Tin Can API (aka Experience API or xAPI), the new kid on the block in eLearning specifications and standards, is built on the concepts of the older Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM). SCORM has been around for a decade, and Tin Can is still in its infancy with version 1.0 released April 2013.

SCORM ushered in universal standards for educational content. Today, most learning content is SCORM or Tin Can compliant. Both standards make content widely available to eLearners and track their progress through statements. SCORM uses metadata, and Tin Can uses an Actor:Verb:Object-style statement written in simple code.

SCORM Blazed the Trail

SCORM ensures learning content compatibility among a wide range of tools, browsers, content sources, and Learning Management Systems (LMSs). Each of the above needs to be SCORM compliant for everything to work seamlessly, but most everything developers and learners use is compliant.

SCORM created freedom for eLearning instructional designers and developers as well as course administrators by enabling them to include web-based content from many sources. A company can ditch vendors, tools and LMSs at will. eLearning programs can no longer be held hostage by anyone. As long as everything is SCORM compliant, the beat goes on.

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SCORM’s major drawback didn’t matter at first, and it might not matter to you. Its tracking capabilities are limited to web-based content and events. In other words, it handles book smarts, not street smarts (experiences).

Tin Can – One Step Further

Tin Can works a bit differently. Instead of communicating with the LMS, it communicates with a Learning Records Store (LRS). This isn’t just a change in acronyms. The LRS can reside within an LMS, or it can run as a standalone program.

xAPI doesn’t stop with architecture. It extends to learning and offers greater flexibility than SCORM. You’ve no doubt stumbled upon the fact that some of the richest learning takes place outside of the classroom, whether it’s the traditional or virtual classroom. In addition to recording and tracking events, Tin Can records and tracks real-world experiences that take place outside of the classroom as long as they are defined with an event name and a verb. For example, John Smith:Toured: Louvre Museum. Experiencing an event doesn’t imply completion.

There is a conversion route from SCORM to xAPI, but before you make the investment in time and resources, let a professional help you assess your needs.