XAPI’s Potential in Games, Gamification, and Augmented Reality
In this session, we will look at potential fits for xAPI that go beyond normal online courses and go into mediums such as games, gamification and augmented reality. First, we will discuss how xAPI enhances the tracking capabilities for one of the key aspects of what makes a game a game – meaningful choices/meaningful consequences. Next, we will analyze the types of data commonly used in gamification strategies and suggest how xAPI can move beyond this or dig another level deeper into promoting competition and social collaboration. Finally, we will look at the possibility of xAPI in use of Augmented Reality experiences and what can be tracked in this growing trend of AR.
Speaker: Andy Johnson (ADL)
Before the talk, let’s look at the definitions of some terms.
Game-based learning is a kind of game play that has pre-defined learning outcomes. It’s about using games for teaching/learning a subject matter. Learners play with already made games to obtain knowledge and skills according to learning objectives. But how it’s used in learning also depends on the instructor’s methodology. (read more)
Gamification takes game elements and mechanisms (such as point, level, badge, leaderboard, competition, quest, achievement, feedback loop, and rule) and applies them to a non-game setting. It has the potential to be applied in any industry and anything to create fun and engaging experiences. (read more)
Augmented Reality is to include the fusion of any digital information within real world settings, i.e. being able to augment one’s immediate surroundings with electronic data or information, in a variety of media formats that include not only visual/graphic media but also text, audio, video and haptic overlays. (read more)
Here is the brief of the talk.
Games in xAPI
Games are their own medium. A game is like a house you live in, a lot of things could happen in it. The essentials of games include:
- Can Either Win or Lose (some exceptions)
- Meaningful Choices
- Feedback, often exaggerated and immediate
- Learning Inside the Construct
A good game lets players do meaningful choices, and therefore develop strategies to play it better. Feedback is the one of the things that distinguished games from other mediums, it should be immediate and often exaggerated. The storyline/narration/plot will give you the sensation when playing. And usually playing a game well relies on some skills or abilities. There are different quality of games, it’s not related with its size.
What xAPI can do with games?
- xAPI can show the path to the meaningful choice, so that a player’s strategy to play a game can be revealed. For example, how a player figures out a puzzle? Did he try randomly or strategically with logical sequence? It can let us know if the player is engaged mentally, which can’t be known by just reporting if he’s right or wrong or how long he took to go through.
- xAPI vocabulary enables any gaming experience, it’s open and expandable, and all experiences you want to track can come into the space.
- xAPI can do the “game feed”
- Based on Activity Streams, so makes perfect sense
The meaningful choices in a game are important, so are the actions taken up to that point and the timestamps associated. In contrast, SCORM only reports the states. The journey is important not only because educators want to assess the learners but also want to assess the content/game design in order to improve the design.(including bad UI)
How do you imagine we can visualize a learner’s journey with xAPI data? If an educator has a big class, how can he/she take actions to those big volume of xAPI data? Definitely visualization design matters here, what’s your suggestion?
Micro-actions taken by a learner along with their ordering could reveal some patterns of a journey. And visualizations can display a huge amount of data that compare average and outliers. Also you could let the learner himself knows how he’s doing compared with his peers. Educators want to take care of the outliers – those performing below a threshold, but also those showing superiority and perhaps needing a bigger challenge. Visualizing data according to competencies is as important as visualizing how they approach solving a problem. The process matters, and only xAPI can enable us to analyze the process.
About verbs, it’s possible the verbs available for you aren’t enough. You don’t want to confine your learning designer so that’s why xAPI has this extensible vocabularies. Especially you get to some specialized job role, there are some terms used and understood by the community of practice. The language might be not known for outsiders but it’s very important for them.
Game logs are a natural fit with xAPI, they have the same structure. Game logs are what games have been doing for a very long time, it makes sense to just start to grab the logs and map them to xAPI statements (actors, verbs, results, etc.), and do interesting visualizations.
