Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dan experienced 'creating a Tin Can API statement'

I've just read up on Tin Can API. I've been meaning to do it for ages and I'm kinda pleased that, as it turns out, Tin Can does pretty much what I had assumed it would do - but it does it better than I could have imagined and way more besides.

I'm also excited because I've also just generated my first Tin Can statement:
"id": "09888f33-2285-4c84-8ffa-18db65173171",
"actor": {
"name": "Dan",
"mbox": "",
"objectType": "Agent"
"verb": {
"id": "",
"display": {
"en-UK": "experienced"
"timestamp": "2012-10-24T14:46:34.354Z",
"stored": "2012-10-24T14:46:35.219Z",
"object": {
"id": "",
"definition": {
"name": {
"en-UK": "creating an Experience API statement"
"description": {
"en-UK": "Completing the Tin Can Api test generator on the Rustici website"
"objectType": "Activity"
This genuinely changes everything, it really does.

Something for everyone

All the LMS loving tracky types can love it because it does everything they need it to. Social learning types should be delighted as this reaches out and allows individuals to say what they learnt rather than only rewarding pre-ordained learning experiences. ILT luddites can feel good about themselves and come in from the cold and report on all the little parts of their courses. And ROI hounds should be cock-a-hoop at the notion of being able to track learning back in to the workplace in the form of results.

The main benefits as I would summarising them if I was making the case would be:

  • Freedom from the tyranny of the walled garden LMS
  • ability to account for non-online activity
  • able to take control of your own learning via personal learning repositories
  • builds tracking in to tools we recognise
I really am struggling to get a handle on how different things could be, and I'll tell you why I think this is so important. Buried away at the end of the description is the fact that the Tin Can API, or Experience API as it is also known, is based on common designed approach to the feeds you get on the social networking sites, but open and independent. That's it - this ties in to one of the most basic, and influential elements of the modern web and doesn't subvert it or lock it away - it sets it free. Brilliant.

Crucially however, it can't be a bolt on. I don't think that is going to work. Trying to retro fit this to an old school LMS isn't going to work. It would be like fitting four-wheel-drive to a Honda Fireblade* - sure it would work, but all the time you're going to be thinking "it was never designed for this". I really think that it will require a root and branch rethink of how we go about tracking and storing the results of our learning.

But do we want to track it?

My answer to this trope is simple - if we can, why don't we? The difference with this system is that we can build that tracking in to familiar feeling tools that we are comfortable with. Okay, so for now it's early adopters that use bookmarklets and phone apps to seamlessly join up our online and offline selves, but this has the usecase, this has the capacity to be the killer app for self tracking. Oh gosh, I am soooooo excited by this.

What can we do with it?

Question is, where does this go in the normal run of things? It's an obvious tool for CPD and some enterprising professional bodies should be all over this as a way of tracking it (doubt somehow that the CIPD will be early adopters, but maybe the LPI could get up on it?). Will we see it being co-opted by LinkedIn as yet another feature they draw in? Would we get this to work with Mozilla's badges? I can see all sorts of ways this could go.

Please let me know if you have spotted this going in any interesting ways. I'm off to comb the Learning 2012 and DevLearn conversation streams for bits now...

UPDATE: here's a great article by Gary Wise that does a more thorough job of explaining what Experience API can do.

* Okay - two things wrong with this statement. One, I doubt four wheel drive would work with this class defining road-going race bike and, two, most LMSs are not that well made or thought out. They are like 80s era Skodas (shoddy) or 90s American sports cars (great at one thing).