Friday, November 29, 2013

What is Tin Can API?

Most of the learning technology world is a buzz with Tin Can or Experience API. It's been very prominent at all learning conferences I've seen. However within the broader community of instructional designers and content developers it's still quite fuzzy. So here's my attempt at Tin Can in a nutshell.

A little context: The issue I and many other learning practitioners have with the modern day LMS is its self-centeredness, not navel-gazing but the LMS doesn't care about the real world. In the current paradigm, measurable learning doesn't happen unless it is within the confines of the LMS. If it wasn't an assessment, simulation, presentation, video - it doesn't count. The reason for that, is because of SCORM

Tin Can is meant to be the next evolution of SCORM. The ability to report, track and manage a user's progress. what makes this unique is its robustness and simplicity. Subject Action Object. Shaun wrote a blog post. That's a single call. What's the big deal about that? Learning & Performance professionals need to focus less on written assessments and course completion. The focus needs to be on what students can do. What better way to measure a learner's progress on a topic than to track what they actually do. Can they perform?

There is often a lot of time spent crafting the perfect learning objective as if most learners don't just skim or skip them altogether.

From a technical training view, here are some tasks that are regularly simulated for training:
  • Logging in
  • Editting a Report
  • Publishing a Blog post

The premise of Tin Can is to enable a simple connection from any application to report back. The LMS or LRS (Learning Record Store) will capture the completion of tasks for analysis and centralized reporting. The main thing is that the performance being recorded is not an elearning simulation of a task, it can be a real task. In theory this could be much easier to implement that building an elearning simulation subject to change. In the Tin Can example of logging in, you simply add some code in the login screen to record the fact the active user logged in.  Let's look at an example.

“How do we train our users to use the new Corporate Portal?”

Traditional eLearning Scorm World


Tin Can

"Ok, we'll build up a set of elearning simulations, job aids and on the job checklists to ensure learners can login and configure panels. 

"Let's build a series of job aids and checklists with a link to a training environment where users can perform the tasks live. When the identified tasks in the system are completed we insert a tin can call back to our Learning store than Learner X performed this task

“Well we just rebranded the portal – we need that learning updated by next friday”

Ok, I’ll need to call the vendor and have him do an emergency build. With this timeline It’ll cost about  50k.

I’ll update the job aids this week, we’ll still have to check that we’re making the right call to Tin Can for each task. Are there any new things we should track?

It's definitely a simplification, but having to maintain a large and static simulation would always be more difficult to maintain.

Tin Can has the potential to be immensely disruptive. Learning professionals could do so much more with much less. Some will defend the simulation, while clutching their rented movie. What do you think you could do with Tin Can. I'm going to be exploring Tin Can some more, with some open source applications (drupal, wordpress) Definitely more to come.

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