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It’s not our role to try and capture and categorise every snippet of new knowledge and behaviour that an individual uses. This is why I am very scared about how the new Tin Can API will be sold to businesses. I have a fear it will be a tool that measures everything but understands nothing about the value of its content (like most LMS I hear some of you say). I believe the manager’s role is to measure the performance in the workplace, yet there seems to be a desire to retain this measurement within L&D to ‘prove’ it was our work that created the difference. What this means is:

  1. We absolve managers from taking responsibility for measuring their staff’s development
  2. We create complex metrics
  3. We create the learning objectives for the performance support

(Context: I’m Tim Martin, a partner at Rustici Software, and have been a part of Project Tin Can from the beginning of the research through detailed specification arguments over the last two weeks. I’ve also suffered through SCORM’s inadequacies over the last 10 years. I know the pain.  I’ve also posted this as a response with the original post.)

First of all, let me begin with this. If anyone ever tells you that Tin Can API is “a tool that measures everything but understands nothing about the value of its content”, please stop listening to them.

Second, I think you’re hitting on some really important stuff here. What fascinates me about it, actually, is that you and I _agree_ on a great deal of this. This sentence, in particular, rings true for me.

We absolve managers from taking responsibility for measuring their staff’s development.

In the long term, this is precisely why I find Tin Can exciting. To be clear, Tin Can is not simply a different way to capture learning objectives or scores. When used to its full extent, it will allow people to have a cross-system picture of the things that their staff (or students, or children) are doing. This cross-system, cross-experience picture is almost completely missing from today’s workplace (and schools, and homes). Yes, we have various systems that give us a slice of the picture about what a person is doing. Salesforce can tell us how many sales calls a person makes. Github can tell us how much code a developer produces. But no system can aggregate the activities for a person or a group. And that aggregate picture, well-parsed, will undoubtedly tell us things about the people who are successful and those who aren’t.  (Similarly, a single person’s clicks on a website may not be telling, the collection of clicks across people and contexts tells us a story.)

In the immediate, Tin Can will be about eliminating some shortcomings of SCORM, yes. Things like mobile limitations and bad reporting on questions and answers can be solved quickly and simply. So, yes, Tin Can will address those things first. And yes, in the long term, Tin Can is a language that will allow systems to convey the activities of people, whether those activities are small (a learning objective) or huge (a significant accomplishment).

For a period of time, I expect to see Tin Can statements that are marginally more interesting than SCORM data. Did Sam complete his defensive driving course? Did Sally answer the third question correctly? Tool vendors and designers will start by capturing things they already understand in a different language (Tin Can). Step one is always about understanding the basic constructs (scales on a piano, hello, world in a programming language. 2012 and 2013 may be about that simple.

When creative people, though, start thinking about the experiences they actually care to capture, they’ll be able to do more than they could for the last 10 years, and that’s important. If done well (and this is still an if), systems will be able to express people’s activities with limited interference for the participant. When I, as a manager of people at Rustici Software, am able to look at my staff’s experiences across systems, I believe I will be far better able to assess their performance *and enhance it*. As L&D professionals, and as people, I really think that’s about the most important thing we can do in our organizations. I want to help people who are always striving to do better and more interesting work to do just that.



Pricing Tin Can in the Cloud

Posted by

Categories: Announcements, LRS, Tin Can

Posted 20 August 2012


SCORM Cloud + Tin Can APISeveral people have been asking us of late how we intend to charge for the Tin Can API/LRS component of SCORM Cloud. To be candid, we haven’t entirely figured out how we should charge for the standalone LRS capability found in SCORM Cloud. So, our thinking is this:

We’re going to wait a little while to figure that out, and during that time, externally-generated Tin Can statements will remain free. For example, statements that originate from our Tin Can bookmarklet will be stored at no cost.

No Comments

Inside Your Brain

Posted by

Categories: Ideas

Posted 18 June 2012


How cool would it be if we could look inside our brains and see what we’re learning and how we’re learning it?

But we can’t do it. We can’t manage learning. So what the heck are we doing with ourselves? Why are we building learning management systems and specifications that help them work better?

It comes down to this: learning is so important that we have to try. We have to do everything in our power to put our students, kids, learners, employees, and volunteers in the environment that gives them the best chance to succeed.

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Posted by

Categories: News, Standards

Posted 14 June 2012


Innovation always builds on something prior. In 2009, LETSI (Learning, Education, and Training Systems Interoperability) collected a fantastic set of white papers outlining problems in our industry that seemed worth solving. Working groups gathered to attempt to solve some of those problems.

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EdTech’s Big Mistake

Posted by

Categories: APIs, Ideas

Posted 8 June 2012


There are so many super cool EdTech startups right now.  The list goes on and on, and nearly every one of them is making a tragic mistake, a mistake that corporate LMSs and content vendors made about 15 years ago.

Nearly every EdTech company seems to believe that they can live in isolation.  EdTech companies must find a way to share data and experiences and content and workflows.  APIs are great, and most of this new breed do have an API, but it’s completely impractical to expect that these companies will build to suit each and every distinct API for sharing experiences and data, etc.

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