A major category of games is called “serious games”. What you are playing in the serious games is expected to replicate the outside world. Gaining knowledge and skills in the game will impact not only your game result but also be transferrable to the real world. Very often serious games forget about the gaming part so they aren’t fun and more like simulations. Learning and gaming needs to be integrated. Remember a good learning game will let learners learn inside the game construct, not just throw unrelated content inside a game. If you want the content to be learned it has to be a part of the game, and the success of the game has to do with the learning of the content.
Gamification and xAPI
Gamification is like adding a water slide to a house, it could be really fun and motivating, but it’s also possible that the water slide is put in a wrong place or the players don’t like the water slide at all. What’s gamification exactly?
- Shows Real-world results
- Choices (inside the Gameification part) don’t impact results
- Rigid Rules/Mechanisms
- Learning is elsewhere, impacts what happens in the Gameification layer
- Skill does not impact this layer
The gamification layer will have real world results but it should not go back to the content itself. Digital badges are a great example of gamification, the rules of getting a badge should not be changed because its meaning lies in the respect it represents.
What xAPI can do with gamification?
- Can broadcast anonymous data in real time
- Doesn’t have to dig deep into a proprietary database to get individual records (SCORM)
- Easy to bolt on with results and result extensions
- Statements act as “evidence”
Isn’t it more motivating if the gamification layer result can let a learner do something in real world as a reward? Is that against your rule?
What you’re talking about is more of an incentive, not a badge. One thing is that when you talk about badges , you don’t want them to tie down with competencies. Badges are really for social respect for efforts and behaviors. When you design gamificatiom mechanism you should not make late comers feel dis-encouraged just because they enter the system late.
Augmented Reality (AR) with xAPI
What does AR actually do?
- Bolts a layer on top of current reality
- Projection over “sight” layer (street sign reader)
- Provides feedback not available through senses (heat, etc.)
What can xAPI do with AR?
- xAPI can populate the bolted on layer’s information (from other systems)
- Can report on the user’s interaction with it (how long after receiving this information did they react?)
- Tie in the “meta” of authoring tools/performance support
Not only xAPI can track a learner’s action with AR tool, but xAPI statements can trigger contextually relevant information that a learner needs. AR weaves virtual layer with physical world, hence it can let computers support and empower humans, xAPI has a big potential as a data layer here – observing humans’ responses to activities and environments and helping us (feedback, performance support etc.).
Let’s talk about simulation. It’s a low-hanging fruit for xAPI. But unlike games, simulations don’t give you immediate feedback, and also they don’t encourage players to explore. Instead games encourage you to fail and learn from that failures. But we really appreciate the feedback simulations can provide in term of xAPI data.
Lessons learned about what xAPI can do
- xAPI can manage states. You can manage a state of something across platforms or across different sections. xAPI is really good at grabbing enough data and reconstruct the entire environment. For example even you didn’t save a file of annotations you did in an ebook, xAPI can rebuild from all statements recorded in somewhere else. All data are in the cloud.
- We can learn about how people design. xAPI can be integrated easily into authoring tools, from their use data we can observe how they design, or improve the tool.
- Distributed processing is possible. From all xAPI statements gathered, data from games can be used to build a leaderboard outside the applications by somebody else.
In conclusion, this talk makes us think about not only how xAPI can be integrated with games and AR, but also what we can learn from game designs. Most importantly the immediate feedback when playing games help us learn inside the constructs, can xAPI data layer from across platforms help us learn in real time to make meaningful choices inside real world? Definitely. The xAPI data layer can be leveraged in ways limited only by our creativity.
About Andy Johnson
Andy Johnson has been working in E-Learning for over 10 years, and served as technical lead on a variety of projects. Most of his time was spent as part of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative and coordinating xAPI standard spec. writing with the community. He has a passion about all kinds of games. His specialties include SCORM, xAPI, implementation and application of technologies, game design, system architecture.
Andy shared his slides with our readers here: Andy Johnson xAPI and Gameification PDF