THE EVOLUTION OF ELEARNING PLATFORM: xAPI AND SCORM

The innovation world is constantly changing: technological problems that in the past seemed insurmountable obstacles, today have been easily overcome.

Education is one of the most involved sectors in technological innovation and digital transformation overall.

In a previous article, eLearning Trends for 2020, we already talked about the e-learning platform of the future, characterised by a high rate of interaction with the learner, and about the need to identify increasingly attractive solutions in order to keep up with the market.

In this article, we will explore two standards used by Distance Education courses developers to make the learning experience more interactive: SCORM and xAPI.

THE SCORM STANDARD: DEFINITION AND CHARACTERISTICS

SCORM is the acronym for “Shareable Content Object Reference Model” and it is a reference model widely used in e-learning. On a technical level, a SCORM package consists of a zip file which, in addition to the reference educational material, contains a file that describes its structure, contents and roll-up logics. One of the strengths of the SCORM format is its peculiar structure that enables the training content to be catalogued, traceable and reusable in different LMS platforms for distance learning.

The two main features of SCORM are:

  • Communication: an e-learning content produced in SCORM format can communicate various parameters to the environment that hosts it, including the display time, the number of accesses and attempts made and the progress status. All this information makes the learners' experience more dynamic and interactive;
  • Interactivity: a SCORM package has the great advantage, compared to a normal Power Point, of allowing to run tests and quizzes by inserting them into the same presentation. Moreover, the results will be immediately visible to the learner, reducing the correction times and making learning experiences more effective and efficient.

THE NEW STANDARD OF EXPERIENCE API

xAPI is a specification for learning technologies which enables to collect data about the online and offline experiences that a person can do. APIs capture data from different technologies in a consistent format. Thus, very different systems can communicate securely by collecting and sharing the flow of activities through the xAPI vocabulary.

xAPI has a syntax based on basic statements: actor + verb + object. The xAPI statements may also include contextual data: context, result, timestamp … These elements are the xAPI grammar; the articulation of each element in different words represents the structure.

The “verb” element has a lexical richness such as to allow the recording of the single steps that make up the interaction of the learner with a content.

By tracking the learner’s interaction, it emerges that he/she has chosen a certain type of activity (“attempted”) and has started to do it (“accessed”), has progressed (“progressed”) and has answered to the questions provided by that activity (“answered”), has completed it (“completed”) and successfully passed it (“passed”) until reaching the highest level of understanding and competence (“mastered”).

BENEFITS OF XAPI STANDARD

Below the possible benefits of e-learning xAPI standard:

  • It does not require an LMS (Learning Management Systems): the data is stored in a learning record store (LRS) which can be integrated into a platform, or it can constitute a distinct and self-consistent application installed on a device or used on a web platform (as a web-based service);
  • It enables to provide users with the contents via an app on a mobile device or on a PC; in this way they can have access to them even without a stable internet connection. As soon as the users reconnect to the network, the app will send the data collected to the LRS. This possibility makes xAPI the most suitable standard for mobile learning;
  • It allows to integrate in a single course heterogeneous contents: apps, web, forums, videos and various types of activities;
  • It allows to record the data of a group and not only of a single student: in a scenario where team work becomes ever more preponderant, the possibility to track the progress of a group becomes an important training achievement;
  • It provides a complete report of the student's learning activities: by registering multiple statements for each student's activity it gives the possibility to store information not only about learning objects and outcomes but also about the learning process;
  • It supports emerging technologies, such as augmented reality and, overall, innovative technologies related to informal learning.

SCORM VS XAPI: THE COMPARISON BETWEEN THE TWO STANDARDS AND FUTURE SCENARIOS

In the following table, it can be found a summary of the main differences between SCORM and xAPI, in order to better understand why the SCORM standard is destined to disappear and give way to the innovative xAPI in the creation of online courses.

Features Scorm Xapi
Completeness
Time
Passed / Not Passed
Single score
Multiple scores
Detailed test results
Simulations and games
Offline learning
Interactive learning
Adaptive learning

xAPI opens up a world of possibilities to provide e-learning focused on people, because it gives the opportunity to understand better the learner’s behaviour and the effectiveness of learning experiences.

What has been said in this article shows that, in not-so-distant future, the SCORM content will be replaced by xAPI as regards distance education and, for this reason, the content should be converted into xAPI to remain up to date with innovation. To support this prediction, just think that the most recent version of the format that until now represents the standard is SCORM 1.2 (or SCORM 2004), updated over 10 years ago! A geological era in the field of innovation.

To stay up to date on the news of the e-learning world, read the articles of our JOurnal.

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