The Experience API (Tin Can) is here. What now?

Posted: April 26th, 2013 | Author: David N. Johnson | Tags: , , No Comments

Barring some kind of unforeseeable change in circumstances, the first official release of the Experience API (version 1.0.0) will be announced later today. Although if you don’t want to wait for the official announcement, you can read through the whole thing on GitHub right now.

How will the Experience API (Tin Can) release affect the industry?

Besides perhaps an initial flurry of hype, the immediate impacts of this milestone won’t be that great. However, looking towards the future, this marks the point at which there is significantly reduced risk for developers hoping to provide xAPI-based services or eLearning courseware targeting the xAPI (Tin Can) technology.

Although the large uptake of early adopters meant there was never any real chance that the xAPI standard would be abandoned completely, there was still the possibility that technical changes in the spec would mean any past development work preparing for adoption would have been wasted. With the 1.0.0 release, the xAPI (Tin Can) specification has essentially been frozen, meaning that all future specification changes will need to be backwards compatible until the time comes where a major overhaul is needed again (and with luck, this will be many, many years away).

From an industry standpoint, developers can now immediately jump on the xAPI bandwagon with very little trepidation that their work will be wasted (which incidentally, is the #1 fear of most developers). We’re predicting that we’ll see an increasingly exponential increase in xAPI (Tin can) adopters in the next six months. The number of early adopters has been very promising, but there’s nothing to alleviate the concerns of software development managers quite like a frozen spec and we believe we’ll see a snowball effect starting with growing xAPI LMS support and resulting in a large number of courseware providers offering Experience API (Tin Can) activities as a part of their standard package.

Can we accelerate adoption?

Right now, the majority of xAPI users are sitting very firmly in the early adopter market and there’s minimal talk in the greater learning industry. This isn’t a bad thing, early adoption is an excellent indicator of things to come and it will only be a matter of time before the standard is met with mainstream support. In fact, these early adopters are the kickstart the xAPI needs to begin the adoption cycle.

Mass Adoption will be achieved through LMS Support (from LRS availability) and Experience API Courseware/Activities (from Rapid Tool support and Bespoke development)

We foresee two major hurdles that need to be overcome before large-scale adoption will be achieved.

  1. LMS Support – The concept of an independant Learning Record Store (LRS) is great because it allows for the emergence of new markets that don’t require all the additional functionality normally provided by an LMS. However, these functions are still very much required by the learning industry and the friction of migrating to a new LMS is a major hurdle for many established organisations. The good news is that the increase in available LRS’ will help facilitate this by offering integrations to existing LMS’ or by providing an incentive for proprietary systems to develop their own.
  2. Access to xAPI Activities – Naturally an LRS is only as good as the content that reports to it and we’ll need to see a very large influx of xAPI activities before the Experience API can be considered a ‘success’. Fortunately, rapid tools are starting to offer xAPI/Tin Can as a publishing option so it shouldn’t be long before bespoke eLearning developers follow suit.

At the moment, the industry is sitting near the top of the above chart with some LRS and rapid tool support which is starting to filter down but there’s still a long way to go. The ideal path here would be for rapid tools to offer both SCORM and xAPI (Tin Can) as publishing options to ease the transition while organisations are awaiting native xAPI support from their LMS provider.

The release of the first official Experience API specification is a much-needed milestone in the adoption process and it offers an overwhelming amount of security to developers but this won’t result in instantaneous adoption by the mass market. We have no doubt mass adoption will happen but we’re looking forward to finding out how long it will take.

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