The Business of Learning

Tin Can API, previously and variously known as project Tin Can, Experience API, and Next Generation SCORM, is the next generation of SCORM and AICC. It is such a departure in technical and design terms though that it has a brand new name. Tin Can API is ADL’s (ADL owns the SCORM specifications) new content communication specification and AICC is adopting it to base its new specifications on. (See Tin Can API Big News). ADL reached out to Rustici Software to develop the standards. Rustici has a solid history of experience with SCORM development and they happily agreed to collaborate with ADL who will still “own” the standard. I recommend the Rustici site for specifics and technical details. This blog provides you with a basic overview of the new standard.

The gist is that Tin Can API can be used to track anything, anywhere, anytime, and send it anywhere. Unlike SCORM and AICC, the API does not dictate what to track or precisely how to formulate what you’re tracking. It’s wide open. Also, the learning activity may originate anywhere. It does not need to be launched from an LMS.

Technically speaking the API uses REST (standard web architecture style developed by W3C) and JSON (human readable data interchange open standard). Calls are constructed using object – verb – activity based statements and they can be any object verb activity. For example, “Lola” “read” a “Tin Can API blog”. You decide what you track and the protocol does not determine what is called or how to describe it. Contrast that with SCORM, which made it mandatory for LMSs to only track a small set of defined information.

What’s that about sending it anywhere? The information is sent to a Learning Record Store (LRS) or a couple of LRSs simultaneously. The information in the LRS can be queried by another LRS, an LMS, or another reporting tool. To work with Tin Can API, LMS’s can either work with an external LRS or build one into their system.

Let’s say Tin Can gets so far that our favorite LMS decides to adopt the API – how will we know what information to send it in order for it to create standardized reports? Conveniently, for those of us that need to do basic tracking like we currently do, there are intentions to form “an agreed-upon starter list of verbs and activities”. This should hopefully set a standard that allows us to take care of those basic reporting needs without reinventing them.

What happens to SCORM and AICC? There will not be new versions of SCORM and AICC. They have come to the end of their road. But I think they’ll be around for a while. People will not be fixing what’s not broken – assuming it’s not broken.

What is refreshing about this endeavor is that Rustici is putting a lot of effort into making it understandable and they are very accessible. They’ve worked hard to describe it clearly and make the information easily available. There is more commitment to communication with the community than I’ve found in all the years I’ve worked with the ADL site. No disrespect to the ADL people, they just have different objectives. Already, I like the experience better.

If you read or listen to Rustici folks, you’ll notice a lot of excitement about potential. What I’d like to see is that this simplifies our lives in doing what we need to get done while leaving the door open to anything you can find a use for or an interest in.

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