Why use xAPI in digital learning?

October 12, 2021

xAPI (also known as Experience API or Tin Can) has potential to revolutionise the design, management and reporting of digital learning.

While the standard has been around for some time, many are yet to fully comprehend how it can be used. The many use cases can provide a significant improvement to traditional digital learning. However, with so many options it can be overwhelming. This article is a practical take and provides some answers to the question, why use xAPI?

xAPI Overview

xAPI is the latest version of the SCORM standard. SCORM is used as an eLearning Industry standard method of ensuring all content and data is uniform and shareable across multiple systems. Basically, if content is required to be uploaded onto an LMS then that content will be in SCORM format.

The update to xAPI shifted the standards with a vastly different set of rules and requirement than those imposed by SCORM.


SCORM regulates, tracks and reports static digital learning experiences, while xAPI gives a holistic view of all learning while still providing standardisation and governance

SCORM has been very successful in the standardisation of learning content. Authoring tools (Articulate, Captivate, Lectora, etc.) all comply with the standards and any content exported to a Learning Management System are usually in SCORM format.

While this method of content creation is adopted universally across most organisations, it does restrict what is possible.

xAPI learning data is far more flexible, dynamic and granular than SCORM data. Statements of learning are sent to a central reporting database known as a Learning Record Store (LRS). These statements can be based on anything an organisation wishes to see tracked (more about statements here).

comparison SCORM vs xAPI

Static vs Dynamic Learning Experiences

  • Updating content in a SCORM package is a time consuming process. Updating, publishing and exporting the content in an Authoring Tool. Uploading and configuring the final laborious step.
  • xAPI Content does not have to consist of an “eLearn” style formal course. It can be as simple as a video or web article. Content can be fluid and changed as regularly as required.

LMS and Network Reliance

  • SCORM limits learning modules to only sit on an LMS and requires a constant internet connection.
  • xAPI content does not rely on an LMS, locations can include phone apps, intranet pages, computer programs, web packages, VR programs, videos and much more. Offline data can be synched when internet becomes available.

Data and Analytics

  • SCORM reporting tracks a small amount of data such as completion status, a grade score and timestamps. In addition, suspend data and bookmarking track progress. Exposing any more data by default is difficult and can rely on third party workarounds or hacks.
  • Detailed xAPI data provides a high standard of reporting with analytics and insights available through artificial intelligence. Track any learning intervention, including traditional completion data.
  • xAPI statements track workshop attendance, video conferences, reading articles, watching videos, complex activity interaction, social participation and much more.

xAPI Use Cases

Learning designers can now focus on the learner experience without technical restrictions. Digital learning then becomes more than a singular object and event that occurs on an LMS. It can be a cohesive series of activities that take place anywhere in a learner’s environment.

Tracking xAPI statements from an intranet

A wealth of knowledge and information is available on organisational intranet sites. Content management system (CMS) functionality manages intranet content and custom content for specific programs or cohorts. Tracking a user’s interaction with these sites is possible with xAPI.

Collating all access and browsing reflects a user self directed and informal learning. It is an extremely insightful method of measuring effort and gives an alternative to the often used traditional digital learning methods.

Enhancing traditional learning

A traditional eLearning module usually follows a linear process, that is content that culminates in an activity or assessment that results in a completion. xAPI sends learning data as statements in far more regular and customisable intervals.

Embedded xAPI code can send statements from within traditional eLearning modules. Granular data (such as length of video watched, summary of answers, length of time to answer a quiz, etc.) can provide deeper insights into a learner’s comprehension. Data can identify any areas for improvement both from a learner and a content perspective which provides targeted and specific information needed for continuous improvement.

Social Learning and Gamification

Social digital learning is becoming increasingly popular. By incorporating interactions like posts, comments, likes and shares, learning designers provide a more engaging and collaborative learning experience. xAPI statements provide key insight into participation and contributions. Data stemming from social learning forms a cohesive view of a learner’s interactions. Reporting and evidence is based on the collective data, not just a final completion or quiz score.

Similarly, learning content with gamified elements provide extra incentive and enjoyment for participants. When correctly implemented, scoring and leaderboards can reflect a learner’s performance and give great incentives for further participation. Tracking progress and recording scores with statements makes it easy to produce learner-facing data such as leaderboards.

Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR)

VR simulations and interactive tutorials provide immersive training experiences that can really benefit learners, particularly when learning on-the-job skills. However, LMS restrictions limit functionality and media quality.

Adding xAPI tracking code to the application itself is a more seamless and functional solution. Suitable media formats ensure full functionality with xAPI statements recording important participation and completion data.

xAPI provides endless options in the real world. Talk to us today about xAPI, we love helping those who want to take their digital learning further.

Visit here for more xAPI articles, learn more about xAPI basics through to advanced usage. Coming soon, tutorial and videos to provide a comprehensive understanding of all the possibilities of xAPI.

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