Understanding xAPI: Practical Guide to Uses and Benefits

One of the best aspects of Open LMS is the ease with which it can be connected to other tools and resources, helping to create a broader learning ecosystem. Experience API is one such way that you can connect Open LMS with other resources. xAPI helps make your LMS bigger and better.

For example, xAPI enables users to collect and analyze data from a wide range of learning experiences that someone may have. Despite the somewhat intimidating-sounding name, the basics of xAPI are easier to understand than you may think.

What Is xAPI?

In the simplest terms, xAPI is a way for different parts of the learning ecosystem to talk to each other, share data and track learners’ experiences. As the name suggests, it’s an application programming interface, meaning that it’s a standard that allows different software products to interact with each other, even if they were made by different teams.

Created and maintained by Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL), xAPI simplifies how eLearning content is packaged and distributed. It also makes it easy to track performance. Notably, it can draw data from the real world, not just the digital realm.

You don’t need to be a developer to benefit from xAPI. In fact, chances are that if you use eLearning solutions, you’ve probably used a system that makes use of either xAPI or one of its predecessors.

A Brief History of Experience API & Tin Can

The development of xAPI began in 2011 as Project Tin Can. This project was initiated because ADL recognized that its existing standard, Sharable Content Object Reference Model, was inadequate for modern eLearning needs.

SCORM has long been the de-facto standard for eLearning packaging. However, to bring it in line with modern eLearning needs, ADL determined that it should be completely revamped, leading to Project Tin Can.

xAPI was developed by a community working group and released in 2013. Due to the project name, it’s sometimes referred to as the ADL Tin Can API.

Today, it’s being adopted by an increasing number of system vendors and content creators in the eLearning space. It’s backward-compatible with SCORM (SCORM-compliant content can be used with an xAPI learning management system), so xAPI is often viewed as the new de facto standard.

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Benefits of xAPI

There are lots of ways you can benefit from xAPI, no matter how you fit into the eLearning field.

It Brings Together All Your Learning Tools

xAPI allows all your eLearning resources to work together. If you want to buy content and distribute it through your LMS, if both parts are xAPI-compliant, they’ll work together right out of the box.

For any team that gets learning content from an outside source or that wants to migrate to a new system, this compatibility is invaluable. For example, if you take advantage of the Moodle xAPI integration, you can easily bring content into your learning ecosystem from a variety of sources.

It Makes Tracking Performance Easy

Performance tracking is an essential part of education. Without evaluation, it’s almost impossible to achieve eLearning success. xAPI makes it easier to gather performance data points from a variety of different systems in your eLearning system.

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It Integrates With Offline Education

Many educational institutions and organizations that use eLearning also use some in-person education/training. Due to this, it’s important to be able to track performance in offline settings as well as online. xAPI makes this simple so that you can keep track of all the educational experiences of your users.

Drawbacks of xAPI

Of course, xAPI isn’t a perfect solution. For example, some critics suggest that it does an insufficient job of tracking actual performance, instead focusing too much on the completion of the content. In other words, it tracks actions better than performance.

Additionally, xAPI is sometimes implemented with only basic compliance with the standard. This can mean that some supposedly xAPI-compliant resources will still have difficulty interacting with other systems using the standard.


xAPI isn’t the only standard for eLearning content.SCORM is a long-running, popular standard and AICC is a standard created originally for aviation training content.

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Compared to SCORM, xAPI is newer and has a more comprehensive and modern feature set. Since SCORM-compliant content can be used with the xAPI system, there is almost no reason to choose SCORM over xAPI.

AICC was originally made exclusively for aviation education, but it has since evolved into a more general-purpose standard.

However, it has a very complex data structure. Additionally, it’s dated due to being originally released in 1988. AICC can be more powerful in the hands of a team that’s very familiar with it, but the complexity makes it a less attractive option for many situations.

Regardless of which standard you choose, it’s very beneficial to select an LMS that uses one of them. Moodle Tin Can API/xAPI compatibility, along with its open-source, community-driven development, has helped to make it one of the most popular LMS solutions. By standardizing the data structure of learning resources, you can get far more from your eLearning solution.

Open LMS allows you to use xAPI and a wide variety of tools to create a broader learning ecosystem. If you want to experience Open LMS’s solutions, contact us or request a trial here.

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