Tin Can API Adoption is Slow at Best

tincanimageTin Can (Experience) API has been known in the industry for quite some time, and version 1.0 happened in April of this year, roughly seven months ago. The industry has been talking about it in anticipation for a while.

Despite this, from our perspective adoption has been… slow.

Here at LearnDash, every day we have conversations with people about SCORM. I think there are a variety of reasons for this, but mainly because SCORM (the brand) has been around for quite some time, and it is known by learning and non-learning professionals alike.

The short of it is that people still want it SCORM.

In many cases, non-elearning industry professionals just don’t know about the new API, but even more surprising are conversations I have with elearning professionals who still request SCORM compatibility with their learning management systems.

It would kind of be like me asking Best Buy for a computer built in 2004.  Who would want such a thing!?

The technology is dated, plain and simple. It just can’t keep up with today. Yet for some reason people still request it… Often.

Listen, I understand that it is going to take quite a bit of effort to get Tin Can API known outside of the learning community (heck, with a name that silly, it will be an uphill battle).

The Onus is on Us

Our community has a job to do. We need to better educate others about the new (and significantly better) reporting tools we have available. When the client asks for SCORM, then educate them on the better option.

I understand that this can be difficult, especially since the client gets what the client wants. But the reality is that your elearning modules are less effective by leveraging a protocol that is nearly a decade old.

It’s going to be hard work, but we owe it to the folks who have put in the hours upon hours of development time to bring our industry up-to-speed.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

7 Comments
  1. Thanks for initiating a discussion on this wonderful and very significant topic, Justin! We think that, one of the best ways to take this message to the community, the industry and others, is to share use cases and success stories around Tin Can API (xAPI). Here is our article on the topic And, here is the link to an exclusive interview that we had with Mike Rustici (President, Rustici Software) in which he talks about the Tin Can API specification, and how it is spreading throughout the world, getting people excited, spurring innovation, changing an entire industry, and might actually end up affecting how our children are educated.

  2. Erich

    Hi, Justin. Can you elaborate on “the reality is that your elearning modules are less effective by leveraging a protocol that is nearly a decade old.”?

    • Hi Erich-

      Thanks for the comments. Sure no problem, there are many areas we could discuss. For example, the latest major overhaul of SCORM was in 2004, which in terms of technology is light-years ago. When this was first created, smartphones and tablets weren’t even around (as such, it isn’t compatible on mobile devices). If elearning is published to SCORM, it immediately lacks expected accessibility – thus making elearning modules less effective.

      • Erik Lord

        I disagree. xAPI offers some great improvements, but that doesn’t make SCORM inadequate. Internal combustion engines are how old? 🙂

        Why does publishing to SCORM mean inaccessibility? Because the LMS it’s published to isn’t mobile-friendly? Then that’s an LMS/design issue, not a SCORM issue. Publish to a mobile-friendly LMS with mobile-friendly SCORM content…all is well.

        The only advantage in accessibility xAPI offers is if you want access via an App. How critical is that? Is the slow uptake on xAPI because folks don’t really need App-based eLearning? Or is App-based eLearning slow to get moving because of the lack of xAPI support?

        xAPI has growing to do. SCORM will likely slooowly fade. But I don’t think that the lack of rapid uptake implies any sort of loss-of-capabilities or lack-of-commitment on anyone’s part.

  3. Laura Lubin

    I think leveraging the xAPI (or Tin Can as Rustici calls it) is more than about having an “app” feature. It’s about the fact that learning takes place everywhere and right now, there’s no way for our current LMS to account for the multiple places people learn and be to track that learning outside of an LMS.
    After participating in ADL’s cohort, I agree that there is some growing xAPI will have to do; but I also think it is one answer to how can we create learning environments anywhere and be able to account for what learning the user engaged in.
    We have to challenge ourselves to get involved. There is an ADL Cohort that is coming up next year (and you may want to find out more about Rustici’s involvement) . Think about your biggest challenge as it pertains to tracking user activity within an environment (LMS or even ‘in the field’) and see if by using the xAPI spec you are able to resolve that issue. This will speak more to how quickly–or not SCORM fades; just by seeing what people are doing with it now, encourages me to believe that xAPI will enhance our ability to track our user’s experiences.

  4. Hi, I was part of the ADL group at the beginning when SCORM 1.0 was released. The learning industry did not exactly embrace it at first. It actually took a few years to be adopted by the major learning technology vendors of that time (1999-2001). Eventually, after several years, everyone did adopt it. Not surprising enough, it was first adopted as a buzzword on vendor brochures, websites, slick sheets, and trade show booths. The problem was, many of them didn’t have a clue what SCORM was or did, let alone how to use it. That slowly changed to the point that SCORM was adopted for the right reasons and became very helpful, within the context of the time and technology of the time. Contexts and technology change. Now we have Tin Can / xAPI. It will take some time to grow in both understand and adoption, just like it’s “mother,” SCORM.

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