How Experience xAPI (Tin Can API) Tracks Informal Learning

Designing Digitally


Organizations can break free of the restrictions that learning management systems dictate and release learners to experience learning beyond the classroom. Learning doesn’t need to take place solely in front of a computer screen and keyboard. A system that tracks learning can take informal, social learning, or experiences in the real world and include those events alongside formal ones. When organizations can extend learning beyond a LMS and browser, employers can drive their employees’ learning opportunities and harness untapped potential.

xAPI - The future is now!

Experience API (xAPI), also referred to as the Tin Can API, advances the learning context commonly restricted in standard environments and allows for tracking informal learning events. For example, instead of only monitoring web-based learning in a formal environment, it extends tracking capabilities to include learning opportunities such as watching a video, reading an article, having a conversation (with a trainer or mentor), or engaging in a simulation.

Current applications for xAPI include the following, yet there are many more that could be actualized in the future:

  • Experience tracking. This component will diversify the learning experience, allowing learners to take advantage of opportunities that exist beyond specific trainings or courses offered by the organization.
  • Learner profiles. Information about learners that participate in trainings help inform systems, and can include their previous experiences (inside and outside of formal training environments), skills or competencies, and learning preferences.
  • Content brokering. This technology focuses on content that can be discovered, described and delivered to various learners.
  • Competency infrastructure. Development of training opportunities is defined by an authoritative infrastructure that defines training objectives, learning competences, learning tasks, and education standards.

An inside look at API

With Tin Can API powering a learning system, organizations can track actions that take place outside formal programs and record interactions learners have with other content or people. There are two steps involved in the process.

  1. First, the learner records the activity by sending a “statement” to the learning record store. For example, the learner can record this type of statement: I watched a video on….” 
  2. Then, the learning record store compiles all of the statements the learner makes, takes all of the records it receives and stores them together. Additionally, the records can be shared inside the LMS or as a standalone document.

The benefits of the xAPI include:

  • Extension. Prior to the ability to record statements, learning systems were restricted to activities that occurred inside the training program itself.
  • Freedom. Learning record stores are able to read data from other stores, and organizations can upload the data to a new store or organization. The individual learner is also able to keep track of his own learning information.
  • Flexibility. Users can enlist any device that’s enabled with the capability to send API statements, such as a game, mobile phone, etc.
  • Workflow. Learners aren’t restricted to activities on the LMS. xAPI can track learning events on any device from wherever they are participating in training.

Experience API is broadening the horizon for organizations. The opportunities available today make learning environments rich and meaningful. As the technology advances, flexible learning environments will only continue to drive workforce advancement. For more information on how to use xAPI contact us today!