Tin Can (or xAPI) & what it means for elearning

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Tin Can APIWhat is an API?

This blog post has been written for those of you who are neither nerds nor geeks. If you have ever worked with software, at a certain point in your career you probably heard the word API muttered by someone in your IT department and at that time you, as most anyone would, probably nodded without quite grasping the meaning of what was said ….but it is actually a concept that’s much easier to understand than what you might think.

 

APIs, or Application Program Interfaces, are basically a layer of code placed between two softwares that allow them to “speak” to each other and exchange information, even if they were developed by different people or in different programming languages.

Most software producers develop their own APIs and the relative documentation in order to encourage other programmers to create new integrations and to add value to their own users. Basically software developers are encouraged to develop their software APIs to make sure that it doesn’t remain a “lonely planet” and increase the target audience.

Tin Can API or xAPI

In this blog post I wanted to focus on the Tin Can API. Also known as the Experience API or xAPI, Tin Can is a special program interface that applies to the elearning sector, allowing SCORM packages to interact with a Learning Management System (LMS).

Developed about 10 years ago by Rustici Software, the Tin Can API allows learning content and Learning Management Systems to interact and to store data about the user learning experience. Through this interface, the system can store data in a very simple way: “I did this” (subject, verb, object). Using this approach the system can store all kinds of data on the activities (object) performed (verb) by the users (subject) of an elearning platform, making the whole system much faster than before.

What the Tin Can API means for elearning

To explore what the Tin Can API means for elearning, I will assume you know something about SCORM, the most commonly used standard for packaging and delivering elearning content on Learning Management Systems. The SCORM standard has been a game-changing factor for online learning, but it still lacks some features that would make it the all-in-one perfect solution.

This is there the Tin Can API comes in, closing the gap between SCORM and features such as:

  • Cross-browser activities
  • Off browser learning (such as native mobile learning, via  mobile apps)
  • Tracking of a wide range of activities such as team-based elearning, games and classroom training
  • Enhanced platform security

Right now we all regard these features (which exist because of the xAPI) as standard for LMSs, but until a few years ago things like mobile learning or the use of games for learning were a technical impossibility. Thanks to the Tin Can API Instructional Designers were able to bring the LMS outside the limited or desktop-only experience in order to create a whole new learning experience for users.


 

Docebo fully supports Tin Can 0.9 (and we will soon support TinCan 1.0). If you want to test Docebo LMS’s powerful features you can activate a 14-day free trial by simply clicking here.