How the xAPI can improve your training ROI calculations

How many times have you been asked to calculate the value or the return on investment (ROI) your training programs are delivering?  Unless your client is okay with "real-world" back-of-the-napkin calculations, you'll need to demonstrate some objective metrics and be prepared to defend them.  It's time you get better at showing your worth, and the new Experience API (a.k.a. the xAPI, or Tin Can API) can assist-if used properly.   Prior to the xAPI's existence, your data collection was limited to what data you could track inside of your learning management system (LMS), and whatever test scores or attendance records you were keeping if you do not yet have an LMS or are still using a spreadsheet. 

Enter the xAPI, now you can include all sorts of offline activities such as conference attendance, coaching and mentoring sessions, and pretty much anything you can condense into the xAPI statement structure of nouns, verbs and objects.  Even successful activities performed on a CPR dummy or carrying a heavy hose out of a simulated burning building can now be tracked as a development activity.  In other words, your universe of learning activities that are contributing to a positive ROI for your efforts just expanded infinitely to what big data folks call N=ALL.  You can now track ALL learning activities, online or off, in front of a computer, iPad, crash test dummy, or an instructor that your learners are learning from in your analysis!

Let me give you an example of how this benefits you.  A year ago, you would have sent an employee needing to develop his or her presentation skills to a class or offered coaching by a consultant in order to develop their skills.  You had no way to track his attendance at local Toast Master meetings, his or her reading a book by a noted author on the subject, or delivering prepared remarks at a local public school or charity as a part of their developmental experiences.  Now, you can track all of these experiences and include them in your analysis of what led to the employee's improved public speaking skills.  In the case of an employee delivering prepared remarks at a local public school for example, your cost for said experience was $0, yet surely you can estimate some benefit derived from the experience in your ROI calculations. 


You see, to improve the accuracy of any ROI measurement, it is necessary to develop as complete as possible picture of the learning and development activities your learners experienced that led to the improved performance.  The more experiences and activities you include, the stronger the inference you can make as to their value in your ROI calculations.  And if you and your team are enabling these experiences, you can estimate their worth in your ROI calculations!

 The xAPI provides improved visibility and transparency into the activities of your learners, which in turn can improve performance across individuals and teams if multiplied and positively impact your ROI calculations.

Additional resources you may want to review when calculating the ROI of your training initiatives:
1. Summary Process for measuring ROI of Training
2. The Direct Path to Training ROI

Have a resource for measuring the ROI of training that is not listed here?  Please feel free to include it in the comments, the above are provided to get the conversation started! 

Alex Santos

Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop  and train their people. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.

Alex can be reached at 786-512-1069, or via Twitter@collabor8alex.