I was talking recently with Chris Osborn, Vice President of Marketing at BizLibrary, and we were discussing how everything is content and content seems to be everywhere. You can find content for learning in many places aside from the content carefully wrapped up and delivered as a SCORM course.
A Brief History of SCORM
The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) organization is the government group that established SCORM as a specification. ADL developed SCORM to enable the use of courses from one LMS any other LMS. Before SCORM, it was the Wild West when it came to courses, with everyone developing for their own system. Therefore, SCORM was useful. That was what the name meant – Sharable Content Object Reference Model. You could share the content within your organization using different LMSs, or take content from a third provider and use it in your company. It was similar to the difference between BETA and VHS in the early days of recorded videotapes. They did not play nice in the sandbox until a format was established.
ADL recognized that SCORM, created for relatively simple courses, was limiting both developers and learners using all the new technology developed since they developed SCORM.
- Course delivery depended upon an LMS that used the SCORM specification.
- SCORM only tracked relatively simple course-based data. Pass. Fail. Start time, Finish time. Completion rates. Attendance. Final Score. Etc.
- Many LMSs could only record a SCORM session during a continuous web connection.
- Mobile was a problem since a course might start on a Monday and be completed on a Wednesday night.
Forget about games, simulations, and anything else considered informal or outside-the-SCORM-box. The SCORM standard forced instructional designers and others who dreamed of amazing courses to fit them into the development and delivery constraints of SCORM. As a learner, you were SCORMed.
The Experience API
To catch up with the times, ADL created another spec better suited to the way we learn today. It was born with a working name of “Tin Can API” and rechristened as “Experience API”. Experience API was tested and reached version 1.0 in May 2013. Personally, I like the moniker “Experience” since it so much more descriptive of what it really is. Experience API is an improvement that is more in concert with the ways we learn.
For example, Experience API enables the following:
- If you are a mobile learner, the new spec is able to track your progress without a constant internet connection.
- Learning experiences can include anything using the new Experience specification.
- Experience API does not need learning experiences delivered by an LMS. They can come from anywhere. For example, an instructor can give you an assignment that includes the task “go look it up and report back.” Experience API uses a “bookmarklet” installed on a web browser to track whether you visited the pages that provided the information. That alone opens up a completely new world of learning.
- Experience API can also keep track of your social interactions. Lots of learning happens every day between people at the virtual water cooler.
Here’s a chart of a side-by-side comparison from ADI:
The new learning information uses a different database – the Learning Record Store or LRS. The LRS can be independent or exist inside an LMS. The LRS can directly produce a report or feed the information into an LMS. According to ADL, LMS providers will eventually all add an LRS. As a caveat, the LMS vendors will need to build robust new data analytics, data visualization, and new and improved reporting features to make sense of all the informal learning that people complete. Learning experiences which are social, mobile, and informal — in other words, any learning not wrapped up in SCORM packages — will go to the LRS. Courses or elements of a course that have SCORM will still go directly to the LMS. The LMS will still supply all the valuable features and functions an LMS provides. It is the beginning of the 100% solution, combining the 20% formal learning (aka SCORM courses) with the 80% informal learning (aka everything else).
What Does This Mean For You?
With the new Experience API, learning is longer limited to a SCORMed course. It’s not limited at all. The new API standard can track any learning experience regardless of where you learn, how you learn, or what you learn. It’s all part of your total learning experience (now you see why I like the name Experience API). An Experience API can include a webinar, a certification track at a conference, a research paper you read and more. If it is some thing or some place from which you learn, Experience API can track and record the learning.
Companies will need to start evaluating and valuing informal learning. Developers – and authorware vendors – will need to discover creative ways to loop, jog, and link external learning experiences into their more formal programs. Finally, self-motivated learners and continuous learning will rule the day.