners, and provide transparency in the ways the learning and development function provides value to the organization. While xAPI is not yet as ubiquitous as Wi-Fi, there are already many ways you can start using xAPI data to inject visibility and measurability into your learning organization, moving toward a truly data-powered learning and talent development ecosystem.