Reflections on DevLearn's xAPI Hyperdrive

xapi-headerStill emanating from DevLearn two weeks ago, the buzz about the Experience API is resonating. It was an incredibly exciting week to see the incredible gains and growth the xAPI community has had in the last year.

Megan & I spent the bulk of our time helping the eLearning Guild with the xAPI Hyperdrive and the xAPI in Practice track. So many great examples of the Experience API, literally, “in Practice” on display; here is what’s still sticking with us from what we saw at the Hyperdrive event.

Marty Rosenheck has made great strides with his learning experience manager, Trek, since he first started the concept work for the software at Up to All of Us in 2012. Now leveraging xAPI to improve teacher education through National Louis University, it’s exciting to see the practical impact the technology has in pulling credible evidence from what’s happening in the field into the digital space where competence can be tracked, allowing the program to scale the professional development of these teachers.

Tim Chudy of Rustici Software delivered a great presentation showcasing what Catholic Relief Services is doing with their Watershed LRS to improve the effectiveness of their relief efforts in disaster-stricken parts of the world. It was pretty awesome that one of our best friends in the space, Brian Dusablon, got some shout-outs from Chudy for Brian’s work with Leslie Blanton of CRS. In this case, xAPI is used with Articulate products to create job aids that track interactions while relief workers — in this case, research interviewers — are out in the field. Watershed showed up in a couple of presentations at the xAPI Hyperdrive, and it’s an impressive example of how carefully crafted analytics can inform an organization. Particularly impressive was how Watershed LRS was used at Autodesk, in a presentation by David Sanchez, where xAPI was being used to tie KPIs in their Client Relationship Manager to organizational competencies.

Our longtime pal Mike Hruska of Problem Solutions talked through a new software development kit (SDK) called Pipeline. It uses xAPI to translate interactions out of simulations (think medical or pilot simulations, not Captivate simulations) into Human Performance Markup Language (HPML), which is an emerging markup language in the HR space being touted among Human Capital managers (talent managers) in federal government. Pipeline using xAPI as an interoperable data exchange mechanism with HPML may be niche for many working in learning organizations inside of enterprise, but as an edge case study it may well inform complicated system integrations with xAPI.

xAPI spec contributor Russell Duhon of Saltbox shared an ever-improving application using QR codes to easily generate and deploy markers for Scavenger Hunts. xAPI is used in the app on mobile devices to communicate the data back to their LRS, and a back-end application mines that data to produce scoreboards. The guys at Saltbox have come an incredibly long way since they were knocking out the first code for WaxLRS sitting at the “Tin Can Alley” during mLearnCon 2012 when we kicked off the spec effort. Ali Shahrazad‘s presentation on the system integration they did with Sears Holdings this past year demonstrated a true depth of experience in what’s potential, what’s practical and what’s challenging about integrating several LMSs across enterprise.

My former coworker, Mira Mendlovitz of W.W. Grainger, Inc., and our friend Robert Gadd of OnPoint Digital presented on a bespoke mobile app for Sales Enablement, built by OnPoint, for Grainger. It took a combination of xAPI and a LOT of grit to effectively handle offline SCORM-like capabilities in the app to track mobile content and use xAPI to sync up data back to an LRS when connectivity was established. Not only was it a great presentation and a highly practical case study — the sheer talent and effort it took to come up with a means to handle any SCORM content to play and track in a mobile app was a significant achievement. That it’s painless to the end user is as it should be; the extra-special technical effort to achieve it is impressive.

Chad Udell is another longtime friend who launched the first app (Tappestry) to support xAPI back in the “Project Tin Can” days of mLearnCon 2012. Float Learning has put out some impressive learning apps since then and, at the xAPI Hyperdrive, Chad showcased a client project, currently under development, using WebGL (a 3D graphics library compatible with many mobile and desktop browsers in HTML5) and xAPI to track learning activity back to the LRS. It was really cool to see what could be developed for a browser that is natively supported by HTML5, responsive and still incredibly immersive as an experience. BTW – Chad’s new book with Gary Woodill is out — Mastering Mobile Learning. 

By far, the most engaging presentation and the most innovative implementation of xAPI shared was by Megan Torrance of Torrance Learning, who is spearheading great work with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum using RFID chips to personalize the interaction with an exhibit for students, using xAPI to track student activities and provide feedback loops back to teachers as well as the museum on the learning experience. The implications for this kind of use of xAPI are pretty significant for libraries, nature walks, tours and other space-based experience design applications, where feedback loops are either hard to capture or are solely reliant on self-reporting or observation. 

In short, lots of great stuff from the show-and-tell that was the first xAPI Hyperdrive event from The eLearning Guild. We’re pretty stoked to see what’s come from xAPI’s very humble beginnings just a few years ago. We were incredibly proud to be a part of it hosting (and evaluating) with pals old and new Steve Foreman, Jason Haag, Andy Johnson and Craig Wiggins). Much thanks to the Guild, and especially David Kelly for putting together what was an incredible event.

Speaking of events, ADL has a PlugFest happening in December in Orlando.

That’s also not the only xAPI-focused event coming up. Yes, that’s a tease… stay tuned 😉