Things you didn’t know about Tin Can API (xAPI, Experience API)

Tin Can Experience API _Mobile App

Tin Can API, the successor to SCORM has been making news in the eLearning industry for a while due to its unique features such as offline tracking, tracking learner experience, reducing the need for an LMS, etc. In this blog, we will majorly focus on things that most of us aren’t aware of – Demystifying Tin Can API. 

Naming Confusion:

Tin Can, Experience API and xAPI all these three are same. Many of us often misunderstand it as 3 different APIs. So, what’s the story? Why 3 names for the exact same thing?

This is because, originally Tin Can was developed by Rustici Software as a research project in collaboration with ADL (Advance Distribute Learning) and the project was named as “Tin Can”. When the project was made official by ADL it was named as Experience API, in short, xAPI. But, Tin Can was already widely adopted and came into commercial use even before it was launched. So, the name Tin Can is stuck since then. It is a matter of choice to call it with either of names as long as you know that both of them are same.

No Need of LMS? How do We Keep Track Then?

We often hear people saying Tin Can doesn’t need an LMS to run eLearning course! Sure, it excites us. But, this statement gives rise to questions like:

  •  If there is no LMS where will our courses be hosted?
  •  How are we going to track our courses without any LMS?

So, my answer to the first question is — it’s true that we don’t need an LMS to host a Tin Can eLearning course and instead can use a normal server that we use for website hosting. But there is a catch! We cannot track our courses by just hosting them on a server. This gives rise to my second question.

And the answer is — we can track our eLearning courses wrapped in Tin Can API using an LRS — a new term. LRS means “Learning Record Store”. As many say, we don’t need an LMS for Tin Can but most of us do not know that having an LRS is mandatory for Tin Can courses in order keep track.

What is an LRS? How is it different from LMS?

A Learning Record Store (LRS) stores learning records and enables exporting raw learning data. LRSs are a new type of storage systems that allow the Tin Can API to offer a lot of new capabilities, but LRSs don’t replace LMSs. LRSs are more likely to be components of LMSs.

Tin Can API allows you to track all kinds of learning activities, not just course completion statuses and scores. It’s not limited to the use of learning management systems. With Tin Can, anything a learner does as part of a learning program, generates an activity statement. These statements could be: starting an online course, completing a quiz, or things like attending a meeting, reading a document, and so on. Simply put, an LRS is the database where these xAPI activity statements, in other words their learning records, are stored for each individual learner. An LRS can easily be built right into an LMS, or it can be a standalone product as well. An LMS that has a built-in LRS supports the Tin Can API, and also does all the other things that an LMS does.

How Offline Tracking Works in a Mobile Application?

Tin Can API recognizes and records learning experiences and stores it in its cache memory while the learner is experiencing the course offline. Tin Can queues in all the statements and sends them to the LRS once the data connection is available. This concept is very helpful in bringing eLearning to the mobile apps (native mobile learning apps).

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