Learning Design in the Age of Experience API (#xAPI)
Learning experience design and development have long been centered around the learning management system. What happens (or should happen) to elearning design and development when the LMS is no longer the center of learning experience tracking?
Craig Wiggins, the ADL Experience API(xAPI) community manager, was interviewed by Jessie Chuang to share his vision and projection about learning design in xAPI age. Here is the brief of the interview.
What kind of tools will learning designers need in xAPI age?
This topic isn’t about cramming xAPI into current tools, but more about what will the affordance of xAPI change the future of authoring tools. What will be put into the hands of future instructional designers.
With the greater trends toward performance support, mobile support in offline mode etc., learning designers will need an abstracted way to design the multi-faceted learning experiences. One possibility is that authoring tools are going to become super huge to encompass all learning possibilities including a lot of informal learning opportunities. I don’t think that’s likely, but that’s still a way to go. But if you look at software trend, it’s moving from huge enterprise systems to small, nimble solutions, and it could be the same for future learning design tools. I think we will have certain tools for certain areas of interests, for example, designing for people working in the field. If they are going to use xAPI, there will be vocabularies for that practice to be loaded in the tool. We are going to see a greater specialization in the tools.
Compared with SCORM-based Learning Management System, we’ll have a lot of new possibilities with xAPI. As a result, having specific tools for specific situations make sense to satisfy diversified purposes. Specific xAPI profiles and vocabularies will be developed for specific domains. That’s what I think is going to happen.
The other greater trend is toward that more learning analytics available to give real-time reporting to learning design will influence how authoring tools are designed. This kind of feedback isn’t available now, but in future all things will be put together and easy to configured to leverage that feedback loops. This trend will influence the construction of design tools.
The first step to leverage data analytics is to visualize them so that users can react to data efficiently. Our approach is to standardize a set of recipes and design visualizations corresponding to them. Those basic blocks include activity types of video, ebook, quiz and assessments etc.. Then we look to design and visualize learning experiences composed by these building blocks according to competency map or learning path. (more explanation in this post “xAPI Profile, Implementation and Reporting Design“) What do you think?
A lot of people in xAPI community don’t have any idea about how to process those volume xAPI data, but many of them are seeking to standardize how to visualize learning progress. I think in the next several years, we are going to see that happens. I am really happy to see what you are doing, that makes the vision closer, but hope more people will spend more time to think what impact those data can have. It could be immediate looped back to the performers, for example, a thermometer style chart to help performers in real time. From the usage, we’ll find which type of visualization is better for which situation and then standardize it.
Speaking about standardizing visualizations, before that’s possible we should talk about standardizing xAPI profiles and recipes. If we already provide recipes and visualizations designed for the recipes, do you think learning designers should be able to customize xAPI statements in the tool?
It’s hard to answer, for advanced designers I think the answer is yes. But there should be sets of vocabularies for pre-defined activity types, and designers can design their own only if those pre-defined sets don’t meet their needs. Currently for many cases that need to build new vocabularies are mainly because the pre-defined sets haven’t created yet. If these are ready, it’s better that most designers won’t need to learn and handle xAPI from scratch in order to design xAPI-enabled learning.
For some cases, designers might need to record extra data (not listed in pre-defined recipes) for context of learning or evidence of performance. We could provide translated user interface, and designers will just choose from drop down selections. Of course designers can always request new vocabularies, then it will go to CoP for approval. To make xAPI implementation easier, a design tool can translate between xAPI and designer’s language, that will make the implementation much easier.
A question is: There are already a lot of tools out there, do we really need new tools for learning design?
That really depends on if people know the realistic possibilities, and being able to handle non-traditional learning experiences in a good way will be a differentiator. The first thing is deciding who is the intended audience. If the tool solves the trouble of implementing xAPI, collecting data and reporting data, that will definitely be useful. I think the most needed tool for designers right now is a tool enable them to articulate learning experiences, put them together as a plan, while it’s no need for them to worry about the reporting. Designers will just focus on the designing, then get reporting feedback on the design. That’s the most needed tool now!
Spoiler alert: We are developing this kind of Learning Designer tool in our LRS with analysitcs and visualizations – VisCa, stay tuned!
About Craig Wiggins
Craig Wiggins has been an instructional designer with more than 10 years of experience in corporate education management, elearning, and curriculum development. He is now Community Manager at Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Co-Laboratory Hub, supporting learning technology community efforts particularly in the areas of mobile learning technology and ADL’s Training and Learning Architecture (chiefly xAPI). His specialties include elearning solution development, instructional design, social media application.
Craig had kindly created an introductory talk on xAPI for our X Talks series. It’s embedded here in case you aren’t familiar with xAPI.