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Ciara Cunningham

Aurion Learning

Marketing Manager

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Yes We Can? Can Tin Can API Change E-Learning?


There has been a lot of discussion about Tin Can API transforming E-Learning.

Let’s start by debunking the tech-talk.

What is Tin Can?

Tin Can API is a tool that provides the capability to track a learner’s progress both as they move their way through traditional, formal learning and the big, bad world of informal learning that is life.

The Need

Tin Can API is the baby of Rustici Software who responded to a tender by the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative of the U.S. Department of Defence.  The ADL wanted to see:

“Greater communication between systems and content types and tracking learner activity including non-linear learning experiences and social media interactions.”

Previous versions of SCORM simply weren’t keeping up.

The Reality

The latest draft standard of Tin Can is version 1.0.1. It is technically still in development albeit with a large number of high profile early adopters.

Tin Can vs. SCORM

SCORM has the capability to track the completion of learning modules, time, pass/fail rates and to report a single score.

Tin Can on the other hand has the capability to do all of the above as well as report multiple scores and detailed test results with no LMS or internet browsing required. With Tin Can, it is possible to record learning progress within mobile apps and without cross-domain limitation. E-Learning administrators can keep complete control over their content.

Tin Can is capable of tracking serious games, simulations, informal learning and real world performance, as well as offline, interactive, adaptive, blended, long-term and team-based learning. The possibilities are endless.

What can Tin Can API be used for?

Tin Can standardises reporting like this:

Actor – Verb – Object

I - scored - 75% in an online assessment.

Mark - completed - three assignments.

Jenny - passed - level two of an E-Learning game.

It’s possible to create Tin Can API services for a wide range of tools including social media, Learning Managements Systems and a variety of learning and productivity tools.

Are we about to experience an E-Learning revolution?

Whilst it is clear that the capabilities of Tin Can API creates a myriad of new opportunities in the area of learner progress tracking, it is important to remember that tracking completion doesn’t mean we know whether learners have achieved their goals.

Learning happens in minds and comes to completion when applied in real life.

Today most organisations evaluate performance using quantitative reports and Tin Can API is a fantastic tool to communicate learning progress to decision makers.

On the other hand, Tin Can API is not able to record and communicate if real learner objectives affecting performance are being met.

It is important not to get swept away by the hype of new technology and remain focused on learning. User-centred learning principles need to lead to new technology and not vice-versa.

SCORM has been the industry standard for some time now. It is widely used and understood by those responsible for developing E-Learning programmes. Regardless of how revolutionary the actual features of Tin Can API are, the combination of the necessity of some designers to develop a new skill and the general rule that adoption to new things is often sluggish, it may take some time for Tin Can API to create an E-Learning revolution.

In conclusion, Tin Can API is certainly a step forward from SCORM. It holds the potential to track learning progress in a more meaningful and broad-minded context.

Tin Can API is however still in early stages and as with all learning technologies, it is important to assess whether or not it meets your own organisational needs.

So whether or not Tin Can API is set to start a revolution in one thing is for sure, online learning is changing, quickly. As the old Chinese proverb says:

“Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”

If you would like some assistance with identifying your organisation’s learning and development needs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

One Response

  1. Don’t limit xapi

    It's important to realise that xAPI isn't just limited to recording statements about "learning". It can also be used to record statements about performance. Eg. John sold a car, or Jacinta answered a support query.

    When our operations systems start sending xAPI statements we will then be able to explore the statistical evidence about the effectiveness of the learning interventions we offer. Of course that requires:

    A) xAPI to be adopted outside of the L&D bubble

    B) L&D to develop capabilities in statistical analysis


Author Profile Picture
Ciara Cunningham

Marketing Manager

Read more from Ciara Cunningham

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