Whatever happened to Tin Can API?                                   28.03.16


Professionals do well to keep one eye on future developments. Tin Can API was on my radar screen a few years ago but strangely hasn't actually hove into sight in my work as a developer and designer.

For that reason I've decided to have another look.

But before I do, note that all this is from the perspective of a non-xAPI expert. And it's aimed at non-xAPI experts. Ordinary, pragmatic rapid e-learning developers like me who just want a quick heads-up about this important topic.

I'd welcome your opinions and any corrections.


It's not actually Tin Can API anymore

One of the first things I’ve learned is that Tin Can API has been officially renamed to xAPI ( = eXperience API). You will obviously want to use the current terminology even though people will generally know what you talking about if you call it Tin Can API.


But that's just the name on the box - what is it?

You could think of xAPI as the latest flavour of SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) but it's not called SCORM 20xx (or whatever) because it goes way beyond the browser/LMS interaction that we've used for years.


So what can it do?

A lot - if a piece of software can talk xAPI it can report on pretty much everything that has been done with that software.

Unlike SCORM it is not limited to test scores etc. Neither does it have to work solely in a web browser/LMS context.

Potentially if you scratch your nose while using any IT system and the scratching-your-nose recognition software on that IT system can talk xAPI then that fact can be communicated to other xAP-talking software both local and distant.

Nor does it need to be computer initiated. A language teacher could report that one of her students has attended and passed a language course.

And think about this. If Microsoft Word became xAPI compliant. You would be able to tell if a member of your staff has the skills to perform (say) a mail merge because you would know that they had done so in the past.

The actual mechanism would be that Word would send a statement saying 'Bill did a mail merge'. And that information would be collected by a LMS,  spreadsheet - you name it. Which means that its application is not limited to the world of training.

To sum up. xAPI can say anything and doesn't need a constant internet connection, a browser or an LMS to say it. Yes you can complete your e-Learning modules while on a fishing holiday in the Himalayas


Do I need it?

For me the answer is 'No' or 'Not yet'

I'm into rapid e-learning only and my particular specialities, Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline both have options to publish in xAPI/Tin Can API modules. However they don't currently add any functionality that wasn't already available in SCORM. As soon as they do I'll take more practical interest.

I suspect that's how it will remain for all 'rapid e-learning' development tools. When the extra facilities are added we learn what we need to know about them.

As you might expect, it's in the 'non-rapid', big budget sector of the market where the boundaries are being pushed.


Where to go for further information

ADL www.adlnet.gov - xAPI is their baby but it's free to use under licence

TinCanAPI.com - also very important and I recommend a visit if you want to know more

Rusticis - www.rusticisoftware.com

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Adobe Captivate vs Articulate Storyline                                                  15/03/16


Ok – so Captivate has been around for a long time. It really is the industry standard with about ten times more Captivate professionals in the market than those who develop in Storyline. I use both and often get into conversations about which is better.

Hand on heart, I prefer to work with Storyline and I would say that it often means quicker development. It’s simple, PowerPoint-based interface is easy for people to pick up and I love the way that it makes scripting so easy.

And yet

Captivate is more powerful – it has more of those bells and whistles that clients often want. And significantly Adobe has taken the important step into the responsive design that allows the same project to work on computers, tablets and mobile phones. Articulate hasn’t even started that process yet and I feel that if they don’t make it a feature of version 3 – they might have just lost the race.


Whatever happens Storyline has given Captivate some much needed competition.


The death of Flash                                                                                     01.03.16


In November 2015 Adobe sort-of announced the Death of Flash but it’s been something we’ve seen coming for years – every since Steve Jobs decided to kick the Flash plug-in off iPads and iPhones.

Not many people would argue that HTML5 is not the future but is it really time to ditch publishing e-Learning projects as Flash? Or is this a little premature?

I've been looking at both sides of the argument.

Here's a well respected developer who favours jumping before being pushed: www.infosemantics.com.au/what-the-death-of-flash-means-for-elearning

But perhaps more pragmatically:


In my experience the majority of clients still have no current requirement to make content usable on mobile devices and therefore don’t need to ditch Flash.