One small step for e-learning technology, One giant leap for the e-learning industry

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“One small step for e-learning technology, One giant leap for the e-learning industry.” ~ Rustici Software


Tin Can API (or ‘Experience API’) is one of the most extensively discussed technical topics amongst learning professionals all over the world today. This is mainly because of the relevance it carries in today’s world of ‘Learning Transformation’. Most discussions revolve around the technical aspects related to the definition and implementation of the standard, which is crucial at this stage of its evolution.

However, in addition to the technical aspects, it is also important  to have constructive discussions on the potential applications of this new standard in the learning and performance management landscapes. It is this aspect (potential applications of the Experience API) that we intend to mainly focus upon in this brief article, by triggering thoughts and ideas on the topic, along with curated pointers to some of the resources available on the web.

Here is a quick re-cap on this learning standard, before we take a closer look at some of the use cases:

  • Experience API is a new (and evolving) e-learning specification that makes it possible to collect data about the wide range of learning experiences a person goes through (both online and offline).
  • The backbone of this specification is a Learning Record Store (LRS) – a repository for storing the learning experiences (records).
  • This standard is being developed by Rustici Software (with a world-wide active community participating and contributing) for Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) – the keepers of SCORM.
  • ‘Tin Can API’ was the code name for the API project, which got widely adopted by the community. However, ‘Experience API’ is ADL’s official name for this standard.
  • This standard overcomes many of the limitations of Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) – the previous standard.
  • More and more vendors (authoring tools, Learning Management Systems, social platforms, mobile games, and simulations) are adopting or testing this new standard.


In this information age, learning professionals face several challenges with respect to organizational learning, since SCORM doesn’t have solutions to capture and track experiences such as these:

  • A major part of organizational learning is informal. As per the 70:20:10 Model, around 10% only is formal (through planned trainings)! The remaining 90% is happening informally!
  • Most informal learning is happening outside the LMS (such as visiting a webpage, viewing a YouTube video, playing a game/simulation, etc).
  • All informal learning is happening across multiple devices (such as desktops, tablets, mobile phones, etc.)
  • Most informal learning is happening even while learners are offline (without being connected to the LMS)
  • Some of the learning interventions require dynamic ways of pulling data from external sources into a course (such as real-time weather data or product pricing or stock numbers, an instructor adjusting a scenario on the fly, etc.)

The Experience API, with its wonderful capabilities, promises to offer solutions for all of these requirements by helping capture learning experiences:

  • Outside the LMS, and outside the web browser
  • Across different types of devices
  • Occurring even while learners are offline

It allows data to be dynamically pulled from external sources into a course during run-time, and helps create new ways of interaction between learners and instructors during training.


Here are a few interesting scenarios/use cases on the potential uses of Experience API in the real world:

  • An Employee’s Story: This interesting story depicts how Experience API could transform the informal learning experiences of an employee. The best part of the story is where the possibility of tracking employees’ real-world job performance even after their training is over is depicted in an interesting way. The story also depicts how employees’ performance and training results are measured beside others’ results, to take more effective decisions about training.       The complete list is here:http://tincanapi.com/2012/09/26/there-are-stories-to-be-told/
  • Beyond Learning Systems: This highly captivating story discusses how the power of Experience API could be extended much beyond ‘learning’. It narrates how Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) and talent management systems can benefit from Experience API. The most interesting aspect of this article is the way it depicts the benefits that an organization can have in recruiting, hiring, and on-boarding employees, thereby saving significant time and money.
  • CPR Training Course Scenario: This is another interesting scenario (expert interview) that offers insight into the possibilities of tracking the Instructor-led class of a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training program, along with its web-based component, and the actual work performance of the learner, in an Experience API-enabled system.
  • Interactions During Training: This lists a few exciting ideas on the capabilities that Tin Can API opens up in the area of interacting during training programs.
  • Tin Can Use Cases: A list of interesting ideas on how Tin Can API could be put to use in daily applications.


We can see a growing number of vendors (ebooks, games, simulations, LMSs, etc.) integrating Experience API’s capabilities into their products or applications in a highly creative way. Here are a few magnificent applications that demonstrate the standard’s capabilities:

  • Tappestry: Touted as the ‘FourSquare for Learning’, this mobile app helps learners capture their informal learning activities as and when they happen, and track and share their learning events in a social way.
  • Learning Locker: This is a powerful tool that helps track and present a person’s learning journey.
  • Sensor-based System: This is a prototype of a sensor-based system that can track activity via Tin Can API calls.
  • Tin Can Draw: This is one of the most interesting prototypes from Rustici Software that helps you track a simple handwriting exercise. For the complete list of the prototypes, check  http://tincanapi.com/resources/
  • Metryx: Metryx is a mobile, formative assessment solution for schools that allows teachers to offer personalized learning to their students.
  • Tin Can Watershed: This is a fascinating demo that allows you experience a typical Learning Record Store (LRS). It enables you to collect your learning experiences from many contexts in a single place, and also share these with others.


There are many resources on the web that discuss the possibilities of Experience API. Here are a few useful ones that we have curated for you:

  • A cartoon that allows you explore what Experience API looks like in the real world.
  • An interesting article on ‘Tracking Software Clicks with Tin Can’.
  • An article about an interesting concept – Tin Cannifyiing YouTube.
  • A highly informative article that discusses why Instructional Designers should care about Tin Can API.


Like you, we too have several questions regarding the practical implementation aspects of Experience API, and are engaged in discussions to find the answers. However, we believe that this learning standard combined with the power of Big Data Analytics, will evolve further to revolutionize the way we ‘learn’. It holds promises for more personal and richer learning environments, which may be a little difficult for us to completely visualize today, after our long association with previous standards.

We are excited at the prospect of this standard leading to Personal Learning Environments (PLE) that lie outside the boundaries of any organizational learning systems, where the learners themselves are in complete control of their learning data!

We foresee a bright future for this standard with more and more systems (such as data querying systems, data analytics & reporting systems, personal competency management systems, and visualization tools among many others) getting integrated with it. In the age of ‘Internet of Things (IoT)’, these could also include all the hardware-based systems and devices that we use in our daily life! We are thrilled to visualize a future world where all our micro interactions with devices are tracked and put to use to make our lives easier and richer.

What are your thoughts and ideas on the possibilities that the Experience API offer? What are your experiences on using this standard in your learning platform or application? What, according to you, would be the future of this standard?

Please let us know.

Written by Santhosh Kumar


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