SAT: Break Out of the Box! How you can use xAPI to free in-house staff development (Katherine Hinchey)

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Katherine Hinchey
4 January 2018


You learn by doing and collaborating, watching videos, accessing just-in-time information from your mobile device, mentoring, and more. Why, then, does the Human Resources department only give you slides to learn from?

Today’s workers and corporations are united in wanting more access to the formal, non-formal, and informal learning needed to support an increasingly skilled workforce (The Education Commission, 2016; Pew Research Center, 2016a and 2016b). However, today’s corporations largely store their learning resources in virtual learning environments (VLEs) that have adopted a uniform way of storing content. This uniform way, called SCORM, was incredibly helpful when it was designed nineteen years ago, and it still has an important role to play today. When SCORM was created, computer-based training was relatively new and organisations needed a single way to store and track training. For a time, innovation in elearning stopped at the known, established boundaries of the VLE (Weller, 2014, p. 194).

Now, a new need has developed: a way to store and track learning when it occurs on mobile devices, or through social and collaborative activities, or offline by reading a book or engaging in stretch assignments, or when participating in simulations or augmented and virtual reality programmes.

An innovation that meets that need was first released in 2013, and had its last planned update in 2016. It is the Experience API (xAPI). xAPI provides a common format for capturing data from today’s distributed learning landscape (Rustici Software, n.d.). With xAPI in place, you can free staff development from the confines of SCORM:

  • Rely less on elearning courses designed from slides and more on learning experiences;
  • Recognise learning from formal and informal or non-formal activities (Downes, 2015);
  • And track not only clicks and views but also correlate learning with performance (Torrance, 2016).

Managers and other decision-makers within learning departments and organisations are at a critical point. They need a source from which to gain a high-level, jargon-free understanding of the benefits of xAPI, common applications and uses of xAPI to support learners as they access modern and innovative learning opportunities, best practices and lessons learned, and information they should provide to their learning development and learning technology teams to prepare for implementation of xAPI (HT2 Labs, n.d.).

In my conference presentation, I will discuss and share a workshop created to meet those needs. The workshop helps managers, even those without extensive technical backgrounds, to be prepared to move forward with discussions and decisions about xAPI within their organisation. My presentation will show some of the workshop features and provide attendees with tools they can take with them, for use in their future endeavours.


Downes, A. (2015) '9 Practical Applications of Tin Can API', webinar presented by Rustici Software. 31 March. Available at
nine-applications-of-the-tin-can-api-xapi (Accessed 1 November 2017).

The Education Commission (aka the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity) (2016) The Learning Generation: Investing in education for a changing world [Online]. Available at (Accessed 18 November 2017).

HT2 Labs (n.d.) The Learning Technology Manager's Guide to xAPI [Online]. Available at (Accessed 9 December 2017).

Pew Research Center (2016a) Lifelong Learning and Technology [Online]. Available at (Accessed 18 November 2017).

Pew Research Center (2016b) The State of American Jobs: How the shifting economic landscape is reshaping work and society and affecting the way people think about the skills and training they need to get ahead [Online]. Available at (Accessed 18 November 2017).

Rustici Software (n.d.) Experience API [Online]. Available at (Accessed 1 November 2017).

Torrance, M. (2016) 'The xAPI: What Does an Instructional Designer Need to Know?', presentation given at Learning Solutions Conference & Expo. Orlando, Florida, 16-18 March. Available at (Accessed 1 November 2017).

Weller, M. (2014) The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn't feel like victory, London, ubiquity press. Available at
site/books/detail/11/battle-for-open/ (Accessed 2 May 2016).

Extra content

Conference poster

The first step to learning doesn't have to be logging into the VLE! The key is to adopt the Experience API (xAPI). I have created a workshop to help decision-makers learn about xAPI, and I will be discussing this workshop during the H818 conference on Saturday. 

In the meantime, please review my conference poster:

Katherine Hinchey
15:10 on 4 January 2018 (Edited 11:36 on 11 January 2018)

Embedded Content


Richard Sharp
11:26pm 17 January 2018

Hi Katherine.

I don't fully understand xAPI - hopefully I will more after the presentation - but I thought I'd share my experience of staff development training via technology at my organisation. 

In my organistion the training that staff seek out to help themselves or support their role tends to be face-to-face - in a tradtional mentoring-style.   

The modules/courses that find their way to our online staff development system are mainly those designed to meet legislative requirements: Health & Safety, Discrimination, etc. That tends to make them seem like organisational tick-box exercises (you're forced to wade through and click on items in a series of pages so that a completion date can be stamped into your record - for compliance purposes). 

Does the xAPI approach to online learning help staff to avoid these perceptions of the training they are asked to do ?

From the organisational viewpoint - does the use of xAPI support tracking and measurement in order to satisfy compliance criteria ?


Mr Jonathan G Brown
3:16pm 18 January 2018

Hi Katherine,

All I know about xAPI comes from your poster materials and abstract!  Could you suggest a link / example of where you think xAPI has been used well?

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