The Experience API: What every learning developer should know about Tin Can

Put simply: The Tin Can API Project (TCP)–now known as the Experience API–is a complete reinvention of the SCORM model. Where the focus of SCORM was to ensure interoperability between content and systems (if you create SCORM compliant content, you can upload it easily to any SCORM-compliant learning management system), the TCP’s focus is on tracking and sharing information that is generated by the learner. The learner and all the learning activities that he or she experiences can be recorded, tracked, shared, and otherwise manipulated. The TCP standard makes it possible to capture and share a learner’s activity history through any internet-based technologies he or she uses so long as it is TCP-compliant.

How does the Tin Can API work? At the heart of this model lies a new technological concept known as the Learning Record Store (LRS), which is essentially a database that stores records of what learners do. For example, let’s say a Learning Management System vendor adds TCP features to its programming. Now, let’s say a system like Twitter decides to also add Tin Can Project-compliant programming to its technology. Theoretically, a learner’s specific Twitter activity could be automatically stored and logged in a Learning Record Store (LRS), which in turn can share this information back to the Learning Management System or any other Tin Can Project-compliant technology. As another example, a browser plug-in could be written that allows learners to click an icon and open up a window to log the URL of a website they are presently viewing, type a short (or long) essay about what they read, what the content means to them, etc., and then post this learning activity to the LRS. The LRS could then store this information in a Learning Management System for a teacher to review, grade, comment upon, etc.

What does the Tin Can Project mean to learning developers? As these examples illustrate, the Tin Can API is a programming standard that encourages systems to communicate learner-driven data in a consistent and distributable way.  There will undoubtedly be dozens if not hundreds of interesting and compelling TCP implementations flooding the market over the next few years. The Tin Can Project has the potential to answer the question how can and will we leverage social technologies in the training and education arena?  Learning Developers should begin researching the companies and initiatives that are emerging now and begin considering ways in which to adopt these technologies as they mature. However, they should also be careful to select and implement new tools carefully as this is a rapidly evolving area. What is on the market today will change and expand radically with each coming month and year.

Summary You have just learned some interesting facts about the Tin Can Project. Imagine if you could click a button in your browser to record what you have learned and share this with your teacher, boss, co-worker, or anyone else who you would want to make aware of your professional development!

Additional Resources

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