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Semantic Interoperability

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Categories: Best Practices, Ideas, Recipes, Registry, Standards, xAPI

Posted 24 January 2017

 

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You’re going to hear us talk a lot about semantic interoperability this year. So we might as well present a working definition.

Semantic interoperability is when information—the meaning behind captured data—is 
portable and well understood by any subsequent system requesting and reviewing it.

 

Why will we be talking about it a lot? Because without semantic interoperability, the Experience API (xAPI) has a limited future.

For us, semantic interoperability in xAPI will be achieved when there is a generally accepted information model. We expect profiles to help with this a great deal. There’s a strong possibility that collaborative work between ADL and IMS could help a great deal.

Then: Too Many Constraints

Consider SCORM, the usage of which remains widespread in LMSs everywhere. The CMI data model leveraged by SCORM is closely linked to its information model. There is a finite set of data that can be recorded about the types of learning experiences common to online training, and summarizing information from that data is a relatively straightforward exercise. So straightforward, in fact, that practitioners have long cared primarily about a big four—score, completion, satisfaction (i.e., pass/fail), and duration. SCORM makes requesting and understanding the big four easy.

Now: Too Much Flexibility

xAPI, on the other hand, is fundamentally a communication protocol applied as a specification for elearning. In xAPI, apart from a few familiar holdovers from SCORM (the big four, native support for interactions), there is no limit to what can be captured about a given learning experience. One could literally choose any verb available in any language. Or one could create a new activity definition to describe any type of experience.

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to report on data with so few constraints? We can. Because we’ve been trying.

Needed: Leadership

Even when there is consensus that a concept has sufficient value to merit a profile, there can be difficulty. Take video, for instance. Not only is there a profile in our Registry, there’s also a Community of Practice still working on a version. If there are multiple working versions of what data to capture, then how is a reporting system attempting to derive meaning about “video” supposed to do so?

We think the answer right now is: leadership. The concept of Registry has utility to semantic interoperability in xAPI, and we have a feature roadmap for it. Still, we recognize the difficulty in a single industry participant to establish credibility and trust.

What would alternatives look like? We think ADL could assert an information model. As a subtle alternative, ADL could host a collaborative process with some authority. This might look like the establishment of a baseline with a community process similar to how the specification itself operates now—managed workflow in GitHub supported by regular calls.

Expect to hear more from us on this topic because we think it’s critical to the future success of xAPI.

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More of the same

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Categories: Announcements, Ideas, News, Standards

Posted 2 February 2016

 

Welcome to week one of the post-acquisition Rustici Software world. I just thought I’d take a moment here to discuss one of the reasons we agreed to sell Rustici Software to LTG, because it’s not all about the money.

Mike and I were seeking investment funding for Watershed, but we really weren’t on the lookout for anything related to Rustici Software. It was a profitable business, I know very well how to run it, and we have several sets of work that give us cause for optimism. LTG, however, saw the value in both Watershed from an investment point of view and Rustici Software from a market and profitability point of view.

After LTG’s first visit, Mike and I asked ourselves two questions.

  • Did we believe that we would be able to maintain our strange and highly-valued culture through an acquisition? Having a place we want to come to work has always been a fundamental requirement for us.
  • Did we believe that we would be able to serve our customers in the way we always had?

Throughout the negotiations, due diligence, and these two long days as an LTG company 😉 we’ve consistently believed that we could do both of those things and still do. LTG is not an LMS provider like some of our prior suitors have been. We always used to worry that an acquisition of that sort might include aggressive interactions with our customers. With LTG, we’re going to continue to be agnostic, supportive of the standards, and generally the same company we always have been. We’re excited about it, and excited about continuing to support our customers and the industry in general in exactly the same way.

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Big news from Rustici Software

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Categories: Announcements, News

Posted 29 January 2016

 

Today, I want to share a piece of news that’s really exciting for us. As of this morning, Rustici Software has been acquired by Learning Technologies Group plc (LTG), a publicly listed learning technologies agency made up of specialist digital learning businesses. As a part of LTG, we’ll have the opportunity to work with the other Group companies in creating the next generation of technically-focused learning solutions.

LTG has a great deal of learning expertise and serves organizations worldwide. LTG’s portfolio includes LEO, a pioneering learning technologies firm, the multi-device authoring tool gomo learning, games with purpose company Preloaded, and Eukleia, an e-learning provider to the financial services sector.

As part of LTG, we’ll continue offering exactly the same services we do today to an ever larger group — not only will we provide our world-class e-learning standards support to LTG companies and their customers but as part of the Group, we’ll also have the platform to reach new global audiences.

This has no impact on the xAPI/Tin Can API. We’ll still continue to work with ADL and the e-learning community to foster adoption and advancement of the specification.

For our Rustici Software customers, the story is simple. The very same people will be providing to you the very same services in the same way. Our ability to serve our customers in the way we always have is something we feel really strongly about.

We’re excited to have the opportunity to work with the fine folks at LTG, and to continue to serve the e-learning industry in an even bigger way than before. We’re also excited because we’re spinning off Watershed at the very same time. Watershed will continue to push forward with their exploration of learning analytics and LRSs, and has also received a significant investment from LTG as part of Watershed’s Series A funding round. Mike and I, as CEO of Watershed and CEO of Rustici Software respectively, are both excited about where the two companies are headed.

If you have any questions or need more specific information regarding the acquisition, please let us know. Any inquiries or requests for additional documentation should be sent to info@tincanapi.com.

Tim

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I Want This: Tin Can Plans, Goals and Targets

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Categories: Ideas, Recipes, Statements, xAPI

Posted 27 August 2015

 

Learning plans, goals and targets are important. Setting goals for learning allows us to evaluate whether or not we are learning the things that we set out to learn. It’s standard practice for e-learning courses and qualifications to have learning outcomes attached to them, and these are used to measure if our learning has been successful. They are also used by educators and trainers to evaluate whether or not their teaching and training have been effective, and are used to inform interventions, further learning requirements and amendments to learning materials and lesson plans.

Learning Goals with Tin Can

Brian Miller touched on the use of sub-statements in Tin Can to represent future plans. The spec puts it this way: “One interesting use of sub-statements is in creating statements of intention.” and gives the following example:

{
    "actor": {
        "objectType": "Agent",
        "mbox":"mailto:test@example.com"
    },
    "verb" : {
        "id":"http://example.com/planned",
        "display": {
            "en-US":"planned"
        }
    },
    "object": {
        "objectType": "SubStatement",
        "actor" : {
            "objectType": "Agent",
            "mbox":"mailto:test@example.com"
        },
        "verb" : {
            "id":"http://example.com/visited",
            "display": {
                "en-US":"will visit"
            }
        },
        "object": {
            "id":"http://example.com/website",
            "definition": {
                "name" : {
                    "en-US":"Some Awesome Website"
                }
            }
        }
    }
}

MORE…

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Statements come from all kinds of places: content created in authoring tools, mobile apps, learning platforms and business systems. It’s not always immediately obvious which application the statement came from, which might be useful to know. This blog explains how you can tag the statements your tool or product generates and why that information is useful.

We’ve worked hard to make the Tin Can (xAPI) spec as clear as possible and have required Learning Record Stores (LRSs) to validate incoming data to ensure the same data structure is always used. There’s no way for statements to be sent to a conformant LRS unless they follow the prescribed data structure, and you’ll find that the major LRSs are strict with the data they accept.
MORE…

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