What is Tin Can API?

What is Tin Can API and how should you use it with your LMS?

Over the past three years, the Tin Can API has emerged as the hot new standard for delivering online training. Also known as the Experience API (xAPI), Tin Can is often described as the next evolution of SCORM. While the SCORM standard isn’t going anywhere soon, Tin Can has redefined some of the fundamental practices of tracking learning experiences. But what is Tin Can API? And why do so many experts believe it will soon become the default standard for eLearning content? Here’s why.

 

What is Tin Can API?

The SCORM specification was introduced by ADL in 1999. SCORM quickly became the standard around which a whole industry of authoring tools, learning management systems, and content development was built. But as eLearning continued to evolve, SCORM struggled to reinvent itself in order to keep up. While SCORM 1.2 is still the most popular authoring standard used in eLearning, its weaknesses triggered the development of the Tin Can API.

Rustici Software believe that “learning happens everywhere”. That belief inspired Rustici’s research on how the SCORM specification could be adapted to suit the next generation of eLearning. The Tin Can API we now use is the result of that work. Rustici chose the name “Tin Can” to describe the two-way conversations the technology would track as it made it easier for learning systems to communicate with each other.

The major difference between Tin Can and SCORM content is the type of learning each can track. While SCORM is limited to recording online learning, Tin Can can track almost any activity. As a result, Tin Can delivers a far more detailed view of learner progress, within and beyond traditional learning environments, both online and offline. The kinds of learning it can track are almost infinite, including: reading a webpage, attending an event, borrowing a library book, playing a game, blended learning, and team-based learning.

 

How the Tin Can API works

Information from Tin Can compliant systems is passed in the form of statements. The Tin Can API simplifies how learning is recorded by offering multiple ways to track these statements. Each statement is composed of three elements, a structure known as Tin Can’s syntax:

  • Noun (Actor – or the ‘who’ part of an action)
  • Verb (The action)
  • Object (The ‘what’ part of an action)

For example:

“I – did – this”
“Mary – completed – health and safety training”
“John – read – LearnUpon’s help guide”.

LearnUpon shows you what is Tin Can API

Tin Can uses these statements to track data about learner actions and reports them back to a learning management system, Learning Record Store (LRS), or any application that understands the Tin Can language.

 

The role of the Learning Record Store

An LRS specializes in managing data about learning experiences. Although it can be integrated with an LMS, the LRS itself is a separate product. An LRS isn’t essential to using Tin Can. Once an LMS is Tin Can compliant, it can track, store and report on relevant statements. LearnUpon is not an LRS, for example, but stores, tracks and reports on Tin Can statements for hundreds of customers. LearnUpon can also integrate with an LRS if you need advanced analytic functionality.

Some of the main LRS vendors include:

 

The benefits of Tin Can API

Its flexibility makes Tin Can really suited to the current environment in which learners access all kinds of materials in all kinds of locations. We can now learn anywhere: while travelling to work, doing our jobs, or socializing with friends. Tin Can allows us to track all of these learning experiences in one simple, consistent format.

Because Tin Can tracks all learning experiences, it allows you to capture each learner’s activity and see the bigger picture. The term “quantified learner” has emerged to describe this ability to track individuated learning data using technology. The data captured can be very valuable for an organization. It can be used to review previous learning experiences. Or it can be analyzed to plan for future projects by mapping what the learner knows against what they need to know. The analysis can be used to define goals that the learner can work towards. The detailed nature of the data also makes it easy for managers to report on who has completed which training components. The result is a far clearer understanding of your learners’ training experience.

 

The limits of the Tin Can API

Some organizations believe that adopting the Tin Can standard will in itself deliver beautifully designed course content. That isn’t true. Using Tin Can won’t alter the presentation or design of a course in any way. The Tin Can spec won’t help you to improve user experience or UI. Your content will still look and behave in the same way. Tin Can only controls how data is tracked and stored. The quality of eLearning content will still be determined by the quality of the authoring tool and Instructional Design used to create it. And while Tin Can is better at tracking eLearning on mobile devices, using the format won’t automatically deliver responsive course content.

 

Our approach to Tin Can API at LearnUpon

At LearnUpon, we took the same approach to Tin Can as we did to SCORM support: we worked to remove all the pain associated with importing third-party content to the LMS. The result is that LearnUpon’s Tin Can feature allows customers to import their content in seconds.

 

Still not sure Tin Can is right for you? Schedule a call with an Account Manager to discuss your needs today.

You say ‘An LRS isn’t essential to using Tin Can’.

But the spec says ‘The xAPI is dependent on an LRS to function’.

Be clear; it is a vital part of the system. That’s not to say an LRS can’t form part of an LMS, it can. But that component needs to be just as correct as any of the external LRS’s listed. If it’s not validating data properly you might be collecting garbage data. And there is very little you can do about that in the months and years to come when you find out your historical records are inaccurate…

Hi Ben,

I hope you are doing well and thank you for taking an interest in our post. We had written this article from an LMS standpoint in mind. Technically speaking to properly report on TinCan statements its best to have an LRS to manage that for you, be it an integral part of the LMS itself or indeed an external LRS.

However it should also be considered that in the LMS world, an LRS is not that essential depending on your needs and we have found that our customer base and community do not require an LRS to use TinCan effectively, but solely an LMS to track their TinCan courses and get generalised reporting from that or indeed we have some gaming modules that use TinCan on devices that solely track scores and leaderboard stats, they do not require an LRS in the mix to do anything with the data. We have spoken to many customers that were afraid to upgrade their courseware because they thought they needed an LRS, until they realised that they could just use LearnUpon to track their courses and later export that data to an LRS or in realtime. So when we say its not essential, we imply it from that stand point, not to contradict the API aspects or technical specification for LRS needs. Indeed if a user needs an LRS for reporting and further data usage, we can forward statements to their LRS of choice and we recommend that for future proofing any sort of datas for sure. We also provide some export capabilities in case of long term data needs in that aspect.

Thank you again for the comments and I hope that this somewhat clarifies our take so far on Tin Can usage and LRS needs in the wild for anyone tuning in.

Comments are closed.