Innovations at DevLearn DemoFest: The Experience API

Posted by Jim Farrell

While flying high above the Grand Canyon on my way home from this year’s eLearning Guild DevLearn Conference, I took some time to reflect on how much I learned there.

Being a former instructional designer, I’ve always regarded DevLearn as one of my favorite conferences to attend. This year’s conference returned to the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, where Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman were shooting a movie — but that is a story for another time.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Embracing Technologies for Training and Development”. The opening keynote was delivered by the famous movie producer John Landau (Avatar, Titanic, and many more). At first glance you might think, “What does a famous movie producer have to do with learning?” But Mr. Landau found the connection very quickly: it’s innovation. He told stories of James Cameron and how he did not let the technology of today limit the dreams of a better tomorrow. To see how they took James Cameron’s vision of Avatar and created technologies to realize the dream was truly inspiring.

The best part of the DevLearn Conference is DemoFest. If you have never been lucky enough to attend DevLearn, let me briefly describe it to you: Attendees submit proposals to show off their coolest stuff. This year the ballroom was full of innovative ideas, and we were lucky enough to be invited to show what we are working on. We demonstrated using the Experience API with Questionmark Assessments.

Before I get into the Experience API, let’s talk about a problem facing most organizations: tracking informal learning. If you are frequent visitor to this blog, you know I am big believer in the 70+20+10 model.

This model states that only 10 percent of our learning is from formal study — and in most organizations, this learning is locked away in the Learning Management System (LMS). Seventy percent of our learning occurs from experience basically doing our jobs. The last 20 percent comes from working with others, be it coaching or conversations. If 90 percent of learning is happening outside of the Learning Management System, how do we capture information on performance, social and informal learning?

The Experience API is the next generation of SCORM led by the ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) and built by a consortium of companies including Questionmark. The Experience API goes beyond the launch-and- track world of the LMS and allows learning content to send activity statements about a learner and activity to a Learning Record Store (LRS). The LRS can be used to create visualizations of data or analyzed to determine how informal learning is shaping a workforce. If you want to learn more about the Experience API, visit this ADL site.

So where do assessments fit into this? Let me give you two quick examples:

  • You could use the Experience API to send activity statements when someone visits an internal white paper, knowledge base article or help file. Does this really tell you if the person understood or better yet even read the information? Not really. Using our auto-sense, auto-size technology, you can embed a short quiz within the learning material. This does not show the visitor mastered the information, but it will give you an idea if the material was understood.
  • One of the best tools an organization can implement is regular quizzing. So let’s set up a scenario. Your business partner approaches you and says that a new error code has been introduced. There has been training but your partner is not sure the organization is truly ready to apply it. A short quiz can be sent via email (or embedded in a business portal). Using the Experience API, responses to the quiz could be sent to the LRS and a visualization of the organization’s performance could be posted to a website. This would reassure your partner that the organization is ready or it can identify knowledge gaps that need to be addressed.

Questionmark has been a longtime supporter of Open Standards including AICC, PENS, SCORM, HR-XML IMS QTI and now the Experience API. You may also be interested in the recent announcement of AICC/ADL collaboration.

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