xAPI or 'TinCan'

Experience Counts

In October 14, 2014


As you assiduously peruse the Cloudware web pages you should see that we prominently feature the commitment of Cloudware LLC to the adoption of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative’s Experience API (“xAPI”, also known as “TinCan”).   If you don’t know what xAPI is or what experiential analytics are, then don’t feel bad, for two reasons:
It’s really still very new, most people have barely heard of it, and secondly, I’m going to try to explain why we think it’s important for Cloudware and for business management right now!

I’ll try not to go into “professor mode” and stick to the basics, but you can explore the embedded links to find out more, and feel free to contact me if you need extra detail on any aspect.
If you’re not familiar with Application Programming Interfaces in general, or more particularly APIs in business, then you can check out the linked resources.

The xAPI Story In Brief

We can go into more detail on another occasion, but for now suffice it to say that the ADL Initiative started looking at a new specification to bring SCORM standards for learning modules up-to-date and support the training requirements of the 21st Century – such as informal Learning, Mobile Learning, Social Learning and so on.  Rustici Software was commissioned to define an API standard under the project name TinCan "TinCan API" -- Rustici Siftware(connoting bidirectional communication between the government and the training and learning technology industry stakeholders). This was released in 2012 and quickly adopted by several courseware and Learning Management System vendors.
ADL committed to the new name of Experience API (‘xAPI’), Rustici and some others continue to use the original name.  The xAPI represents a completely new paradigm, and the TinCan approach has been judged a remarkably successful advance in governmental consultative methods.

'TinCan API' from Rustici SoftwareBy the Fall of 2013 it was perceived that xAPI was almost ‘over-achieving,’ in that its applicability had transcended the Learning Tech space, and it was being found suitable for monitoring almost any kind of human interaction with all contemporary technology by the growing number of adopters.

BTW this could be a hitherto almost unknown instance of educational software development providing a lead to business technology – instead of the other way around…


Having seen that the new analytic capability of xAPI was created to support 21st Century e-learning, IMHO there are two important conceptual questions here that are relevant to its application in the wider world of business and commerce:

First, what exactly is/are ‘experiential analytics’? Secondly, what should be the big goal of its adoption?

What are we talking about? – The Analytics of Human Experience

While nowadays we are all increasingly aware that companies will monitor use of their systems or products to glean information that can be exploited commercially (that is, if they have the resources to develop the necessary infrastructure) this usually only produces analytics that must be interpreted by inferential statistics, data mining or AI – or enumerated within authored user interactions (and you can’t think of everything in advance, right?). Above all – these measurements are not shared by the big corporations to be of direct benefit to the end-user.

As an adopter of the xAPI specification, Cloudware joins the new direction in analytics that is characteristically different in all three of the above respects:

  1. xAPI is a publicly available specification, evolving into a world standard and can be implemented from shared, open-source code.
  2. xAPI instrumentation stores “Actor-Verb-Object” statements, which are readable in English (and for us, in all the chosen supported languages), this gives the ability to directly scrutinize individual actions across the CloudBooks platform (such as “Cedric Johnson requisitioned 300 tensilators from inventory for production order 43756 at <time> from <place>“).
    Now if these actions are understood within the designed framework of a management policy, workflow, training intervention etc., then the issue of inferring meaning into these data is not entirely eliminated, but is elevated into a much higher level of management analysis. In other words, you can see exactly what is going on and immediately start to consider if the processes can be improved.
  3. Cloudware will help end-users to interpret their analytics by allowing all the Learning Record Store (LRS) data to be accessed and aggregated as appropriate into reports that each company can easily make use of.

What can it do in business? – Goal of Closed-Loop ROI

We may now see (again, IMHO) that some important business technology trends, such as Big Data, Mobile Computing, Social Networking, GIS/Geoinformatics, BYOD and – not least – Cloud Computing, will now be complemented by Experiential Analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) to the point where the greater goal of finally closing the control loop on business deployment of resources will be possible (I call it “Closed-Loop ROI”).

We intend to write more about this in the coming months as we develop some practical use cases and examples, but for now try to imagine, not if, but when you could (at an arbitrary level of detail/aggregation):  Closedloopanalyticslifecycle

  • See if your employees had received the message on a new management directive and were beginning to act upon it;
  • Know if your people were reading your new operations manual and following up on their required training,

And finally (for now), imagine you could

  • Monitor all your capital equipment, checking on its performance, accurately assessing its contribution to revenue from production and claiming back Tangible Asset Tax when it was out of commission.

 In summary: We intend to allow you to know not the just the results of your business, but how and why, when and by whom the numbers were produced.

So now “experience counts” not just in that we learn and grow from past experience eventually, but also in that we can now choose to continuously measure and control our organizational experiences better.

This is all just the start; the possibilities are only limited by our vision.

Think about your organizational development goals – and let us know what you need us to measure to help you.


  1. This is interesting… Thank you. I had heard about this topic and am now glad to have learned more of its actual context.

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