One Tin Can E-learning designers shouldn’t kick down the road

Getting started with the Tin Can API, Part 1

New E-learning development standard.

The e-learning development standard SCORM, or Sharable Content Object Reference Model, is nearing the end of its useful life. Many in the e-learning development community, from designers to trainers alike, would agree it is way past its prime.   In case you haven’t heard, its replacement – the Tin Can API, is here and slowly but surely making its way into the marketplace.  If you’d like to learn more about the API and the changes it brings with it, there’s no better explanation in my book than this short clip by Tim Martin from Rustici software.   

What does this mean for your training courses, and how can you leverage the Tin Can API for the benefit of your end users?  Additionally, what should you be doing now to prepare?  I’d like to explore these questions with you in a series of posts, and encourage you to chime in on the discussion. 

Built on the philosophy that learning is taking place everywhere, and not simply through an active browser session inside of your learning management system you can now track all types of learning and development activities.  Keep in mind that simply tracking learning activities is not in and of itself evidence of improved performance due to the use of your learning assets.  The Tin Can API will however allow you to track all kinds of learning activities from reading a book to highlighting the sentence on your Kindle and attending an industry conference. These are all activities that due to SCORM’s limitations, you could not easily track.

There are several things that you can be doing out here for this monumental change first and foremost is educating yourself.  I’m a very tactile learner, and require engaging and tinkering with things in order to learn. One of the things you can do is to open up a learning record store and learning about all of the statements that you will be able to track in the cloud.  My recommendation is to checkout the Wax LRS by SaLTBOX.  Open up and account for yourself, it is currently free.  Having an account will allow you to test learning experiences from your own experiences in an actual cloud-based learning record store.  Additionally, if you have old courses are lessons created using articulate storyline you can republish these activities for the tin can API. Again this is simply for testing purposes, so that you can gain experience into working with tin can statements.

From a more strategic vantage point, say you’re a Director of Training, instructional designer, or Manager of Learning and Development in your organization or institution of higher learning. Odds are that many of the learning and development opportunities you’ve been providing your clients have not been tracked via your LMS using SCORM.  Thanks to the Tin Can API you can now begin defining statements of achievement for all of these L&D activities, and brainstorming ways you can track them in a learning record store.  You can learn more about tin can statements from the sites of one of the cloud-based LRS vendors, I have found this one particularly useful.  Additionally, you can experiment with validating your Tin Can statements here.

Steve Flowers over at e-learning heroes also provided me with several very useful sites you may also want to check out if you’re just getting started. 

For "less technical explanations" of Tin Can API in general, here are a few resources. The cartoon sequence is pretty clever.
My explanation and use-case descriptions for senior leadership of my org isn't really that technical but contains org specific contexts and language so it might be tough to follow:
Kevin Thorn and David Kelly gave a presentation at ASTD's TK13 last week in San Jose. Here's a description of that session and the slides:

We’ll continue to discuss this topic in future posts, but as the title of this post suggests―I highly recommend for you to begin getting your feet wet with the Tin Can API. 


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.