The best way to think about the Tin Can API is to think about it as standardized plumbing between systems. When systems are integrated with the Tin Can API, they’re capable of sharing data in a standardized way. You’ll hear folks refer to this data as records of experience, or Tin Can Statements.
Let me stop there and quickly unpack a concept of a ‘record of experience’ or a Tin Can Statement. You’ll hear me use these terms interchangeably… so what exact am I talking about? ‘I Did This’ is a very simple example of a Tin Can statement. It consists of a noun (the I), a verb (the did) and an object (the this). It is because of this simple structure that we can now track any experience using Tin Can, be it a learning experience, training experience, job performance, you name it. Let’s run through a few examples:Andy presented a Tin Can API webinarAndy attended an e-learning conferenceAndy resuscitated a CPR dummyAndy completed Risk Assessment on steeluniversity.orgAndy closed a sales opportunity worth $30,000.These are the types of statements that can now be generated and shared via the Tin Can API.
So why does this matter? What makes the Tin Can API an important development? Most organizations, today, are using multiple, disparate, systems to track an employee’s experiences. They may use an Learning Management System to track the completion of some type of training… a CRM to track the opening and closing a sales opportunity… an HR or Talent Management system to keep track of when an employee mentors a colleague, attends a professional development session, accesses performance support assets, etc. These systems, today, are likely not capable of sharing these experiences in a standardized way. So the data ends up living in isolation. This is a huge missed opportunity. What if we were able to merge all of this data into a single repository. We’d be able to finally answer some historically really tough questions. How effective and valuable is an employee to the organization. How effective is the training and support we’re providing our employees? How is our training and support impacting the businesses bottomline (that’s a big one)?Tin Can will not miraculously answer these questions all on it’s own, but it will empower an organization to gather the data needed to answer these questions and more.So, why was the Tin Can API created? To answer this, I’ll need to give you a short SCORM lesson (For those of you who already know what SCORM is, I promise to keep this brief… you’ll all thank me for this later!)SCORM, which stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model, is a collection of standards for web-based learning developed and maintained by ADL (Advanced Distributive Learning, which is an initiative inside the Department of Defense). So here’s the gist of SCORM (at a really high-level). If a piece of e-learning content, such as a course or an assessment is SCORM conformant it can be played in any SCORM conformant LMS. It allows for content to be Sharable among many systems. SCORM was a really important development for the DOD. Before SCORM existed the DOD managed multiple LMSs across all branches of the military and each LMS had their own requirements for content. This meant that if the DOD wanted to offer the same bit of training to all branches of the military, they likely had to purchase multiple versions of that training… one for each LMS. With SCORM in place, they only have to purchase the training once and it will play in all of their SCORM conformant LMSs. Pretty great, right? SCORM was a fantastic innovation for its time and contributed greatly to the e-learning industry becoming the $48 billion global industry it is today.With all of that said, SCORM has some inherent limitations, and it’s because of these limitations, coupled with advancements in technology, that ADL pushed for the development of the Tin Can API.Let’s quickly run through the primary limitations SCORM.Reliant on an Learning Management System to play and track activities. It is very difficult, if not impossible to track activities that live outside of the LMS using SCORM (and we’d argue that the vast majority of your learning occurs outside of the LMS… most of which is not being tracked). There’s also a cross-domain issue, but that’s a pretty nerdy issue and we won’t get into that today.Reliant on a web browser. For technical reasons, in order to track an activity using SCORM, the activity has to be accessed via a browser. As you can imagine, this greatly limits the types of technology we’re able to use to track learning and training activities in a SCORM world.Reliant on a constant Internet connection. This makes it incredibly difficult to track an activity using SCORM in a disconnected environment… makes it really hard to track an activity offline and report it back to the LMS.By alleviating these limitations, Tin Can opens up a ton of opportunity for organizations interested in expanding their learning and training programs. So, let’s run through a few of these.
This, in and of itself, enables a ton of new stuff to be tracked.
Since we’re no longer reliant on a browser, we’re now able to track activities that occur in native mobile apps. For many organizations, this opens up a new world of possibilities for delivering learning, training, and performance support, especially for those employees out in the field… say via an iPad.Without being reliant on a browser or an LMS, we can also develop applications to track real-world activities.
Conference registration system or app can issue a statement when I register for a conference or even a specific session.A university can provide an attendance app to track student engagement.We’ve already developed a prototype of a book scanning app which records an ‘I read this’ statement when the barcode is scanned.
Another benefit of no longer being reliant on a browser or LMS is that we can now take advantage of high fidelity, non-web-based technologies like simulations.Flight simulatorsSteel processing simulationDriversed simulator
Another big limitation of SCORM is that is requires a constant internet connection. This makes it virtually impossible to have folks take a bit of training in a remote, disconnected location. This is possible, however, with an app that is tracking via Tin Can.
So, pretty much any experience can now be tracked via a system or application that is integrated with the Tin Can API.
This paradigm shift presents a few challenges.What counts as a validate learning or job performance experience?In conjunction with Tin Can applications, we’re going to need to build smart systems that understand what counts and what is noise.Most of us probably wouldn’t be able to count watching Gangnam Style as a learning experience. But let’s say your researching the effects of western entertainment on Asian culture. In this case Gangnam Style would be become a valuable learning experience.
With all of this new data, we’re also presented with some big opportunities In this big pile of Tin Can Statements we should be able glean insights and see tends we were previously blind to.Things like:Where do people go to learn?How do people like to learn?What learning paths do the most effective performers take?What learning paths do the least effective performers take?What are people unexpectedly choosing to learn about? And how does this effect your learning programs?Can we bring together people with complimentary skills?It will take some work, again, Tin Can is not going to magically answer all of these questions for us, but it definitely allows us to collect the data necessary to answer these questions.
In the SCORM world, data goes into a black hole known as your LMS rarely to be seen again.In the Tin Can world, data is now required be accessible and portable
This is what the early implementation of the LRS will look like, we’re already seeing this today. Rustici is providing this solution today.
All of these vendors have adopted before the spec is even finalized.Just the tip of the iceberg250 active CRM conversations about Tin Can