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What Does xAPI Adoption Look Like?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

One of the questions I’m asked most often is “What does xAPI adoption look like?” Many organizations adopting xAPI are doing similar things, even with different tools and different technologies supported. In this post, I’ll describe two popular patterns of how xAPI is being used.

Systems integration

To be sure, systems integration probably doesn’t excite us in the way that “social-mobile-performance objectives” might (or SoMoPo if you’re watching Silicon Valley). However, systems integration is low-hanging fruit, and its powerful low-hanging fruit for many organizations.

Consider the fact that many organizations have multiple learning management systems (LMSs). As organizations expand their global reach, develop different segments, or any number of other reasons, they add—and must maintain—multiple LMSs.

Until recently, getting those LMSs to share reporting information with each other—especially for employees who move around the organization—has required expensive tailored and custom integrations. For a manager to get reporting out of the LMSs on their direct reports, without such integrations they’ve had to have someone run reports in every LMS and then manually integrate these reports.

You might not think that is a big deal, but obviously doing manual reporting is prone to errors that are difficult to catch. More important, expensive custom integrations become fragile over time as LMSs are upgraded, and the code that integrates the different LMSs breaks down, requiring more maintenance

Enter the Experience API. Organizations using xAPI to integrate their LMSs are translating proprietary methods of reporting to xAPI as a common format. The use of Learning Record Stores to collect this information makes it possible to look at what’s happening across the organization in terms of Learning & Development (L&D).

Sales enablement


Many companies approach sales training differently than other services offered by L&D departments.  In fact, we know that some sales organizations within companies handle their own training, and several companies are beginning to use xAPI to link activities in sales training—beyond just e-learning—and the tasks sales professional accomplish in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.

Sales enablement support is an interesting foray into designing a program with xAPI. The sales function is all about outcomes—very explicit, tangible outcomes. Sales is nearly always thinking of new ways to influence those outcomes. With that kind of design focus, sales training is a lot less about using e-learning and a lot more about improving sales.

Indeed, if there’s a way to get an edge in both individual and team performance, sales will find it, which is probably why sales teams are making advances first on designing training using xAPI. The sales function is then collecting information in the work environment (typically, a CRM system) to observe what’s happening on the job. The information that’s generated—data about what happens on the job related to what happened in training for the job—provides feedback to sales trainers about how to tweak the training approach to influence better outcomes.

In some cases, the learning experiences being designed using xAPI are traditional classroom training with observational data (even self-reporting) or e-learning courseware for salespeople. The xAPI offerings report analytics on how the content is being used in more detail than SCORM provides. In other cases, organizations are developing job aids and other forms of performance support using xAPI.

Some organizations use xAPI within their CRM systems to translate lead generation, time-to-close, and other streams of activity—all in an effort to gain a better sense of the relationship between changes in training and changes in performance.

What’s your story?

There are dozens of companies using xAPI in one of the above ways—if not both. They are using a combination of common software libraries publicly available in multiple programming languages and the almost 50 different tools that use xAPI, in addition to LMSs that have already adopted xAPI.

How are you using xAPI in your organization?

About the Author

Aaron Silvers is an active leader in the evolution of online learning. He was the lead developer for Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) responsible for determining how content could be built for SCORM system and over the last five years led the specification (and now standards) effort developing the Experience API. He chairs the IEEE xAPI Study Group.

Through his consultancy, MakingBetter. Aaron accelerates learning and builds capacity in organizations. He evaluates systems and tools, leverages LEAN methodology to innovate and continuously improve learning and development functions, designs learning experiences and develops learning analytics and reporting capabilities.

Aaron co-created the “Up to All of Us” community and annual gathering with partner Megan Bowe in 2011. Up to All of Us catalyzed a new community-of-practice that reconsidered design, workflow, tools and practice. He continues to encourage the development of more effective design practices and better tools through partnership for the Experience API community with the forthcoming events, Connections: xAPI.

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