Tin Can API – Horses for Courses

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We’re currently working on a Learning Hook product which I think is a pretty cool mobile app for ‘user design:with users in mind’ to support corporate training. This blog isn’t about the detail of this solution, but at its heart is that it’s not bound by a Learning Management System (LMS) to ‘launch stuff’ – nor ‘record stuff’ for that matter. It provides the flexibility we need for the user to design what they need and deploy flexibly and fast to mobiles – no compromise.

In working through the specifications of this mobile training solution, the lead developer on the job was saying to me how frustrated he’s been over the years that he’s been restricted to launch his work from an LMS; it’s the restrictions and governance in place which at times stops him from building something ‘more useful’ for clients and learners. Why he was commenting was that he was pleasantly surprised at my attitude on this particular solution. That I wasn’t bothered at all about launching from an LMS (normally I would be, but why bother with mobile? If it complicates things around connectivity, completions, drop outs etc, why not just opt for a way to easily import the records later? LMSs’ centralised records and management of them is so valuable – but how that data gets there is not so important in my opinion – this is our own product too, so I have more say so than the normal custom eLearning project we do for clients!).

Then this led us to rejoice the ideals of the Tin Can API. I think there’s a bit of ‘zealot’ language happening around Tin Can API (maybe we could also say hyperbole) – but perhaps this is because its ideals are good, its promises liberating, and the status quo has been just that for far too long – particularly when we think we’re in a ‘Learning Industry’ – how could we stay so stagnate for such a long time? To think SCORM has ruled a lot of online training with its limits in reporting and suspend data for over 10 years is quite amazing. Of course it’s still in development, but with everything we have tested and seen to date, it WILL support the right ‘horses’ to run on the right ‘courses’.

To me this means my clients will benefit hugely by not having to run their LMS in the ‘course launching race’. LMSs in my opinion serve an amazing function in managing training records. They can be hugely beneficial too in programing training events, booking rooms, mapping competencies if you have the data to do it (but get it done quickly before it’s outdated!), integrating with other performance management systems and so much more. But launching courses should not be a function of the LMS; Learning Records Management (or maybe a store ;-)), absolutely.

As an owner of an LMS or vendor of eLearning courseware (if you are or have been), how many times have you banged your head against a wall when trying to pin down where a fault lies? Is it the LMS? is it the course that’s launching from it but built somewhere else? The LMS team tells you they can’t guarantee the course you have put on their – they launch it, but take no responsibility for it. The course builder tells you that all LMSs are different, and they can’t guarantee their course will run on your custom LMS even if it is SCORM compliant.

Tin Can API tells us we can launch content from anywhere. Write the results back to the LMS later. It will receive them if it’s written in the right way. The LMS then manages records – which is a race it’s bred for, and the online course can be launched from another platform if it needs to be, it can pull in data from elsewhere to enrich the learning experience, and it can run the training race exactly as it’s been designed to do – no compromise. And all our horses are then running on the right courses… in a perfect world of course. Whatever the case, the Tin Can API is a welcome change indeed.

For more eLearning, visit www.learninghook.com.au

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