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Archive for the "Ideas" Category

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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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"
                }
            }
        }
    }
}

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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.
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On August 13th, 2015, we launched a heavily revised version of tincanapi.com. Andrew Downes has been working away, as he does, creating new content. Rather than direct it all at the blog, though, he’s been rethinking and restructuring the core site and sharing his insights for first-timers, learning designers, learning product vendors, and organizations. There are countless other updates laid out below. Please spend some time with them.

Many readers of the site, though, will likely notice a significant change to our handling of the name… tincanapi.com. Years ago, Mike shared our perspective on the name, that we were going to call it Tin Can API. For some, this has been a contentious issue. With the new site, we’ve made the site behave as we have been personally for a long time. We call it whatever you call it.

On the site, you’ll notice a toggle in the upper left. If you prefer to call it Tin Can, do so. If you prefer xAPI, that’s great too. Whether you visit tincanapi.com or experienceapi.com, the site will present everything to you using your preferred name.

It comes down to this: arguing about an API’s name simply isn’t productive. We have far more important things to accomplish together.

So please, enjoy the new content. Go build a brilliant activity provider. Make some statements. Or ask us for help if you need it.

 


 

Here are the new sections of the site:

Understand

The existing Tin Can Explained page gives a really helpful introduction to Tin Can if you’ve never heard of it.  We’ve brought this section up to date a little and added some pages around the different components of the new enterprise learning ecosystem that Tin Can enables. We’ve also added pages targeted specifically at organizations, learning product vendors and vendors of products outside L&D.

Get Started

By now, if you haven’t heard of Tin Can and got a basic understanding, you’ve probably been living on mars. These days, the question we get asked most isn’t “what’s Tin Can?” but “how do I get started?” If that’s your question, then good news – we’ve created a new section just for you!

The get started section includes pages targeted at product vendors, content authors and organizations. It includes guides to help you see Tin Can in action, get a Learning Record Store (LRS) and run a pilot project in your organization. There’s a collection of pages to help you think about moving on from SCORM, too.

Design

We already had a bunch of resources for developers, but not much really aimed at learning designers. We’ve added a page outlining the impact of Tin Can on learning design, including reflections on a handful of learning models and theories in the light of Tin Can. If you’re thinking more at the strategy level, we’ve got a page on incorporating Tin Can into your learning strategy, too.

At a practical level, there’s a guide on statement design, an introduction to recipes for learning designers, and an assignment for you to try out what you learn from the new pages we’ve written.

Developers

The developers section was already crammed full of resources. We’ve tidied these up to make them easier to find and created an interactive statement explorer page to help you understand the structure of the statement.

The statement generator we created a few years ago was due for an update and ADL recently published a new more comprehensive statement generator. We don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, so we’ve taken the ADL tool, made it orange and included it on the site.

To help you put all these resources into practice, we’ve created a series of challenges for developers to try out writing code for Tin Can.

Webinars

The previous webinar list contained embedded YouTube videos for all our webinars. We’ve got so many webinar recordings now that it was getting hard to find webinars on specific topics so we’ve created a new categorized webinar list. Each of the webinars is now on its own page, making it easier to share the recording with other people.

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