xAPI Camp Preview: RISC VTA

On March 26, 2019, I’m gathering some of the best tools that enable, and the professionals who define, xAPI’s best practices. This will happen at the upcoming xAPI Camp (number 14!) hosted by the eLearning Guild at the Learning Solutions conference in Orlando, FL. In the run-up to the event, I aim to highlight who’s going to be there, and why I think they’re enabling and defining best practices. Today’s post focuses on the outstanding capabilities RISC has built into its Virtual Training Assistant (VTA) learning management system that enable flexible training approaches, like spaced learning.

When Knowing Matters

A question I get asked regularly is “when is xAPI really worth doing?” and my answer is always something like “xAPI is worth doing when the stakes are high and the cost of failure is too heavy.” When it comes to safety and health — when lives are at stake — that’s when a deep analysis with xAPI is worth the effort. RISC’s VTA is geared for high-stakes compliance needs. If your workforce is on a gas or oil pipeline and you care that they can do the job and not hurt themselves or others in the process, then knowing the capabilities of a given worker and the team(s) they’re on matters.

My funk soul brother Duncan Welder goes into detail on how RISC approaches tracking competencies in VTA here. It’s worth the read and to see the dashboard in action, but I can tell a lot about what they’re doing in terms of how they’re using xAPI by what I see here.

Why is this good?

Checklists, Competency Assessments, Questions, Pass/Fail activities — these are different types of xAPI activities VTA is reporting on. Using xAPI to also detail incident reporting makes it possible to juxtapose the learning activities with real-world outcomes to demonstrate the correlations between learning performance and job performance. There is so much depth we can get into with this established, as RISC can continue to get more granular with the progress toward specific competencies and the incident trends over time.

That’s exactly what I want to track and report out with xAPI. From what I’ve seen in the market, there are some really good LRSs providing solid reporting on data when there’s no assumption about what’s actually in the data. RISC, however, has a history of designing reports that tells specific stories about specific learning activities, like their PDF Annotator and Message Board features. What RISC can report may not be for everyone, but if you want specific insights, there’s no other vendor on the market that’s able to give you these insights with this fidelity.

Andrew Downes, in his stunning blog series documenting just what exactly customers are tracking with Watershed, breaks down a high level categorization of learning analytics distinguishing the learner, the learning experience and the learning program. Downes cites that Wateshed customers learning analytics are about the learning program, and ery little attention is tracked by Watershed customers about the learning experience or the learners themselves. In that light, it’s even more impressive to me that RISC is tracking competencies in this way because performance-to-competency is a dimension that sheds light not just on the learning program but the learner and the learning experience, too.

How does this work with “spaced learning?”

When Duncan and Art Werkenthin present at xAPI Camp on March 26, they’re going to focus on spaced learning — the delivery of small, repetitive pieces of learning content with breaks between the learner’s sessions with the content. It’s a researched approach to learning content delivery that is particularly effective for long-term retention. There are a lot of technical things RISC is doing with xAPI (like relying on cmi5 for reliably handling the launch of xAPI-enabled learning content). VTA’s support for cmi5 reduces the variability of the learning experience and technically enables a spaced learning approach (among enabling lots of other learning experiences). The reality is that RISC’s implementation of cmi5 makes a lot of things possible where we need to know who the learner is, and we want to track learning activity to an LMS.

And, with RISC able to track a spaced learning experience, they can look at the data on the content delivered over time, against the performance outcomes (like incidents reported) and optimize the spacing relative to the type of content, the subject of the content, the complexity of the job performance, etc. VTA clearly gives you all the tools you need to do this. All you need is content that uses xAPI in specific ways to populate these reports with data that is formatted to deliver insights. After all, I’m highlighting what RISC can report, but that requires data that is useful and usable to populate these reports with appropriately formatted data.

For that, I can’t wait to share my next blog post on what DominKnow is doing that enables what RISC (and other tools) can report on.

Interested in xAPI visualizations but can’t make xAPI Camp?  Duncan and Art have a session Wednesday, March 27th at Learning Solutions on getting measurable results with xAPI titled Design with the End In Mind.